aurice Dixon is the defensive coordinator for the North Gwinnett Bulldogs. The Kentucky native has coached high school football in three states.
Maurice Dixon, 45, is the defensive coordinator at North Gwinnett. The lifelong coach has coached with North head coach Bob Sphire at three separate schools, as well as coaching his own teams in Kentucky and Florida. The son of a coach and official, Dixon's life and conversation revolves around football and dragging him away from the topic is a challenge.
In this installment of "Getting to Know..." staff writer Ben Beitzel talks with Dixon about his coaching influences, coaching against his father, the best things about living in South Beach and this week's Kiss concert.
BB: The first North Gwinnett game I covered I saw you before I saw Bob Sphire. You were running around. Are you always that energetic?
MD: I think it definitely a different role and a different person. It would be like if you go in as a defensive coordinator you prepare a different way, if you go in as an offensive coordinator, you prepare a different way. You fill gaps. I have been in (coaching) a while. I have done it all, the wing-T, the Tony Franklin spread. Everywhere is a little different. You just fill the gap. Of course being the defensive guy, that is the role I play.
BB: So you morph your persona to the needs of the team?
MD: I think so. It is how it has worked out. As a head coach you come in one day and one week and everything is low key and the next day you see you have to light that fire. I am going to be the one that is going to be constantly with the flame thrower. I have the luxury of keeping it constant. I keep throwing gas on the fire.
BB: Your dad is in the Hall of Fame in Kentucky for coaching basketball, coached football and also officiated basketball. Does learning from a guy who coached and reffed change how you deal with officials?
MD: There is no doubt in my mind. You know most of the officials, not just in the region, but in the state. Your dad talks about coaching and officiating. If you dad is a plumber he may show you how to fix a toilet or a sink and say, 'This is how you work.' When I was younger he would ref and I would go and sit in the stands. When you are young you get mad because people are yelling at your dad and he would say, 'When you talk to officials, son, you say this. This is how you talk to the officials.' That is what I grew up around. There are a lot of things that go into coaching and officiating both. For example, holding. You could call that on every play. The timing of that hold is what is critical. The thing about it is if you are just trying to work them and yell and scream, that ain't going to work. But you know what they are thinking. I think it is an advantage.
BB: I am just impressed with your dad's resume. You had to learn a lot.
MD: He had a good career. I grew up around coaches and referees my whole life. When I got started I had a lot of people take me under their wing. I was a head coach at 20-something. I was president of the coaches association. I just grew up in it. If your dad is a plumber you pick up the trade, I guess. This is what I've been around my whole life. I have either been an assistant to Bob Sphire or been a head coach and run my own program for 27 years.
BB: Did you ever coach with your dad?
MD: I coached against him. The first time I coached against him I worked with Bob Sphire at Knox County Central and not only was my dad the coach, but I had a couple of cousins playing too. That was pretty wild. Later I was the head coach and that was one of the first times in the state of Kentucky that had happened. I've had all kinds of those things happen. I beat him.
BB: Did you ever lose to your dad?
MD: No. We only coached against each other twice.
BB: Do you let him hear about it? I would.
MD: (laughs) No. I don't talk about it a whole lot.
BB: So who has had a bigger impact on you? Dad or Sphire?
MD: Bob Sphire has been a mentor when it comes to football and meeting him early was a big deal for my career. Bob is a tremendous mentor-type person. He has a lot of people that have worked with him that have gone on to be head coaches. I know that wherever he has been, big things happen. I have been heavily influenced by him. My father as well. He took a pretty tough defensive minded-young man and showed him how thing have to be done. (With) Sphire this is our third time doing it together. We hit the ground running here. Football is a big deal in the state of Georgia. Where we are from in Kentucky they are trying to bounce the ball. They are trying to dribble the football.
BB: You've lived now in Kentucky, Florida and Georgia, what is the best place to live. Not coach, but live.
MD: Oh, my Lord. I lived in South Florida. Are you kidding me? But it was expensive. Suwanee, Georgia has to be the best of both worlds. South Beach was a great four-year vacation. That Atlanta thing is the best of both worlds. It's a big professional sports town and you have the country too. It was pretty different, now, in South Beach.
BB: Are you a football fan? Who do you cheer for when not coaching?
MD: I love football. Growing up, I'm a Kentucky fan, but their football team was not very good. I was an Air Force, Notre Dame and Miami fan. I loved Lou Holtz. I loved Miami's teams. I love Air Force's option team. I loved watching Miami, I loved that swagger.
BB: Was the swagger still there when you worked there?
MD: My defensive coordinator when I worked there was a guy name Derrick Crudup, played for the Raiders. I ended up down there and I met him and he is a now a recruiter in Georgia. I met Derrick Crudup when his son was the quarterback at Miami. He and his son, are the one of the only father and sons to ever win college national championships. Derrick was my defensive coordinator and we'd go down there a lot. Nobody out-works that program. There are a lot of misperceptions. That was pretty cool for me. I'll never forget walking into their workouts. There were a couple of guys who had played there, it was pretty radical how hard those guys worked. That was pretty cool.
BB: So why don't you make the jump to college?
MD: Number 1, I grew up around high schools. If my dad had been a college coach, it would have been a situation like a Lane Kiffin (Tennessee's head coach). It follows that my dad was a high school coach. My dad had winning programs, but he didn't have powerhouses. I think high school ball is so important. For anybody that says you have academics and athletics, that goes hand-in-hand, it is not an either, or thing. One thing feeds off the other. Football doesn't build character it reveals it. It's just like getting an A in a class. Are you trying to get by and get a C or do you want to get an A?
BB: I heard you went to the Kiss concert Tuesday. How was it?
MD: It was the same thing, if you've seen them once you've seem them a lot. I am 45, pushing 46. You know about that mid-age stuff. How often do you get to see a band that was around when you were a kid. They are 60 and still going strong so what am I complaining about?
BB: How many times have you seen them?
MD: How many times I have they changed band members? I have seen every edition.
BB: I'll assume then you've been to plenty of shows, what's the best band you've seen in concert?
MD: Holy smoke! The best band I've ever seen ... (pause) ... This might be the most important thing you've asked me. (Pause) Aerosmith was pretty tight. Van Halen was pretty good. Kiss is just a big ... the show is just over the top. I like a lot of country music too. I got somebody, my guitar teacher when I was at Lexington Catholic, plays guitar for Montgomery Gentry. (pause) ...
BB: You still thinking?
MD: I may have to call you back. ... My favorite band is called Blackfoot. It's Lynyrd Skynyrd-type stuff.
BB: Well, are they good in concert?
MD: Oh yeah, they were great.