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Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Updated: April 18, 2:42 AM ET
Dixon mourned by 1,200 at funeral

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- Basketball coach Maggie Dixon, who suddenly died last week at 28 after leading Army's women's team to its first NCAA Tournament berth, was mourned Tuesday by her cadet squad, former teammates and brother, Pittsburgh men's coach Jamie Dixon.

"She made reality out of our once-intangible dreams," Army forward Ashley Magnani told 1,200 mourners attending the funeral at St. Charles Borromeo Roman Catholic Church in her childhood parish.

Pitt men's basketball coach Jamie Dixon kisses the coffin of his sister Maggie on Tuesday.

"Coach Dixon, our angel, we promise to make you proud," Magnani added.

Dixon died in New York on April 6 after suffering heart arrhythmia.

The 1999 University of San Diego graduate had only been at West Point since October, inheriting a team that struggled initially but won nine of its last 11 games and got to the tournament, where it lost in the first round.

She had previously been a top assistant to DePaul coach Doug Bruno after her WNBA dreams ended when she was cut by the Los Angeles Sparks after a May 2000 tryout.

Her brother Jamie, who had encouraged her to go into coaching, told mourners that he and his sister used to talk every day and she gave him inspiration.

"She saw the good in everyone. She made everyone around her a better person. She made me a better person. I've said this before -- when I grow up I want to be just like her," Jamie Dixon said.

Msgr. Robert Gallagher began the service by blessing the casket.

"Our sister has been called back to the Lord now, for some mysterious reason," he said and noted he came to the parish in 1977, only two months after Dixon was baptized, and watched her grow from "a scrawny little kid."

Citing a New Testament passage in which Jesus says, "In my father's house, there are many dwelling places," Gallagher added, "I'm not sure how many basketball courts. But you know, Maggie would take any room that the Lord would prepare for her."

A picture of Dixon's Army team was placed just below the altar.

"She reached every one of their souls," said Army athletic director Kevin Anderson.

Anderson said the last time he talked to her he was concerned she would be hired away and she promised she would not leave -- but she did.

"I was very mad last week. However, I had to consider who hired her," he said.

Acquaintances also described Dixon's life beyond basketball, including a passion for cooking and travel.

"She was splendid at loving life and passionately sharing it with all of us," said DePaul athletic director Jean Lenti Ponsetto.

"She attacked life," said Army guard Micky Mallette.

Teammate Magnani said Dixon's favorite word was adversity and when she used it "we knew we had to fight."

Outside the service, UCLA men's coach Ben Howland, who had Jamie Dixon as an assistant at Pitt, described Maggie Dixon as "driven."

"This will be unbelievably hard on everyone, even though, you know, religiously, we all understand that this is a celebration day of her life. But it's too short a life as far as we're all concerned," Howland said.