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Juan Dixon no longer a special assistant for Maryland basketball

Juan Dixon, after helping the Terrapins win the NCAA National Championshiop in 2002, playing pro basketball in the NBA and overseas, and working for Maryland as a special assistant for the past three season, will not be returning to the team for a fourth. (Baltimore Sun video)

Juan Dixon's time with the Maryland basketball coaching staff has ended.

Dixon, who came to College Park out of Calvert Hall in 1997 as a 145-pound redshirt freshman and led the Terps to their only national championship five years later, will not have his position renewed as special assistant to coach Mark Turgeon.

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The decision was reached amicably, though it was not by Dixon's choice.The reasons for the 37-year-old Dixon losing his job remain unclear, and the Terps have not made any other changes to the staff. One factor appears to be Dixon's inability to provide his expertise because of NCAA rules that limit the input of someone in his position.

In a statement released through an athletics department spokesman, Turgeon said, "In my discussions with Juan, he has always expressed his desire to become a coach at the Division I or professional level. While there is not an opening on the staff currently, I know Juan will be a highly successful coach once given the opportunity."

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In an interview with The Baltimore Sun on Wednesday, Dixon said he hoped to get hired as an assistant coach at another Division I school.

"I am looking forward to growing in the business, and to live out my purpose and my passion," Dixon said. "I am here to help young men develop on and off the court and prepare them for this thing called life."

Turgeon had created the position for Dixon to help him transition into coaching after his seven-year NBA career and brief overseas career had ended, an athletics department source said. Dixon was considered an "at-will" employee of the university, meaning he could be let go at any time.

In the role of special assistant, Dixon was prohibited by NCAA rules to recruit, offer in-game strategy on the bench or work with the players during or outside of practice. His role was more involved with mentoring, providing academic support and doing advance scouting.

He certainly played a part in mentoring several Terps, most notably rising juniors Melo Trimble and Jared Nickens. But in the past two seasons, his role in helping prepare the advance scouting reports diminished. That frustrated Dixon, a source said Wednesday.

Dixon thanked Turgeon for giving him his first job in coaching, but acknowledged the role had become a bit stifling.

"I really appreciate the opportunity that Coach Turgeon gave me to get into the business," Dixon said. "The situation was to the point where I really couldn't grow any more as a coach [at Maryland]. I have a lot of wisdom and knowledge to give to the players to help their growth on and off the court, and there just wasn't an opportunity at Maryland to perform that role at a high level."

It isn't certain whether Maryland will fill that position, though finances won't be a big factor. According to figures released by the university earlier this year, Dixon was only making a little over $60,000, a fraction what Turgeon's three fulltime assistants – Bino Ranson, Dustin Clark and Cliff Warren – earn annually.

Dixon's hiring in November 2013 was announced on the same day that Dalonte Hill, an assistant coach who had joined the staff when Turgeon was hired to replace Gary Williams in 2011, was fired following his second drunk-driving arrest in October of 2013.

Since Dixon was announced as Turgeon's special assistant – a role similar to one that former Kansas star and current Wake Forest head coach Danny Manning held for seven years under Bill Self in Lawrence – Turgeon has had only had one opening on his staff for an assistant coach.

It came when Scott Spinelli left to become an assistant at Boston College after the 2013-14 season. Warren, who had been initially hired as the director of basketball operations, was quickly promoted to assistant coach. Warren had been a head coach at Jacksonville for nine years.

Dixon, who also finished his undergraduate degree after he took the position as Turgeon's special assistant, remains one of the most beloved figures in the history of the program, as well as its all-time leading scorer with 2,269 points.

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"Juan is one of the most accomplished players in Maryland history and I appreciate his contributions as a special assistant with our basketball program the past three seasons," Turgeon said in the statement.

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