Legendary Amherst College head men’s basketball coach David Hixon ’75, who holds the record for number of wins in a single sport while coaching at Amherst, has decided to retire, Director of Athletics Donald Faulstick announced today. During his storied 42-season career at his alma mater, Hixon was the third coach in men’s basketball history across all National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) divisions to surpass the 800-win mark. His overall record of 826-293 places him 15th on the NCAA’s list of most wins in men’s collegiate basketball.
Additionally, Hixon’s Amherst teams defeated archrival Williams in 17 of the last 21 contests the two schools played.
“Dave has done so much for Amherst during his time here as a student, coach, teacher, recruiter, mentor, administrator, adviser and admired colleague and friend,” said Faulstick. “But in addition to his many accomplishments, what stands out to me is the love and admiration current and past student-athletes have for Dave and the impact he’s made in those people’s lives. He certainly leaves big shoes to fill. I wish Dave and [wife] Mandy the best with the next chapter of their lives.”
“It is hard to imagine Amherst without Dave Hixon as coach of the men’s basketball team and citizen of the College,” said Biddy Martin, president of Amherst College. “Dave was a student at Amherst before he became a coach. His impact on the lives of the student-athletes he coached is as impressive as his 826 wins. Many of our alumni trace their accomplishments directly back to Coach Hixon. Dave’s record as a coach is extraordinary and makes him one of the greats in college basketball coaching. His positive and lasting influence on generations of student-athletes and dedication to the College as a whole are equally the measure of this man.”
While at the helm of the College’s program from 1978 to 2019, Hixon molded it into one of the best in the nation. The numbers tell the tale:
- He led his student-athletes to 20 NCAA Division III national tournament appearances and compiled a 43-20 record in postseason play. Ten of those appearances resulted in trips to the quarterfinals and seven to the Final Four. Two of his teams won national championships, in 2007 and 2013.
- The preeminence of Hixon’s teams are evidenced by their winning eight New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) titles, more than any other school in the league, as well as collecting six runner-up finishes. During his tenure, his teams compiled a 39-11 record in 19 years of championship play. The program was also the first in the conference to win three straight titles, from 2012 to 2014.
- Hixon’s teams have averaged 24 wins per season since 2000. During that period, his record was 413-88–an astounding winning percentage of .824.
Hixon’s own coaching statistics reflect the high bar he set and achieved with the program:
- His overall winning percentage is .738, currently the 10th-highest in NCAA Division III men’s basketball.
- He has the most coaching wins with a single team in Amherst College history, having broken renowned baseball coach Bill Thurston’s record of 811 in 2019.
His successes on the court resulted in the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) awarding him Division III Coach of the Year twice, NABC Northeast Region Coach of the Year four times and NESCAC Coach of the Year five times.
“I have been extremely fortunate to be able to spend the majority of the past decade playing for and coaching with Coach Hixon,” said interim head men’s basketball coach Aaron Toomey ’14. “I couldn’t have envisioned having a better four-year playing career, and that’s because of Coach Hixon. In one of the toughest times in my life, he was the one who gave me a chance. He believed in me not just as a coach but as a person who could contribute to making the Amherst basketball program better.”
In addition to basketball, Hixon coached men’s and women’s soccer and outdoor track during his Amherst career. He was just 24 when he was named head coach of men’s basketball at the College, at the time the youngest person in such a position in the country.
“I wish that everyone would have the opportunity to have a career and live a life as full and rewarding as I have had during my 48 years at Amherst as a student and coach,” said Hixon. “Relationships with players, colleagues, referees, assistant coaches, opposing coaches, parents and fans have all been a huge part of my experience and have made this such an enjoyable and gratifying way to spend a lifetime at something—and somewhere—you love. And all the while having the opportunity to raise a family with my wonderful wife [and University of Massachusetts-Amherst head men’s diving coach], Mandy, who is the best coach in the family, and two boys, Matthew and Michael. I truly want to give thanks to all who have been a part of my life’s journey and given me so much.”
Hixon, who grew up in Andover, Mass., earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the College in 1975 while also playing for the basketball team. Over the years, he has contributed in countless ways at Amherst, including by serving as a fund-raiser as a student, a member of the finance and executive committees of the Friends of Amherst Athletics, and a member of the advisory group of Amherst magazine, to name a few.
He and his father, former Andover High School coaching legend Wil Hixon, were inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003.