Two years ago, Chris Dixon and Nathan Green were finalists for the Jefferson boys basketball coaching job after Todd Brannan left for Belvidere North. Sophomore coach John Rossato, who led the J-Hawks to a school record-tying 26 wins this year, wound up getting the job, while Dixon and Green were hired this week to become the boys basketball head coaches at Guilford and Oregon, respectively.
"We had a lot of guys who were really qualified for the position," Green said. "John has done a great job. It speaks to the success we all had with coach Brannan."
Meanwhile, Oregon promoted Farrell Cain to replace Faith McNamee, who stepped down after seven seasons as Oregon’s girls volleyball coach. Cain played on the Oregon team that won sectionals in 2006 and went a school-record 36-4. She also was an assistant coach at Oregon when the Hawks won four regional titles and one Big Northern Conference title and was the captain on the volleyball team her senior year at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin.
Athletic director Mike Lawton said in a news release that Green and Cain "have absolutely earned this opportunity after being in lead assistant roles for successful programs for several years now."
That also describes Dixon, who may have been the premier NIC-10 coach-in-waiting.
Dixon, 49, has been coaching for Rockford Public Schools for 19 years. He started out at Guilford, moved to Jefferson, where he was a top assistant under Brannan for 11 years, and then returned to Guilford last year under Carl Armato, who resigned.
Dixon said he planned o ask Green to be his top assistant before Oregon hired Green.
"It’s kind of hard to lose him, but he’ll be a great coach," said Dixon, who added both were helped greatly by Brannan.
Green replaces Quinn Virgil (150-202 in 12 years). Green, 29, started for a Rockford Lutheran team that won three consecutive regional titles. He coached at Jefferson for seven years, the last two as the head sophomore coach.
"We are going to try some things that go beyond basketball to build our culture and see if we can get kids involved outside of the gym as well as in the gym as much as possible," Green said.
"I’d like to get the team involved in a lot of community events and get them around the younger kids as much as possible at our feeder level. I’d also like to take advantage of things that are new and innovative, doing a team Twitter page and other social media things we did at Jefferson and using music at practice. As much as we talk about how serious it is, it’s a game. It should be fun."
For Dixon, the first thing to establish at Guilford is stability. Dixon will be Guilford’s fourth head coach in four years. The Vikings were 14-17 (7-11) under Armato last year but have had only one winning record in 13 years (18-14 in 2019) and haven’t had a coach stay longer than three years in the past two decades.
"It’s very important for the team to have a face and an identity," Dixon said. "Stability is the thing they are lacking most."
Guilford graduated eight seniors, including a pair of three-year starters, but Dixon says that should increase excitement and opportunities for players next year.
"Nothing is written in stone, so everybody will be competing for a spot in practice every day," Dixon said. "We also had a few players who didn’t go out last year because we were so senior dominated they didn’t think there was a place for them. This is an open door for a lot of those kids to come back and give it a shot."
And the door is also finally open for Dixon, who has served a 19-year NIC-10 apprenticeship waiting to show what he could do as a head coach and nearly moved to Georgia after getting passed over two years ago.
"For years people have thought I was capable of it," Dixon said. "Now it’s my opportunity to show people what I can do."
"He’s going to be really successful," Green said of Dixon. "He’s a great person as well as a great coach. I know he is going to do great things over there. I respect him as much as anybody I’ve coached with."
Matt Trowbridge: firstname.lastname@example.org; @matttrowbridge