Wil Hixon put Andover High basketball on the map.
Including six years in New Hampshire, he had a brilliant 464-146 overall mark including a spectacular 21-2 record in the Greater Lawrence Christmas Tourney.
He, of course, was one of the 46th annual tourney’s founding fathers along with John Kelleher and Bob Licare Sr.
Hixon, who retired from coaching in 1983, died on Aug. 26 at age 91. He was predeceased by his beloved wife Dawn.
For an undersized point guard from tiny Beebe River, N.H., Hixon did pretty well for himself.
His family included his son, the legendary Amherst College basketball coach Dave Hixon (826-293 record, 7 Final 4s, 2 national titles), and his grandson, 2016 Olympic silver medal-winning synchronized diver Michael Hixon.
Several of his former players and students talked about Hixon the great coach and great educator. He was a history teacher, assistant principal and principal at Andover High.
Arthur Yancy (AHS ‘64)
“He really helped me an awful lot. I had a lot of problems in school. He helped me get into college. He did an awful lot to inspire me,” said the highly-successful former Greater Lawrence Tech coach, who starred at powerhouse Oklahoma City University.
“My senior year, I was not allowed to play. It was a bad scene. He went out of his way and spoke to the Lawrence Merchants and I played in a semipro league. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have played in college. I was voted MVP of the playoffs.
“Senior year, he had me at his house one time a week and I’d study and then we’d watch Providence College play. Then he’d drive me home late at night. He helped a lot of people.”
Ted Kelley (AHS ‘82):
“I remember my father saying, ‘His practices are just like college practices.’ My father was right,” said the 6-foot-5 Andover Hall of Famer.
“Playing for Mr. Hixon really prepared me well for my time playing at BC. His advance scouting, which was somewhat unknown in those days, was ahead of its time.
“I remember before we played Cambridge in 1981. We were undefeated and they were No. 1 in the country. Mr. Hixon said, ‘Cambridge center Pat Ewing, you will be watching on TV in the NBA. So go play hard and have fun.
“That put us all at ease and we almost pulled it off!”
Marilyn Fitzgerald (AHS ‘60)
“As phenomenal as Wil Hixon’s coaching skills were, I believe his greatest impact on Andover education was as an administrator,” said Fitzgerald, Andover’s legendary former swim coach.
“He was a fabulous principal and personally helped so many students find the right path.”
Mike McVeigh, North Andover coach
“Wil was a tremendous mentor for many young coaches like myself,” said McVeigh, the winningest basketball coach in region history. “I had met him several times the past 10 years, this was our first encounter in a game.
“In warm-ups, I went to his bench area expecting to have a short conversation. He shook my hand politely and said, ‘Good luck, Mike.’ And he turned around and was back to his bench. I just stood there on a deserted island.
“I look back now and smile because there was a lesson there. He was all business for every game, every opponent, every coach. I came to know him as an engaging, brilliant and interesting coach who would take the time to encourage young coaches.
“Just don’t talk to him before the game!”
Carmen Scarpa (AHS ‘82)
“The best coach I played for at any level. He was a stickler for details,” said Scarpa, who later played point guard for Harvard. “More important than a great coach, he was a great mentor. He always understood sports was a means to an end and education was the most important thing.
“My first week at the high school, he saw me in the cafeteria during a free period. He walked me to the library and told me in no uncertain terms that I should use my free time to study.
“He was one of a kind and very influential in my life. He was the best.”