Written by SportsDayDFW.com
After leading Lincoln girls to a title in 1999, Carlesa Dixon returns to the state tournament as program's head coach
A banner hangs inside the Lincoln gymnasium with the names of all the members of the 1999 girls basketball state championship team.
Among the names is forward Carlesa Dixon, a key player during Lincoln’s championship season. She helped bring Lincoln its first state championship and two more followed during the next decade.
Dixon will return to the state tournament with Lincoln this weekend, this time as the team’s first-year head coach. Her assistants, Artavia Burns and Cynthia Hogg McLeod, also are Lincoln girls basketball alumni.
Combined, the three have appeared in four state championships, winning two.
“Over here, this is personal,” Dixon said. “This is my neighborhood, this is my school and it’s a pride thing for me. No matter where I coached, my heart was always at Lincoln High School.”
The experience of the three coaches provides them with a unique perspective on Lincoln girls basketball, which has been a state power longer than most of the current players have been alive.
Hogg McLeod, a forward who had 16 points and 17 rebounds in the 1994 state final, works primarily with the post players. Burns, a former point guard who was part of the 2004 state championship team and played at Trinity Valley Community College, coaches the guards.
“I think they respect us more knowing we’ve been where they’re trying to get,” Burns said.
Second-ranked Lincoln (35-4) will face No. 14 Aledo in a Class 4A state semifinal at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin. The winner will face Georgetown or San Antonio Brennan in the state championship game at 3 p.m. Saturday.
Lincoln still runs the up-tempo offense and man-to-man defense that came to be the standard during the team’s 1999 championship season under coach Michael Ensley.
Because Ensley was Dixon’s coach, the transition from one to the other at Lincoln has been seamless for the players.
“Nothing’s changed,” senior guard Jade Colbert said. “Coach E coached our coach, so everything he brought to the table, she brings a lot of the same things and same tradition.”
Colbert and Kelsey Criner are the team’s senior leaders. Colbert averages 13 points and Criner averages 11.5. Junior Alisha Washington, who has scholarship offers to several Big 12 schools, leads the team in scoring with 18.1 points per game.
The three players, all guards, set the pace for Lincoln’s run-and-gun style of play.
“I allow everyone a little more offensive freedom,” Dixon said. “But we pretty much play the way I played.”
Dixon started her coaching career as an assistant at North Crowley during the 2007-08 season. She then spent two years as an assistant at Fort Worth Eastern Hills before her first head coaching job at Garland Lakeview Centennial in 2010.
When she came to Lincoln, Dixon retained Burns from the previous staff and hired Hogg McLeod away from Roosevelt.
Dixon and Burns said their primary focus is to reintroduce pride into the program, something both coaches believe was lacking the last few seasons.
“It’s a new generation,” Dixon said. “Kids aren’t big on pride anymore. I have to bring that back to where it used to be. We won the state championship with pride and hard work alone. I have to instill that back into these girls.”
With a state tournament berth in her first season at Lincoln, Dixon seems to be well on her way.
Follow David Just on Twitter at @DavidJustDMN