New coach on the court at Vermilion
Dawson Dickson comes from New Hampshire to rebuild BB team
by Tom Coombe
Six months ago, Dawson Dickson had never heard of Ely, much less been to it.
The 28-year-old Dickson may not be a tried and true Elyite yet, but he’s quickly settling in - and has convinced nearly 20 college athletes - to join him at Vermilion.
Since July, when he was hired to lead the men’s basketball program at the community college, Dickson has built a team from scratch.
The New Hampshire native spent much of his summer recruiting 19 players from nine states to join the Ironhawks.
“I got the job the week of the Fourth of July so we had about six weeks to prepare before the start of school,” Dickson said Monday, just prior to an Ironhawks practice at the college gymnasium. “And we brought in 19 guys from all across the country, from nine states.”
Basketball comes naturally to Dickson, who looks like he could still play at the college level and in fact did only a few years ago at Roger Williams University.
Dickson is the son and grandson of basketball coaches, and he ventured into the position soon after his college playing days ended.
After stints as an assistant at a New Hampshire junior college, and then Keene State and Southern New Hampshire, Dickson jumped at the chance to become a head coach at Vermilion.
“Tim Loney, our women’s coach, found me on social media and sent me the application,” said Dickson. “I was an assistant and looking for a full-time position or more likely a head coaching position to get a start. I was an assistant at a D2 in southern New Hampshire.”
Dickson added “I grew up in Manchester, New Hampshire, and both my father and grandfather were both high school coaches there. That really led me to this path of following in their footsteps and becoming a coach and hopefully make it a full-time position.”
It didn’t take long for Dickson to become acquainted with and enamored with Vermilion and the Ely area.
“It’s a beautiful location and very comparable to the northern part of New England, where I’m from,” said Dickson. “So it wasn’t that big of a difference or a big change. And the people have been really nice. It’s a tight-knit community here, very nice and warming. It’s been awesome so far.”
For several weeks, Dickson has been putting his Ironhawks through workouts and practices at the college gymnasium, in preparation for a 2023-24 season that kicks off in earnest this month - including a tournament this weekend in North Dakota and next weekends’ home-opening DQ Grill and Chill Classic.
Vermilion has an entirely brand-new roster, but not one short on talent.
“I found out when I was in New Hampshire how talented the MCAC really is,” said Dickson. “When I was at the D2 program in New Hampshire I was recruiting a few kids from Rochester and that piqued my interest in this job.”
Dickson said his Ironhawks will play a fast-paced game of basketball.
“My goal is I want us to score 80-to-100 points a game,” he said. “I think our style of play will be cool to watch. We are going to get up and down the floor and hopefully score a lot of points.”
Vermilion may be led by Quyavant Douglas, a native of Brooklyn Center near the Twin Cities. He averaged 30 points per game as a high school senior.
Dickson has also been impressed early on by 6-9 Jeremy Leonard of Houston, Tex., and point guard Tyson Rogers, a Florida native.
“Quyavant is a dynamic scorer who can really shoot and Jeremy can stretch the floor and handle it and shoot it,” said Dickson. “And Tyson Rogers is what I call an absolute dog. He’s going to be all over you defensively and gives full effort.”
Vermilion hasn’t made a playoff run since 2018, but Dickson is hoping that will soon change.
One early visitor to practice was county commissioner and retired Vermilion coach Paul McDonald, who led the men’s basketball program to three national tournament berths and an array of regional playoff bids during his nearly 30-year run at Vermilion.
“He came to practice and explained his prior success here and I think it really lit a fire under our guys that we can build something special here,” said Dickson. “I hope I can rebuild and follow in the same footsteps and turn the corner and really build a sustainable program.”