Paul Nixon begins his eighth year at the helm of Columbia women's basketball in 2012-13.
Despite finishing 3-25 overall and 1-13 in Ivy League play last season, the 2011-12 squad boasted several Ivy League honorees as records were broken.
Then-junior Tyler Simpson picked up honorable mention All-Ivy League honors after finishing the season with a team-high 12.6 points per game average and shooting 45.6% from the field. She ranked seventh in the Ivy League in points per game, and fourth in the Ivy League in field goal percentage. A promising returner for the 2012-13 squad, Simpson helped lift the Lions to their only Ivy League victory of the season as she scored 20 points vs. Yale.
The young squad also had three different Ivy League Rookies of the Week. First-year Amara Mbionwu was the first to earn the honor for the week of Nov. 13, as she averaged 6.5 points and a team-high 8.5 rebounds in two games for the Lions. The next week, Miwa Tachibana took the honor, as she led the Lions in scoring against Wagner. Tachibana was 4-for-7, scoring 11 points. And in January, Caitlyn Unsworth made it 3-for-3, as she was named Rookie of the week, scoring 18 points in two games for the Lions.
As for record-breaking, Melissa Shafer set a new program record in three-pointers made against Harvard last season as hit a three at the 9:53 mark in the second half to give her 162 three-pointers made all time, surpassing Emily Roller's record of 161, set from 1995-99. Shafer finished her career with 166 three-pointers.
During the 2010-11 season, Nixon led the youngest squad that he has assembled at Columbia to a fourth-place finish in conference, which included a home-and-home sweep of Yale. The Bulldogs finished the season in second place in the Ivy League and earned a spot in the Women's National Invitation Tournament.
The road victory over Yale on March 4, 2011, marked a milestone in the career of Nixon. With the win, he became the program's all-time leader in Ivy League victories as a head coach. Nixon achieved the milestone victory in two fewer seasons (6) than any of his predecessors.
Also in 2010-11, Kathleen Barry '11CC was named first team All-Ivy League for the first time in her career, and became the first Columbia women's basketball player to be named to the Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-America First Team.
She was also the recipient of an NCAA Post-Graduate Scholarship and earned the Marion R. Philips Watch for accumulating the highest grade-point average of any female student-athlete in her graduating class.
In 2009-10, the Lions won a program-Division I record 18 games, including nine against Ivy League competitors. Columbia defeated defending Ivy League champion Dartmouth twice, and opened its year with a resounding 79-55 win over reigning Northeast Conference champion Sacred Heart.
Also included in the season were a pair of near misses. The Lions used an uptempo offense and high-pressure defense to lead Big Ten opponent and eventual NCAA Tournament team Iowa by three points with less than a minute remaining in the second half of a November matchup. In early January, Columbia had a one-point advantage on Atlantic Coast Conference member N.C. State with 1:11 left in regulation. The Wolfpack also garnered an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament in 2009-10.
After concluding the Ivy League season with a 9-5 record, Columbia's Judie Lomax became the team's first Ivy League Player of the Year and took home Associated Press Honorable Mention All-America honors. The 5-11 forward became the first woman in NCAA history to lead the nation in rebounding in consecutive seasons, and was invited to training camp by the Women's National Basketball Association's Connecticut Sun.
Nixon also mentored Sara Yee '10SEAS to her second consecutive Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year award and honorable mention All-Ivy League accolades. Yee was joined by teammate Kathleen Barry as honorable mention selections.
In 2008-09, the Lions finished with what was then the most victories in a NCAA Division I season of 13, and also boasted the second national statistical category leader in three years. After Brittany Carfora '08CC led the nation in three-point field goal percentage (.519) in 2006-07, Lomax '10BC was the country's top rebounder at 14.3 per contest.
For her efforts, Lomax was named to the All-Ivy League first team, joining a pair of other players in garnering all-conference status. Yee took home the inaugural Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year award, while Danielle Browne '10BC was named honorable mention All-Ivy League.
Columbia posted a 7-7 Ivy League mark during the 2007-08 season, the best Ivy record since the Lions joined the league in women's basketball in 1986-87. History was set in a number of ways in Nixon's third season. Columbia won four straight Ivy League games from February 2-15, 2008, its longest winning streak within the league in program history.
Within that streak was a road sweep of Penn and Princeton on February 8-9, the first time Columbia swept a pair of league opponents away from Levien Gym.
Two Lions - Michele Gage '08CC and Danielle Browne '10BC earned second team All-Ivy League honors while Lauren Dwyer '11CC, a four-time Ivy League rookie of the week, earned a unanimous selection to the Ivy League's All-Rookie team. The duo of Gage and Browne were the first pair of Columbians to earn All-Ivy League honors in the same season in seven years.
The Lions continued the program's upward trend from the 2006-07 campaign, when Columbia improved its overall win total by two games from the prior season. Among a number of late-season highlights was a home sweep of Penn and Princeton, the first for the Lions since 2004.
In his seven seasons as the Lions' head coach, Nixon has revamped the way Columbia has played basketball. His style of transition basketball and pressure defense is appealing both to women's basketball fans and the players in the program.
"I am confident we have players who are assertive," Nixon said. "And they will be confident to step up offensively when they have the opportunities. At the same time, we're also going to continue to work hard on the defensive end, apply pressure and force our opponents into some mistakes."
Nixon came to Columbia from Indiana University, where he served as assistant coach for the Hoosiers from 2002-05. His responsibilities included recruiting, game/bench strategy, scouting and individual player development. The Hoosiers' 2003 recruiting class was ranked in the national Top 25. He also was charged with managing the team's academic progress and coordinating alumni relations.
Prior to his tenure at Indiana, Nixon spent three years as an assistant at the University of Southern Mississippi. On the court, Nixon worked primarily with the post players and helped Southern Miss to the 2000 Women's National Invitation Tournament (WNIT). His recruiting class that year also earned national accolades, ranked in the nation's top 40.
Nixon spent two years as an assistant at the University of Nevada-Reno and four years in a similar position at Marshall University. While at Nevada, he recruited Kate Smith, the 1999-2000 Big West Freshman of the Year, and the 1997-98 team posted the best record in the school's history. During his four seasons at Marshall, he recruited two Southern Conference Freshmen of the Year; the 1996-97 team won the Southern Conference Championship and advanced to the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history.
As a student at Vanderbilt, Nixon was a volunteer assistant with the women's team from 1991-93 and a manager for the men's basketball team all four seasons, eventually being named head manager. During his time with the Commodores, the men's team won the NIT, reached the NCAA tournament twice, including the Sweet Sixteen in 1993, and was the Southeastern Conference Champion the same year under Eddie Fogler, the 1993 National Coach of the Year.
Nixon graduated from Vanderbilt in 1993 with a bachelor's degree in communication studies. He received a master of science in health, physical education and recreation from Marshall in 1996.
Nixon prepped at Tattnall Square Academy in Macon, Ga., where he was a three-year letterwinner in basketball and was his class valedictorian. During his senior season, he was named team captain and the team's most valuable player. He earned GISA all-state honors in basketball. A three-sport athlete, Nixon also lettered in soccer and track. He helped his track team win the 1989 GISA AAA state championship.