Stanford announced on Wednesday that the school has extended men’s basketball head coach Johnny Dawkins for two years, keeping him signed and on the Farm through the 2015-16 season. That year would be Dawkins’s 8th as the leader of the Cardinal and as a head coach at the collegiate level.
His three seasons in Maples Pavilion have yielded unremarkable results. His career record sits at 49-48, and none of his three incarnations of the Stanford squad have made either the post-season NIT or the NCAA Tournament. At a time in school history when football has begun to dwarf men’s basketball in popularity and women’s basketball draws significantly more fans to the arena than the men do, Dawkins has also struggled as an off-court ambassador for the program.
That struggle and image problem among many Stanford fans and students wasn’t helped by the puzzling early departure of Jeremy Green, who received no public discipline from the Dawkins administration before being suspended from the University for Spring Quarter 2011. Green then left the Card for the NBA Draft and was not drafted. We’ll never know how much or little Dawkins had to do with Green and his series of bizarre decisions (Green was a holdover from the Trent Johnson regime) but the incident does not speak well of Dawkins’s ability to guide a program to success.
Keep in mind that common speculation viewed this coming campaign as a make-or-break year for Dawkins, who has not proven at any school that he can coach at the power conference level of Division I. With the extension, Dawkins almost surely has job security until at least 2013 or 2014 barring a catastrophic few seasons before that point.
That could happen. No one will argue that the man can recruit. The class that just finished its freshman season at Stanford was rated the best in the PAC-10 and one of the best 20 in the nation in 2010, with Dwight Powell and Anthony Brown highlighting the group. And while those players have shown flashes of great potential, they didn’t improve nearly as much over the course of the season as freshmen typically do under good coaching. That’s not an indictment of the players–it’s a major question mark for the adults in charge of teaching them to transition from high school to one of America’s most competitive basketball conferences. If Dawkins can take their talent and develop them (the skill jump between the freshman and sophomore years is traditionally viewed as the most dramatic of the collegiate years for basketball players) then the Card could compete for a spot in the Big Dance. But if he again fails to help them come along as ballplayers and refuses to implement a consistent and effective offensive philosophy, the team could once again flounder.
His season-by-season records have not shown consistent improvement or regression, but rather a fairly impressive loyalty to being average:
Dawkins’s teacher and role model, Mike Krzyzewski of Duke, also started slowly when he began heading up the Blue Devils back east. But by the end of his fourth season in Durham, Duke had finished the year with a 24-10 overall mark and an appearance in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, where they lost to Washington, just 2 points shy of tying the game and potentially heading to the Sweet Sixteen. In every season since in which Krzyzewski has coached for the entire year (he had to sit out a substantial portion of the 1994-95 season, and Duke fell apart) the team has posted a winning record and an NCAA Tournament berth.
The coming season will be Dawkins’s fourth in Maples. It is time to show results.
Stanford’s motivation for giving Dawkins the extension will likely never become public or fully make sense, even if Dawkins used feelers from other schools during the offseason to get athletics director Bob Bowlsby and Company to give Johnny a little extra peace of mind. Unless there’s a big piece of information that the program has kept under wraps, Bowlsby made a very poor athletics and business decision today, and is really beginning to show his Iowa stripes as an AD concerned with succeeding in football and avoiding basketball embarrassment, rather than striving for success on the hardwood.
Maybe Dawkins will prove us wrong. He was a great player for Coach K–one of the best in Duke history–and presents himself in press conferences and in person as a class-act man, and one that has a wife and four children living in the area. And, again, he does a nice job on the recruiting trail.
But winning is winning, and he hasn’t done much of that at Stanford yet. In the crazy world of college sports, that’s earned him the serenity of knowing he has a job for 5 more years. But his welcome has long begun to wear out, and improved results must become a requirement soon.
(Headline image courtesy of Daylife)