With Stanford men’s basketball’s 89-88 overtime loss to Arizona State Wednesday, there’s only one question left to ask before fully turning attention to baseball—or football for that matter.
Is this the last straw for Johnny Dawkins?
Before I even attempt to answer this question, here’s a caveat: I know far less about the intricacies of the game of basketball than any of the “major” sports Stanford has.
So rather than make the judgments myself, allow me to round up everything that’s swirling around the men’s basketball program and try to evaluate the only two schools of thought left.
The group that seems to be growing exponentially with every Stanford loss argues that Dawkins must go (notice my weekly link to Jack Blanchat’s ‘12 NIT Title run-inspiring column).
This camp has one heck of an argument. In Dawkins’ five seasons on The Farm, there have been plenty of ups and downs, but as Stanford football might put it, no “tangible evidence of a job well done.”
I’m not sure there’s even evidence that Stanford is heading in any sort of upwards trend.
Sure there have been some good performances by the Cardinal. Stanford swept Cal, a team that should sneak into the NCAA Tournament, and beat up on an overrated but still top-25 Oregon team at Maples.
But for every one of these good wins, there seems to be an even worse loss. They come in all shapes and sizes, but more recently, they’ve been heartbreaking collapses against quality opponents, robbing the Cardinal of much-needed signature wins.
Though Dawkins hasn’t exactly inspired the fan base, there are some around The Farm that think Dawkins deserves one more year—a make-or-break season where it’ll be NCAA Tournament or bust.
Even those on the “Fire Dawkins” bandwagon should concede that there are a few at least mildly logical arguments on that side of the aisle.
The rising senior class has shown bursts of talent, especially by Josh Huestis this season. Another potential star from that class, Anthony Brown, missed almost all of this season with a hip injury, taking a good offensive weapon out of Dawkins’ already-limited arsenal.
Also, it can’t be completely ignored that Dawkins is a very good human being. From what I’ve experienced in every conversation I’ve ever had with the coach, and from what I’ve heard from even Dawkins’ most vocal critics, pretty much every interaction with Dawkins leaves you rooting for the guy to succeed.
Dawkins also has a few years’ pay left on his contract that Stanford would likely have to eat if it canned the coach. Now I know you don’t want to make decisions based on a sunk cost, but could Stanford even get a good enough replacement for Dawkins right now that would be worth the money?
Because I’m that crazy Philly sports fan—those of you who remember my Chip Kelly column know that already—I’m going to go with the most logical comparison I can draw from to this situation: the Eagles’ firing of Andy Reid, another coach known for being a tremendously nice man.
Many in Philadelphia thought Reid would have to make the playoffs in 2011 to keep his job. When the team fell to 4-8, it looked like Reid’s long tenure in Philadelphia had entered its final weeks.
But the Eagles rallied behind their coach, going on a four-game winning streak with an average margin of victory of 20 points per game to finish the season at 8-8—ruining the team’s chances at a high draft pick in the process—to earn their coach another season at the helm.
Reid was given an ultimatum by his owner for that second chance: he needed to make the playoffs. The Eagles struggled early in the season again, but this time, there was no heroic rescue by the players. Philly dropped 11 of its last 12 games, making it very clearly that the team had finally quit on its leader, and it was time for Reid to go.
To be fair to Dawkins, though I’ve seen plenty to cringe at over my three years on the farm, I haven’t seen his players quit on him. Is that seal of approval from his team enough, though, to justify keeping him for another year?
That’ll be up to new Athletic Director Bernard Muir, who is finishing up his first full season at the helm of Stanford Athletics. It’ll be interesting to see what the former college basketball player decides in the biggest decision of his short tenure so far.
If you were Muir, what would you do? One more year or the pink slip?
Sam Fisher might be getting the pink slip after holding tutoring sessions at The Daily’s office instead of doing his desk editing duties. Give him advice on how to be a better employee at safisher “at” stanford.edu and follow him on Twitter at @SamFisher908.