Widgets Magazine

Fisher: Is this the end of the road for Dawkins?

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.

About Sam Fisher

Sam Fisher is the managing editor of sports for The Stanford Daily's Vol. 244. Sam also does play-by-play for KZSU's coverage of Stanford football, Stanford baseball and Stanford women's basketball. In 2013, Sam co-authored "Rags to Roses: The Rise of Stanford Football," with Joseph Beyda and George Chen.
  • jaded fan

    “there are some around the Farm that think Dawkins deserves one more year”

    I don’t know these people, and I don’t like these people.

  • Andrew

    He’s done.

  • Konwledgeable Nick

    Word on the street is Muir is gong to stick with his horses and give Dawkins another year, but I cannot help but believe Stanford deserves a coach who would utilize the program’s substantial resources much more efficiently than Dawkins has. What happens if Dawkins makes the NCAA tournament with a senior-laden squad who by all means had no right to MISS the tournament next year, even if it is poorly coached? Does that buy him another year or two to rebuild after losing the majority of the squad? Dawkins was unable to capitalize on the most talented roster during his tenure this year, and doesn’t deserve another chance to try next year.

    By all means he is a great guy, just not a great basketball coach. Lets go get someone to put this program back where it belongs: not only in the NCAA tournament, but perennially in the top 25 in the nation as well.

  • Where did the 6th man go…

    This team actually did not improve one bit during the course of the season and even went backwards in many respects. The argument to keep Dawkins is the same bad reasoning for keeping “nice guys” and their mediocre coaching performances you see over and over again….and how does that always work out in the end? Muir should have the gonads to clean house while a new coach has something to work with in the large group of seniors here next year. With at least 4 and maybe more open scholarships after next year Muir can’t possibly wait and force someone new to fill all those spots without a nice season next year.

  • Stanford fan

    Enough is enough!

    As a die-hard Stanford bball fan who has seen us rise from the ashes of pre-Monty era to the glory days of Monty era with trips to NCAA tourney a birth right (Final Four ’98, Elite 8s, #1 rankings)… to see our once proud Stanford basketball program run into the ground in 5 painful years… is very very sad.

    Dr. Muir – Please kindly step up, and take action. Leadership. We need to replace Dawkins, and hire a new coach. New start, fresh beginning. Please.

    5 years of Dawkins has proven that he is NOT the right coach for Stanford. 1 or 2 more extra years will not change anything — except to further decrease attendance at Maples Pavilion until high school games draw more fans than Stanford basketball games.

  • The longer Muir waits, the harder it will be to recruit a top guy. His obligation is to Stanford, not to Dawkins. He should make the move now. ASAP.

  • Robert “Bobby” Sumner

    Let me please play the pundit here for a moment. Johnny deserves to continue to lead the program because he has produced while on The Farm what had only been accomplished one other time. He won a post-season tournament. I didn’t see a long list of championship years hanging from the rafters. I saw two. That’s it!! One NCAA & one NIT from previous years. He accomplished that in FIVE years. Stanford has a long, rich tradition of athletic excellence in intercollegiate athletics. But, not in Men’s Basketball. Excellence is measured in championships NOT in finishing in the top 64!! I don’t care if you make the tournament. Did you win it? Sure making it is in the right direction. However, if you do not win it ALL it still leaves a bitter taste. If I had to judge him I’d say he put up 1of 3…kudos.

  • Alvin

    Stanford basketball has no identity under Dawkins. Montgomery built the program the only way possible, with big, physical post players, good outside shooters, and an at least decent point guard. That was the winning formula, not this skinny, try-to-out run others a la Duke.
    Stanford, because of its extremely rigorous academic standards for athletes, cannot consistently recruit the great athletes. There aren’t enough of them that can qualify. So we’ll never out-athlete or out-run, out-jump the Dukes, the UCLAs or the rest of the dummy schools. But there are enough smart post players and outside shooters out there that can enter Stanford. That was our comparative advantage – like our physical style in football.
    Dawkis doesn’t get it. The skinny fast stuff is bound to fail at Stanford. There’s no hope he can turn things around.

  • TallTreeAlum

    Sorry Dawkins, you gotta go. And if Muir trips up on this, then he is replaceable as well. A once proud program is a sham of its former glory. Within the last decade, Stanford Mens Hoops actually achieved a number one national ranking and had students camping out for prime 6th Man seats. Those days are gone. Winning the NIT last year provided some hope. However, it’s not good a good sign when the NIT champ returns to defend its title.

  • SECbasedAlum

    Uh, Bobby… it is FAR better to make the NCAA Tourney than to win the NIT. ‘Nuff said.

  • guest

    Jaded Fan, I’m with you. You don’t have to be a basketball genius to know that we have better talent than we have results. Dawkins has never been in a rebuilding situation here at Stanford. You give people in rebuilding situations more time. Does anyone believe that Dawkins is holding something back? Isn’t he already doing the best job he knows how to do? How would giving him a make or break ultimatum benefit him, the team, recruits, or Stanford? It won’t. It will simply put more pressure on our players. It will be a detriment to our recruiting efforts. And is it really fair to Dawkins? Most people are “nice”. “Nice” shouldn’t be a reason to keep Dawkins. Firing Dawkins is long overdue. It’s time to move on.

  • guest

    That’s like equating winning the NIT to winning a lesser non-BCS bowl. Getting into the NCAA tournament should be a minimum requirement. Every time we hire the right coach here at Stanford, miraculously the recruits, and the results, appear. Go sport by sport and you’ll find this to be true. Dawkins has had more than enough time and resources to have delivered better results. It’s not fair to our student athletes, our program, or our school to continue with a substandard coach. Fire Dawkins.

  • james

    Dawkins proves there is a difference between being an assistant coach and a head coach. Stanford needs to hire a head coach with a proven track record at coaching and recruiting. Dawkins is a quality human being but he is not good as a head coach. Time for a change.

  • DJ

    This year was the tournament or bust year. He failed miserably with considerable talent, momentum, and chemistry. Men’s basketball has been the worst program in the athletic department over the past five years. Maples is half empty every game. Muir simply can’t afford to keep Dawkins.

  • Alvin

    Sam, you wrote “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.”

    Just a piece of advice from someone who’s been there: Don’t downgrade yourself and don’t sound defensive.

    I’ve listened to you on the radio and watched you on podcasts and shows. You know your stuff.

  • Gabe

    Winning the NIT effectively makes you the 69th-best team in the country. I know that’s faulty math because presumably Stanford could win some of the smaller leagues, but then again, maybe not. The fact is that Stanford made 15 of 16 tournaments before Dawkins. Now we’re a laughingstock. Maybe that’s harsh, but it’s the truth. Dawkins at the helm means one less team for the upper tier of the conference to worry about. We’re irrelevant under Dawkins, and the long climb back to respectability will get exponentially longer if we stay put.

  • No Dog In This Hunt

    I’m not a Cardinal fan, but follow college bball nationally. To say that Stanford was a power or a perennial top 25 team is misguided. Montgomery had some nice teams. he also had some mediocre / bad ones. Nationally, Stanford has never been in a discussion of elite bball programs. I think the Cardinal’s success in many other sports (rev and non-rev) proves they can compete with anyone, it just hasn’t translated in men’s bball. I don’t think Dawkins will be able to turn Stanford into an elite program, but I also think you’re kidding yourselves if you think you’ve ever been one. Kentucky, Kansas, UNC, Duke & Michigan State have nothing to fear

  • Yeah?

    NCAA Tournament appearances in every year from 1995-2008 (excluding 2006) mean nothing, yeah? That you “follow college bball nationally” and didn’t know that nugget probably means that you watch Duke/UNC once a year and then troll college newspaper articles.

  • No Dog In This Hunt

    not exactly. NCAA tourney berths don’t make you nationally relevant. If they did, we’d all be talking about South Carolina State, Mercer, Florida Gulf Coast, Bucknell…. I never said Stanford was awful under Montgomery. I simply said they were never a power. One Final Four. Georgia Tech has a much better resume than Stanford. GT has had some good teams, but is not (and never had been) an elite program. Again, I’m not saying Stanford is on the same level as Richmond or Penn, but they’ve been a lot closer to Xavier or West Virginia than they have been to Kansas. The elite hoop programs typically don’t have football programs that can stack up to Stanford’s. (When was the last time Duke, UNC, Kentucky, Kansas, Mich State or Syracuse was relevant in football?) Stanford has a great athletic program. One of the best. Bball is just not their historic strength.

  • Yeah?

    No, we wouldn’t be talking about those teams because they did not make the tournament in 14 out of 15 years. Additionally, I have no idea what makes you nationally relevant if a tournament involving the best teams in the nation isn’t the proper metric. You do realize that only four teams make the Final Four each year, right? I don’t think anyone would make the argument that Stanford was ever an elite powerhouse. However, was it one of the best basketball schools in the country for a period of 15 years, the same 15 years immediately preceding Dawkins? Absolutely. And anyone with even decent hindsight knows that Stanford was a basketball school for the greater part of the last quarter century. It’s not even close.

    Also, Georgia Tech? They made the tournament only four times from 1995 – 2008.

  • No Dog In This Hunt

    You want to quote stats? Okay, but this ain’t pretty. Let’s first establish that Stanford isn’t even very relevant when talking about their performance in their own (weak) conference. Stanford has won 4 conference titles in their history. 1 conference player of the year. Stellar. just unreal. Now, let’s look at the national picture. 8 First team All-Americas. 16 NCAA Tourney appearances.(11 in a row is a nice run, but 5 appearances in the Cardinal’s 80 years shows that there is no consistency. 3 30-win seasons. Average W-L record in that 11-year streak? 24-7. Nice for a mid-major, but not exactly intimidating. Their NCAA tourney record in the 11 years is amazing… 16-11. They made it to the Sweet 16 3 times out of 11 years. I could go on for hours using the 2012-13 media guide, but I think it’s obvious. Stanford had a nice run from 1995-2005 that made them a visitor to the national scene. They are a second-tier team in a weak hoop conference (absolutely owned by Arizona for the past 25 years and UCLA before that.) They have three sweet 16 appearances and one Final Four appearance in the 64-team era. Utah had far better results over the same time period, but no one ever calls them an elite program. they had a nice run with some nice players and a really good coach. So did Stanford. Currently, you can look at VCU and Butler and see the same thing. And, Georgia Tech made the tourney almost every year between 1984 and 2004, I believe. (I don’t have their media guide handy to double check.) And they were in the Final Four in 1990 and 2004. I think you will find they were far better than you remember.

  • hohum

    Stanford bball fans deserve a better coach.

  • tjm

    Stanford should seriously pursue Ben Howland. His coaching style is tailor-made for the caliber of player Stanford can consistently attract.

  • Stanford FAN

    Hire Howland NOW!!! No finer coach out there, and Stanford needs a new head coach. How could any serious program in need of new life pass up Howland?!?!? The Stanford program has not been the same since Montgomery left. Its a shame. We’re not at the same level. Not even close. Montgomery was getting to the sweet 16… he was getting to the NCAA tournament… Now we’re saying “its ok to play for the NIT every year”?? Really? That is acceptable for a school that prides itself on premiere student athletes in every sport? I believe we have the talent on the team. I feel we need a new leader. LET’S GET HOWLAND!

  • Stanford FAN

    winning the NIT is NOT better than getting to the tournament… winning the NIT means you are the best of the teams outside of the top 64 teams in the country. What other major athletics program do we have at the university that we would consider it acceptable to be ranked 65th in the country? With the quality of athletes we have, its not right… Its time to move forward. Everyone hoped this would work… It didn’t.. Time to move on.

  • Stanford FAN


  • Flannagan

    That is a good statement