After a disappointing 89-88 overtime loss to Arizona State in the opening game of the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Stanford’s first-year athletics director Bernard Muir confirmed Friday that men’s basketball head coach Johnny Dawkins will return for one more year in 2013-14.
However, Muir stressed his expectation that next year the Cardinal would return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2007-08 season, Trent Johnson’s last year in charge. That year, Stanford earned a No. 3 seed on the back of a 24-6 (13-5 Pac-10) regular season and an appearance in the Pac-10 Tournament final, but it fell 82-62 to No. 2 seed Texas in the Sweet Sixteen in Houston.
The two most famous Cardinal players in recent memory, the Lopez twins, left at the end of that season, deciding to enter the NBA Draft rather than return for their junior years. Brooke was taken 10th overall by the New Jersey Nets and his brother Robin was chosen 15th by the Phoenix Suns. Johnson also took the head coaching job at LSU the very same offseason.
Since then, the team has struggled to meet expectations, compilinga five-year record of just 93-73 with the lone highlight of last year’s NIT crown. This five-year stretch marks Stanford’s longest run without making it to March Madness since 1989.
Muir is backing his head coach to end that drought next season, but the pressure is on Dawkins.
“Next year is a critical year for us,” Muir told the San Jose Mercury News. “We’ve now had ample time for him to really get us to take that next step.”
This season, Dawkins’ team finished up 18-13 (9-9) in the regular season and failed to make it past the Sun Devils in Vegas. As the defending champion, Stanford is expected to be invited back to the NIT, but few fans will see back-to-back appearances in that competition as a positive step forward. Surrounded by football and women’s basketball teams that have ranked consistently in the top 10 in recent years — and national titles from many of the other varsity sports — men’s basketball has a lot to live up to.
“We want to be playing for a [conference] championship,” Muir said. “We think we have the caliber of kids who can do that. And we want to play in the NCAA (tournament). The goal has always been and will not change: We want to play well into March on the grand stage of March Madness.”