Stanford Week’s Burning Question: Is Dawkins’ Seat Warming Up?

Posted by Connor Pelton on July 21st, 2012

Pachoops’ Adam Butler joins us once again to chime in with his thoughts on our Burning Question. This is now his fourth straight appearance after giving us answers on the programs of Arizona, USC, and Washington. As for Stanford’s question, here goes:

Stanford made the NCAA Tournament in 13 out of 14 seasons before current head coach Johnny Dawkins took over in 2008-09. In his four seasons on the Farm, Dawkins has yet to lead the Cardinal back to the Big Dance, which has dropped the program down a step in terms of national prominence. How many more times can he go without dancing before his seat begins to heat up?

Dawkins Needs To Bring Stanford Back To National Prominence In A Hurry (credit: Danny Moloshok)

Connor Pelton: It’s tough to stand out and become a prominent team nationally in college basketball. In college football, an average fan will watch roughly 70 out of 125 FBS teams play at least one game throughout the season. That number is about the same for college basketball, but  it’s out of 345 Division I teams. If you think of it as a huge pie, there are about 30 large slices, 40 medium slices, and the rest are crumbs. Stanford used to be one of those coveted large slices, one that would without a doubt hear their name called on Selection Sunday year in and year out. But since Dawkins has taken over, the Cardinal have taken a step down to just one of the medium slices. Fans around the nation know who they are, but they don’t care enough to stay up until Midnight (on the east coast) to watch them play. The same goes for recruits, and if you find yourself in one of those six or seven-year droughts without going dancing, your four- and five-stars are going to become twos and threes.

With that said, Dawkins was able to pump some life into a program that was a little sleepy by winning the NIT Championship last season. That will buy him some time, if only because he can point to it and say, “Hey, we’re on the road back to success.” But if he doesn’t get back to the promised land within the next two seasons, it might be time to move on in Palo Alto.

Adam Butler: Athletic directors are not patient like Warren Buffet. They like to see steep, vertical trend lines as opposed to Buffett’s philosophy of “buy and hold” in which we purchase at a low point understanding that over the long haul, a stock’s value will rise. Doesn’t fly in college hoops. Dawkins’ teams have been almost identically mediocre for each of his four years, showing Buffett-like trends. But that’s not to say there hasn’t been an uptick. An NIT title, 26 wins, the presence of Chasson Randle, these are all good things. The hot seat grumblings were getting louder as the Cardinal staggered through the Pac-12 season and lost to Utah. But Dawkins got his team straight enough to rattle off the Not In Tournament tournament title and that’s got to count for something, if only optimism.

I think the best point you raise is the program’s moderate drop from national prominence. Mike Montgomery had Cardinal basketball scary. Trent Johnson and Dawkins certainly have been “Stanford” men. That is to say… dull? Having your guy at the helm works, whatever, but dropping out of the national conversation shouldn’t fly at a school with Stanford’s endowment. The way Silicon Valley is currently booming (seriously, try finding affordable housing in SF right now), somebody is bound to get into the ear of… oh wait, they don’t have an Athletic Director. Oh well, at least there’s no one to pull a Lisa Love and extend a coach in the midst of a 10-win season. So to complete our trading analogy: if you’re a Berkshire Hathaway/Buffett type, feel free to stick with Dawkins. Could be a low risk investment for you in that he’ll never be that bad. But if you’re more like an AD, wanting to see some immediate ROI and this season doesn’t grow on the last, it might be time to start looking at some young, mid-major stocks.

Andrew Murawa: Simple. None. Zero. Zilch. Nada. This is the year that the rebuilding process – started after he inherited a rapidly emptying cupboard from previous head coach Trent Johnson – has to begin to pay dividends. His strong 2010 recruiting class has had plenty of time to blossom on the Farm, he added a stud guard last season in Chasson Randle, and he’s added a couple new incoming parts. Now it is time to pay the piper.

Sure, he’s gotta come up with some way to replace Josh Owens up front, and guys like Dwight Powell and Anthony Brown (in particular) haven’t quite taken the leap forward that has been expected. But the time for excuses is in the past – Dawkins and crew have to get it done this season. The good news is, the team built up some momentum at the end of last season as it ran to an NIT title (and ran is the right term – they averaged 72 possessions per 40 minutes). And, with the Pac-12 expected to be much improved this season, the Cardinal will have plenty of chances to score quality wins both in and out of conference. But, the team needs to prove they can avoid the type of midseason lulls that have killed it the last few years. Last year it was five losses over the course of six conference games in late January and early February that did them in. But with the junior class having been through a couple rodeos and with Randle having that all-important year of experience under his belt, this Cardinal team should be rightly expected to earn an invitation to the Big Dance. Stanford fans and its administration have been quite patient with Dawkins as he has had to remake the roster, and the general consensus still seems to be that he’s the right guy for the job, but it is time to start proving his worth, or else the bulk of that 2010 recruiting class might play its final season for a different head coach.

Connor Pelton (296 Posts)

I'm from Portland. College basketball and football is life.


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