Johnny Dawkins Finally Program-Building at Stanford
STANFORD, Calif. -- Johnny Dawkins doesn't consider himself a person with a particularly large reservoir of patience when it comes to basketball.
But as his third season begins as the Stanford head coach, Dawkins has had to dig deep and find some.
Dawkins left Duke and his spot under Mike Krzyzewski's wing to become the head coach at Stanford in 2008.
Only now does he feel like he might be on the way to building a "program," rather than overseeing a team.
"I would like to have seen it done yesterday, that's just the nature of who I am," Dawkins said Tuesday at Maples Pavilion. His Cardinal team is still a few days away from its first official practice of the new season.
"I do realize there's a process and I'm constantly reminded of that by my coaches, to take a different view sometimes. I'm going to continue to set high standards for our kids."
Dawkins arrived in 2008 on the heels of Stanford's messy parting with former coach Trent Johnson. Under the first-time head coach, the Cardinal went from one of the stalwart programs in the conference to a struggling one.
Dawkins admitted he is a competitive guy. You aren't the national college player of the year or have an NBA career if those juices don't flow.
You don't coach at Duke unless you like to win.
In Dawkins' first season, Stanford posted its lowest Pac-10 finish in 16 years, but still finished with 20 wins on the back of a friendly non-conference schedule.
Last year, the Cardinal finished 14-18 last season -- the program's first losing season since 1993 -- and finished a somewhat surprising sixth in the Pac-10 after being projected as the conference's last-place team.
It was a slog of a year.
Senior Landry Fields was the dominant presence on the floor for an injury-riddled, short-handed team, which had to recruit a player from the football team at mid-season to fill out the roster.
This season, there's both depth and young talent. Dawkins has a roster that includes eight freshman (six on scholarship), five juniors and one sophomore. And, perhaps most importantly, no seniors.
"It's kind of unusual, right, to have a team with no seniors?," Dawkins said. "But by the same token, we are excited because the one thing that is known is we will have this group for the next several years."
Dawkins said he has evolved as a coach since he arrived at Stanford. He said he's become a better teacher. And he's become more flexible by necessity.
"I've had to make some adjustments from some things I have known and been a part of over the years," Dawkins said. "Some coaches have told me that would happen. You can never take 100 percent of what you've done somewhere else and bring it with you. So I've had to tweak my system a bit on both ends of the floor, and in some areas, I think that's been really good for us. I don't like to compromise some things defensively, and that's why I'm most excited to work with the depth that we will have this year. Now we have a enough kids to go out there (at practice) and compete. Last year we had five walk-ons."
Stanford's lineup could include as many as four freshmen this season if the young players can live up to their advance billing.
Junior Jeremy Green will be on the floor as the team's leading returning scorer, taking over the go-to mantle from Fields.
Another junior, forward Josh Owens is back on the floor after missing last season with a still-undisclosed medical condition. Owens started 28 games in 2008-09. He averaged 6.9 points and 3.6 rebounds a game.
Juniors Andrew Zimmermann and Jack Trotter are also returning starters, but the newbies may have something to say about that.
Dawkins' class was among the high-rated in the country. Dawkins himself was part of such a class as at young player at Duke back in 1982, heralded and highly rated. Four years later, the Blue Devils were in the national championship game.
The group includes an entire potential lineup: guards Aaron Bright and Anthony Brown, forwards Dwight Powell, Josh Huestis and Stefan Nastic and center John Gage. They are a group of kids who Dawkins said will fit "his style" of coaching. Dawkins wants to run and put an emphasis on dogged defense.
Dawkins doesn't embrace that idea that this is finally "his team."
"I was never one of those coaches who looked at my players as someone else's players," Dawkins said. "You inherit the players you have, you work your butt off to try to make them as good as possible and that's what we've done. I am excited, that we have some kids that we've recruited who fit what we want to do. We're excited to see how they will respond at this level."
Expectations are relatively low for the Cardinal, even in a weakened Pac-10.
That leaves no where to go but up.
"I am a competitor. We have high expectations for ourselves and I approach every season that way. My expectations are always higher than where we might be projected to finish," Dawkins said.