Five weeks ago today, I wrote a column profusely praising the Stanford men’s basketball team. But oh, how things have changed since then.
Five weeks ago, the Cardinal was 15-3, and it looked like it had a good shot at going to the NCAA Tournament. But in the days since my column dropped, the Cardinal has gone 3-6 and is now well out of the running to get a bid to the Big Dance.
Five weeks ago, Johnny Dawkins had saved himself from any questions about his job security, taken the Cardinal to first place in the Pac-12 and transformed me from a bitter, disillusioned fan into one who was foolish enough to say something like, “The Stanford basketball team is back.”
Boy, that was stupid.
As the exceptional Rob Schneider says in the American film classic “The Waterboy,” “Oh no, we suck again!” Maybe I jinxed the Cardinal’s chances by praising the team so effusively, but today I come to you not to praise the Cardinal basketball team, but to bury it.
Today, as we watch the basketball team’s season collapse in a fashion just as disastrous as a typical Clemson football season, I have to wonder if this abysmal end to the season is just enough to finally do in Dawkins’ career on the Stanford sideline.
Do you allow him to stay as a reward for the team’s hot (maybe fluky?) start, or do you punish him for letting the team fall apart down the stretch?
Right now, the Cardinal is a crappy seventh-place team in a crappy Pac-12 Conference, and if Dawkins isn’t able to miraculously will the Cardinal to a Pac-12 Tournament victory, can the Stanford athletic department justifiably let him return for another year?
Personally, I don’t think so—I think this disastrous finish has finally proved to me that Dawkins isn’t the guy to lead the Cardinal back to the NCAA Tournament, even after my initial optimism this year.
I understand that Dawkins didn’t have much talent to work with when he came to the Farm, and it’s true that the Cardinal’s talent level (but not its free-throw percentage) has improved in the last three years. But the fact still remains that his teams haven’t finished higher than seventh in the conference in any of his first three (and likely his first four) years.
Stanford hasn’t fired a coach of any major sport since Walt Harris was relieved of his duties as head football coach in 2006 after going 1-11, so I’m aware of just how serious of a statement I’m making—but it’s worth remembering that for almost two decades, Stanford was a basketball school.
The Cardinal made the NCAA tournament just about every year for 18 years under head coach Mike Montgomery—the same guy who is now leading archrival Cal to first place in the Pac-12. Even Trent Johnson, Montgomery’s successor, went to the Big Dance three times in his four years at the helm. Combine that with the fact that the Pac-12 today is a significantly weaker conference than it was back in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and it’s a bit painful to consider just how inept the Cardinal has been for the past several years.
Perhaps the team’s hot start this season just shot my expectations too high—after all, I would like to have seen Stanford make the NCAA tournament just once in my four years here—but I just don’t see a brighter future ahead for the Cardinal if it decides to stay with Dawkins.
The players that he’s brought in haven’t developed into consistent performers, the team has lost just about every single close game over the last four years, nobody can make free throws and the enthusiasm about the men’s basketball program appears to be at an all-time low. All things considered, I think it’s time to admit that Dawkins is a great assistant coach, but not a head coach.
I know that in the world of college basketball today, there’s a lot a pressure to win and win right away, and it’s hard to compete on a national level when Stanford doesn’t attract any of the one-and-done talents that flock to schools like Kentucky, Kansas and Syracuse. But when his career record is an appalling 28-41 in the awful Pac-12, there’s just no defending Dawkins any more.
Jack Blanchat is secretly hoping this column works as reverse psychology for the team. Point out to Jack that this could mean four more years of Dawkins at blanchat “at” stanford.edu or follow him on Twitter “at” jmblanchat.