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More On Dawkins To Stanford

The Johnny-Dawkins-to-Stanford move definitely surprised us, for several reasons. First, the search was, from all reports, not going that well, with San Francisco columnist Ray Ratto suggesting that between losing Trent Johnson and, in his view, running a search that could have really gone south, that A.D. Bob Bowlsby was placing the program (not to mention his job) in danger. If that was correct, then Dawkins is a pretty good recovery. So what exactly is Stanford getting?

Well, for one thing, they're getting a guy who, at 44, has a vast range of experience. Dawkins was a schoolboy star, a college star, and an NBA star before injuries robbed him of his game.

At Duke, he was a superb player. People who saw him play remember so many things: the duels with Mark Price, the backwards dunk in the NCAAs, the calm refutal of Mississippi Valley State when disaster was close, perhaps most of all the remarkable block against David Rivers to preserve a win over Notre Dame in Cameron.

At Duke, he's also been a highly regarded assistant. Coach K has called him one of the finest identifiers of talent he's ever seen, and he's also been responsible for Duke's conditioning program.

He's also been willing to do things most guys in his position wouldn't do. When he first came back to Duke, he interned with the Duke radio crew, which suggested an unusual humility for a big shot NBA player. He wasn't a natural for radio, but he did it with enthusiasm and a real sense of appreciation. This was true for him as an assistant too - he was willing to pay his dues. People had long since stopped thinking of him as a former NBA player and just thinking of him as Johnny Dawkins, coach.

He has been, from all we've ever heard, an effective and appreciated assistant, a guy Coach K leaned on a lot.

All that said, he's not an established head coach, and he'll have to answer a lot of questions. When you're around him, in person, he comes across as a pretty good-natured guy, not quite happy-go-lucky, but at times with an impish sense of pleasure in life.

That unfortunately gets lost when he addresses the public.

In his second radio stint, when Johnny would join the Duke radio crew after home games, and would invariably frustrate listeners by saying, basically, the same thing to almost every caller:

"Well, (insert name here) is a really good player and we're really happy to have him here. The young man is working hard in practice and he's getting better every day."

He tends to stiffen up in front of an audience. He's still genial, he's obviously a smart and charming guy, but his public persona tends to get a bit wooden.

The other bit of conventional wisdom about Dawkins is that he doesn't care for recruiting, and in fact at Duke, Chris Collins and Steve Wojciechowski have been the assistants who handled recruiting.

Obviously, a key aspect of any head coaching position is salesmanship. It'll be interesting to see who he hires as his assistants. Like Duke, Stanford is a demanding place academically and athletically. Who he hires will be a key to his success. It's true for any coach, but at a school like Stanford, even more so.

Like Duke, Stanford is in a position to - is actually obliged to - recruit nationally - but their base is and has to be on the West Coast. They recruit against the rest of their conference and also schools like Gonzaga. It's a tough act. Mike Montgomery perfected it, and Trent Johnson had it pretty much down, too. Dawkins might be able to call Johnson for advice, but with Montgomery now a conference rival at Cal, he might not be willing to offer that much support.

Our guess is Johnny will do just fine without it. He's basketball smart, but just as importantly, he's people smart too. As Gwen Knapp of the San Francisco Chronicle suggests, Bowlsby did screw up, but he also made a pretty solid recovery.