Don't let Johnny Dawkins finally making the NCAA tournament fool you

Ethan Miller

Little has changed this year from year five - or even year one, for that matter

Some celebrations end not with a bang, but a whimper.

Here’s the Merc’s take on Stanford making it back to the NCAA tournament:

Muir said he is excited for the team and that Dawkins got done what was necessary to retain his job. "If you put two and two together," Muir said, "our goal was to get to the tournament."

The grand announcement, buried in the seventh graf of the story. Why hasn’t Muir shouted it from the rooftops? I don’t want to put words in his mouth or thoughts in his brain, but it’s because Dawkins is a manifestly mediocre coach and dribbling out an announcement - much like the same announcement a year ago - is the only appropriate way to commemorate that mediocrity.

For the record: just making the NCAA tournament wasn’t the goal. It was a minimum. The impression Muir gave in news articles and in many, many calls to fans was of a different goal: competing for the Pac-12 title. Thanks to the power of Google, we can recall what Muir was saying at this time last year:

"We want to be playing for a (conference) championship. 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."

So let's take stock: Playing for a conference championship? Nope. Playing "well into March"? Kind of vague, but let’s say he means a deepish run -- a Sweet Sixteen or Elite Eight type run. Many things are possible, but little about this season has suggested Dawkins is piloting that caliber of team. At any rate, Muir’s original standard was the correct one. Stanford should be aspiring to similar standards as the Montgomery/Johnson era -- consistent contention for conference titles.

"The goal is the NCAA tournament" is setting the bar so low it scrapes the ground. You can contrast the rhetoric from Jim Harbaugh and David Shaw -- who made clear that contention for national championships, Rose Bowls and top-25 finishes were their ambitions. Bowl eligibility was the minimum for them. Muir is apparently content with the basketball equivalent in one season out of six.

Besides, judging a coach on one season is foolish anyway, notes national champion Gene Chizik. You can have injuries. Or a super-talented team. In this case, Dawkins had built an old, experienced team. It should’ve improved; should’ve gotten to the tournament. It did improve and did get to the tournament, but with so tight a margin it suggested little about Dawkins’s underlying coaching acumen has improved.

That’s true, by the way, regardless of what happens in the tournament -- which is plagued by the same issues as judging on one season, except even more extreme. Look at the totality of Dawkins’s resume. The difference between 0 in 6 and 1 in 6 is not that extreme, really: both are unacceptably low, and Dawkins should be fired.

That’s not to say we’ve learned nothing from this debacle: the athletic director is incompetent, and say your prayers if David Shaw ever leaves.

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