As Stanford was obliterated against Washington in their first round matchup of the Pac-12 Tournament on Wednesday 91-68, it finally dawned on me and I'm sure it did to those who were lucky or should I say unlucky enough to watch the game, nothing has changed. Albert Einstein said that "insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." Watching Stanford basketball will drive you insane as you hope things change but they don't. You can insert any synonym of the word terrible and it would be fitting not only for this game, or the last two weeks, but for what feels like most of the Johnny Dawkins era.
Yes, people will still belittle me for Stanford winning 2 NIT championships and yes, one of those was actually supposed to be a starting point as the 2011-12 team was young but showed potential. They followed that up with a second round loss the following year... in that same NIT Tournament. Johnny D was just beginning his zombie phase as he finally cracked the real tournament, the NCAA Tournament in 2014. Dawkins did not just get his squad to the dance, Stanford put the college basketball world on notice when they upset New Mexico and college basketball powerhouse Kansas en route to the Sweet Sixteen.
It' was the 2015 season that created a line between Johnny Dawkins believers and those who couldn't resist getting back the Stanford hoops of old where you'd rather die young in the NCAA Tournament than live forever in the NIT. Stanford winning the NIT a second time around, especially a year after going to the NCAA Tournament was no longer a victory to most fans but showed that Stanford had the players but was lacking in coaching.
This season, Stanford went 15-15 counting the conference tourney loss. Now I understand that Stanford was playing arguably the TOUGHEST schedule in the country. Stanford had played 10 games against teams currently ranked in the top-25 and had played others who were ranked at one point or another this season. Stanford had a rash of injuries as well so the depth of the team didn't help itself when needed against the better teams. That still isn't good enough even with all of the outs and excuses, this wasn't the first or second or even third bad year Dawkins has had on the Farm. Half of his time has been spent in mediocrity.
This was the first year, however, where it felt like the players quit on him. Now I am always ready for the opinions of someone with opposing views and I am sure that I will hear more on the NIT(PLEASE DON'T, THAT ISN'T WORTH BRAGGING OVER), Trent Johnson was no better and was living off of Mike Montgomery's players and getting lucky with the Lopez twins, and how Montgomery was a great regular season coach but couldn't quite win the big one in March. Those are all points that I will genuinely listen to but Stanford had 3 seasons of .500 or worse basketball from 1985-2008. Stanford has done that 3 times in the last 8 seasons, all in the Johnny Dawkins era. Stanford had also attended the NCAA Tournament 15 times in that span with 4 Sweet Sixteen appearances, an Elite Eight appearance and a Final Four appearance.
Sometimes, you have to look in the mirror and admit to yourself that it is time for a change. Stanford AD Bernard Muir is a basketball guy and this happens to be the first big hire he will make for Stanford. Muir coincidentally should look at the last 30 years of Stanford basketball and then look back at the last 30 years of the football program. Sometimes the answers to your life problems are right in front of you. Stanford basketball over the last thirty years had a coach who was able to bring the program to heights that hadn't been seen in years. Not only was Stanford basketball relevant but it became a power. In Montgomery's last 10 years on the farm, he produced a constant contender winning the conference 4 times and coming in 2nd 4 times. And then, Montgomery thought he found greener pastures elsewhere and left.
Now this is where football plays a part. Tyrone Willingham had gone to a bowl game 4 times in his seven seasons as Stanford head coach including a conference championship and Rose Bowl appearance in 2000. It was the first appearance since 1972 for Stanford and Willingham could have stayed for life but also decided to leave Stanford in the middle of the night for Notre Dame. A few coaches later and some guy named Jim Harbaugh became coach and although he changed the culture, he brought along an assistant who would end up being THE MAN.
Basketball has not been the same for Stanford and it's time to find THE MAN. He might not be the name that everyone thinks or has the credentials that everyone is looking for but Stanford needs to find a coach that can recruit big-time talent, can coach against the better teams and beat those teams on a regular basis, and can make the fans return. Maples Pavilion is going to be a neutral site until Bernard Muir brings in the right coach.