ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) It has been one eventful week for Johnny Dawkins.
The former Duke All-American was fired from his job as Stanford's men's basketball coach after eight seasons last week. A few days later his phone started ringing about various coaching opportunities. The call and subsequent conversation with UCF athletic director Danny White and the possibilities of the men's program aroused Dawkins' interest.
He boarded a plane to Orlando and accepted the Knights' head coaching job on Wednesday. Then Thursday Dawkins was formally introduced by UCF to cap a whirlwind week.
''I love to compete and I was so happy when I got the call and had the opportunity to interview for an institution like this because it allowed me a chance to get right back in the saddle and start competing,'' said Dawkins, who agreed to a six-year contract that can pay him up to $1,350,000 annually. ''That's who I am; I'm a coach, I'm an educator. It wouldn't felt right not being involved with calling a recruit, not involved with interacting with someone on campus.
''For the two days or three days I was in that position it felt odd to me. For the last almost 20 years that has been a part of me.''
Dawkins takes over a program that has struggled since entering the American Athletic Conference a few years ago. The Knights went 12-18 this past season and were bounced in the first round of the conference tournament by No. 10 seed Tulane. Donnie Jones was fired March 10. The Knights have won just 15 of 40 AAC games in the last three seasons.
Now, Dawkins is charged with turning things around. Dawkins, 52, believes all of the pieces are in place to be UCF back on track as the program's seventh head coach.
''I think the possibilities of this job has unlimited potential,'' he said. ''It's a meaningful opportunity for somebody in my position to grow and build something special. I've been a part of that as a player and a part of it as a coach and so I want to be a part of it here.
''But it's not going to be just me, it's going to be our student athletes, it's going to be our alumni, it's going to be our fans, our students. We need everyone to accomplish this and that is what I'm excited about. That's leadership. It's trying to pull everyone together so that we can move in the same direction.''
Dawkins wasn't quite able to pull things together at Stanford the way the fans had hoped. He guided the Cardinal to the Sweet 16 two years ago in his lone NCAA Tournament appearance at Stanford. There were two NIT championships but it was far from the level success the Cardinal faithful had come to expect. Dawkins went 156-115 overall and 66-78 in Pac-12 play during his tenure. This season the Cardinal went 15-15, 8-10.
Dawkins traditionally played one of the tougher non-conference schedules in the country and that more than the won-loss record stood out to White when assessing coaches. White also believes Dawkins, who was also a longtime assistant on Mike Krzyzewski's staff at Duke prior to taking the job at Stanford, will have a chance to win more at UCF because the academic standards are not as strict.
''I like people who schedule aggressively,'' White said. ''Coach Dawkins is pretty aggressive in the way they approach things. That's a big part of what I evaluate. It's not just about wins and losses. ... From a program standpoint there are some challenges at Stanford that we don't have here.
''We are positioned, as much as we want to grow in the new league we are in (The American), we have a lot of competitive advantages here that I think someone with coach Dawkins' experience and ability to inspire players ... can win at a high level here.''