Johnny Dawkins studied under Mike Krzyzewski for 24 years – 4 as a student and 20 as coach. Sunday the two will meet on opposite sides of the court as Dawkins leads his UCF Knights against Kzyzewski’s Blue Devils in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. It’s a situation that Dawkins says no one looks forward to.
“It’s awkward. It’s someone that you’ve worked for, you’re very close with. No one looks forward to that type of situation. It’s something that happens because we’re in the tournament and it means we’ve done well, because we’re all moving forward, but it’s not something you look forward to.”
Krzyzewski agreed that coaching against former players or coaches isn’t ideal and acknowledged that he generally doesn’t schedule games against them during the regular season.
“Why would you want to? They’re family. If you don’t have to play against him, I’m not going to do it. But this presents an opportunity for both of us in a great setting. So both teams are winners.”
The UFC Knights are back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2005 – earning the program’s first-ever at-large bid. Although this is just Dawkins’ second appearance in the dance as a head coach, as a player he took the Blue Devils to three tournaments, including a championship game in 1986, and as an assistant on Duke’s staff was on the bench for 10 appearances, three Final Fours and one championship. That history and the one time he coached against K when he was at Stanford are all experiences Dawkins will use.
“I think is does help some that we’ve done this before where we were in this environment. It’s still the same. You still don’t relish it, but it’s still something you’ve already experienced.”
But once the ball is tipped, all the familiarity goes out of the window and it’s one opponent trying to beat another.
“Once the game starts, it doesn’t matter who I’m coaching,” Krzyzewski said. “And then once it’s over, I don’t have a rearview mirror.”
Duke and UCF have never met in men’s basketball. The Blue Devils are 61-17 all-time versus teams from the American Conference. Coach K and Johnny Dawkins have met just once previously – a 70-59 win by Duke over Stanford in 2014.