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Johnny Dawkins Interview

The Drive with Josh Graham / Josh Graham
The Truth Network Radio
April 16, 2020 5:33 pm

Johnny Dawkins Interview

The Drive with Josh Graham / Josh Graham

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April 16, 2020 5:33 pm

Johnny Dawkins joins The Drive with Josh Graham to talk about his memories playing against Michael Jordan, the new G-League pathway, and more.

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Alright, now we're being joined by one of the all-time great Duke Blue Devils, who's now the head coach of the UCF Knights.

It's of course Johnny Dawkins who's with us here. The Last Dance, the Michael Jordan docuseries ESPN's running, it's going to launch the first two episodes on Sunday night. I heard MJ with Robin Roberts this morning on Good Morning America talking to MJ and the thing that I found interesting about his comments, he was talking about the 1982 shot that he hit against Georgetown and he said that was the moment he became Michael Jordan from Just Be A Mike. Johnny, you played against Jordan the following year, so he hits the game-winning shot against Georgetown. You arrive to Duke later that year and before the season starts and you're playing each other in the fall pickup games at Cameron and also at Carmichael, what do you remember your first impression of MJ being? Well, my first impression was I had met him prior to that in the National Sports Festival, which would be a great event.

He had played for the South and I had played for the East. And I had watched him play and we competed against each other, so I'm watching all the players but particularly watching just how hard he played, watching him, just how hard he was competing. At the time, I didn't look at him as about 6'6", I thought he was more like 6'4". I'm like, man, he plays with a lot of passion, plays with a lot of desire.

So then I watched him hit the shot, of course, like everyone did. I watched him hit the shot versus Georgetown and so ironically, I'm going to Duke and he's at Carolina. So that summer, you know, that fall and summer, I'm going over there to play pickup ball and one of his teammates, a freshman in the same class I was in, we go to his room and we knock on his door and I look at him, I'm like, man, he looks a lot taller and bigger than he did, you know, a year ago. It looked like he had grown and I thought he was really, really good at that size.

I'm like, you know, I can't imagine where he's going to be now that he's got a few more inches on him. And so that was kind of the first time, you know, actually seeing him and how much he had changed over that year. Then you have to figure out how that transfers into the actual game when you are facing him later on in 1983, it would be.

So the first year you're facing Michael, he goes for 32. That was a career high for him. How soon into that game did you realize you and your team might be having issues that night? Well, we were playing, we were playing well against them for the most part. And what was the incredible thing about the game was and what you've seen him do all of his whole career was when it was closing time of the game coming down the stretch. I mean, I mean, he just took over the game.

I mean, he just hit shot after shot. And ironically, like I said, we had played a lot of pickup ball in the summer. So, you know, one of the games we had played, you know, my team had beat his team in the first game. And so, you know, you had to sit back in those days, you had to sit for a while until you get to play again. And so, you know, everybody kind of sit in the same area and kind of, you know, talk a little bit into your time to play again when you lost. So Michael went all the way to the other side of the gym and Cameron, he went all the way as far as you could go without being outside.

And he didn't sit around anybody. And so we knew we won the next game and we knew he was going to come back motivated. So we're like, he's gonna come back and he's gonna really, you know, try to put us, you know, put a stamp on this game. And so we were playing the game and so we'd score, Mike would score, we'd score, Mike would score, we'd score, Mike would score. It went back and forth like that to an 11 point game.

I meant to say, you know, we missed a few, but he never missed. I mean, he must have, you know, he must have hit pretty much every shot in that game that we played and they ended up beating us, of course, in that next game. But it just goes to show like who he was and how competitive he was, how driven he was because the game you're mentioning is the same way he played that pickup game.

Like you wouldn't be able to tell the difference. That's how hard he competed no matter what he did. And so that game hit the 32 coming down the stretch. I just recall him just really taking over the game and like almost like a football quarterback with the two minute drill, just marching down the field and making every play necessary to win a game. And that's what he was able to do that night. In terms of athletic feats, what's the craziest thing you ever saw him do on a basketball floor? Because one particular block shot and forehead against the backboard comes to mind for me immediately.

You and me both. I mean, you know, when he did that, you know, I was pushing the ball in transition and, you know, it was one guy back and I knew I had enough momentum to go by the player and I was running by the player. And soon as I did, I just looked back to kind of a glance to see if anybody was trailing. And I just saw him step. I saw him step. He put that one foot down and I'm like, I knew I couldn't see anything but his shoe, but I knew it was him. Because, you know, when you're playing him, you know, there's nothing's going to be given. You know, you're going to earn everything. That's why I was so much fun competing against him because as a competitor, that's how you want it. And you're going to get resistance on every single possession when you compete against George.

And so I saw that foot plant and I'm like, okay, here he comes. And so I said, I have something for him. I said, you know what? I'm going to throw this ball high up on the backboard. I'm not going to lay it low. I'm going to lay it high. So I laid this ball about as high as I could by really throwing it over top of the backboard.

And I was going to try to let it come in softly. And he went and got that ball. But he went to go get that basketball. He had to jump so hard and high that he actually hit his head up against the backboard. And, you know, when he came down, I mean, I thought it was an incredible block. I didn't think he was going to go get it. But then when he came down, I was worried about him because I'm like, you know, that type of, you know, that type of collision. You don't want to see that happen to any player. And he hit his head like that. I'm like, you know, is he okay? And of course he was.

But yeah, I'd never seen anybody, you know, at any level, you know, make a play like that, you know? And so it was, it was an incredible block, you know, to show you how good my teammates were, you know, went to the locker room after the game and, and, you know, I'm like, okay, you know, guys are like, you know, I just want to say, you know, that, that, that wasn't a goal tender because he gave the rest a goal called a goal tender. And my teammates were like, nah, Johnny, he really, he got that one clean. So I just started laughing.

I said, well, they counted it anyway. So, uh, but that was, that was an incredible play by him and it showed his desire, not just offensively, but what he, you know, what he was going to do defensively to you as well. It's UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins with us here on Sports Hub Triad. We were talking to Mike Wilbon earlier in the week and his, one of his memories of Jordan talking about the pride he had playing for the Tar Heels and Dean Smith, he remembered always Jordan always given it to Georgetown guys when he was in the league talking trash with Pat Ewing, who of course he beat in the 82 championship game, but that even translated to guys like Allen Iverson, that translating to a guy like Alonzo Mourning. So I have to believe this also applied to Duke guys as well. Do you remember, uh, in your days in the league, any trash talk Duke North Carolina related between you and Mike?

You know what, not too much, you know, like I said, we had gone back, you know, as far pretty much as you could go back from, you know, like I said, run across him in high school where he was getting ready to enter North Carolina, uh, the first time we ran across each other. And so always, you know, always a very competitive guy, always a really good guy and, you know, in that regard, but he definitely capable of talking trash, you know, and pick up balls and so forth. You're going to hear him, you know, he's going to impose his will on the game.

That's just how he is. And, uh, but that's, like I said, that's, that's what you loved about him. You loved his spirit, you know, and he loved it, you know, you could tell, you know, he played the game for one thing, he played the game because he loved it. You know, he played with passion and desire. Those two words I've thrown out again, because that's who he was in a nutshell.

And it didn't matter. Like you said, if you was in front of a stadium with 20,000 people or you were in a pickup game and no one else was in the gym, it wasn't going to change the way he was going to go out there and compete. And I said, I think for all the guys that had an opportunity and was fortunate enough to play with and against them, you know, those are the things you can always take with you that, uh, that, that how he approached the game. And so, yeah, definitely with Duke Carolina and that rivalry, that's always going to be there. But, you know, he was always, always, you know, good with me as far as just how he competed. And he's going to talk for sure. But, you know, so am I and so is everyone else. I mean, no one's going to be quiet in those situations and you just compete.

But, uh, you loved it because you knew, you know, he was going to bring out the best in everybody every time he stepped on the floor. See, you're around young people all the time. Young basketball players as the head coach of UCF. So, I've noticed a lot of younger people suggest that Kobe Bryant or LeBron James might be the greatest player to ever play. What do you say to the people who might suggest MJ isn't the greatest?

You know, I will always have to disagree with them. You know, you know, I, you know, I know those guys are, you know, great players in their own right. And I guess it's hard to, you know, rate players because of your time. Everybody has their time when you're that, when you're that, you know, caliber of player. It's hard to pick any one guy because, because it's a different generation each time. But for me and, you know, on my money and my generation, you know, I'm going with Michael Jordan. I think he was the greatest basketball to ever play. Uh, you know, me and my sons, we go through that all the time because, you know, they, they play and they, they, uh, they know it's Kobe or this guy, you know, it's, you know, it's LeBron and I, and I respect that, you know, that's their time. But me and my time, you know, and for what I saw, you know, witnessed, you know, competing against him and witnessed, you know, watching him play, you know, I go with, I go with Michael Jordan.

He's Johnny Dawkins and he's on Twitter at coach underscore Dawkins. Before I let you go, this is a big story that people were talking about in basketball today. Jalen Green, one of the top players and the number one player ESPN had on the ESPN 100, he decides between a couple of college teams to go to the NBA G league.

Woj is reporting about an elevated pro pathway program that the NBA setting up with the G league. And there's two schools of thought on this. There's some people who say, oh, college basketball needs to get it together. I know Mike Krzyzewski has said your former coach, um, when we've asked him about this, that he just wants everything to be congruent and aligned and you need to see avenues like the G league as competition potentially to college basketball. But there's another school of thought that, hey, if you're going to get rid of the one and done one day, these are the type of guys who are going to be leaving anyway to the NBA. So maybe this isn't as big of a deal as people are making it. What do you say?

Uh, you know, I hadn't studied, you know, study what you're talking about. You know, my initial impression, if that's the way, you know, the game is going to go and these young men want an opportunity. Not everyone wants to go to college. Not everyone, you know, is not made to go to college to know that the further their career, there's people who go to the military, there's people who are specialized in different things and they take that path, you know? So I don't think, you know, you know, athletes or basketball players should be made to have to follow that script. If that's not what they desire to do, if they desire to start their professional career early, if there's a pathway for that, you know, I think more power to them.

They should have that ability to be able to do that. As coach just mentioned, like I said, my first time hearing it, as long as everything is consistent with what they're doing, if that's going to be the new model, then I think everyone will adjust and that's the way we'll recruit and that's the way we'll handle it. And for those young people who have to, you know, you know, want that opportunity to play at the highest level, they want to, you know, play an NBA and they want to get there as quickly as possible. If there's a new pathway for them and it works out, you know, I'm rooting for those guys. I'd like to see them, you know, live their dreams.

You know, I'd be very selfish, you know, if I didn't think that way. I was able to live my dreams and make my choices to do what I wanted to do with regards to college and the NBA. And I'd like to see those young people have those same, you know, opportunities and have those same choices. Coach K, he's pushed for a, his big thing is having a commissioner for college basketball, somebody that just specifically has their interest in mind. I can't think if Coach K ever figures, hey, I've done enough in the college game coaching, maybe that's something I want to take on. I could see him being perfect, representing everybody. I also presented at the J. Billis and Jay responded with, well, does it pay more?

I can hear Jay saying something like that. You know, I think, you know, you're having a commissioner, someone over top of, you know, collegiate basketball, have someone that everyone can turn to and is fighting for the best interest of, you know, our student athletes. You know, I think, I think it's a good idea to have some merit, you know, just to have someone in that position.

But I don't know who, you know, who I'm sure there are a lot of people that would be excited about an opportunity like that and more than capable of doing the job well. And so just finding someone, if that comes to fruition, that, that can help continue to grow our game and make it the best game in the world. Johnny, I really hope things are going well with you. It's so good to hear your voice. Thank you for spending time in North Carolina today. You're welcome. Thanks guys. Stay healthy and stay safe. Take care.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-11 17:44:18 / 2023-02-11 17:51:07 / 7

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