Winning with Class - Johnny Dawkins Reaches 300 Career Win Milestone

by Ken Landis

"Class. He's as well liked as classy a gentleman as there is in a sport. You guys are fortunate to have him."

Bill SelfKansas Men's Basketball Head Coach

UCF men’s basketball head coach Johnny Dawkins immediately infused the program with a boost of energy upon his arrival, bringing the Black and Gold to the NIT Semifinal in his first season and marching the Knights to the NCAA Tournament in his third. Now in his 16th season as a head coach and eighth at UCF, Coach Dawkins is celebrating his 300 career wins.

From victory No. 75 which won Stanford an NIT title to No. 300, coming against a ranked team in the toughest basketball conference in America at the helm of the Black and Gold, Coach Dawkins has always carried himself with class. Below are some of the highlight wins of his career that helped him reach his most recent milestone.

Win number 300 was a fun one, as UCF led wire-to-wire over No. 23 Oklahoma. The Sooners got close to catching the Knights on a couple of occasions, but the effort and energy of the Black and Gold never waivered, earning a milestone victory for Coach Dawkins.

Addition Financial Arena was sold out for the evening, just the third sellout in program history and the fifth-highest attended game in the building’s history at 9,387 strong. In front of Knight Nation’s very eyes, UCF put on a show, continuing to prove a message Coach Dawkins has harped on since the beginning of conference play; “We belong.”

The stats backed up the statement, as UCF snagged its most steals and tallied the most blocks in a Big 12 league game to this point, recording 12 and nine, respectively.

Coach Dawkins repeated a feat that he set as a program first earlier in his career as UCF’s head coach. With the win over the Sooners, the Knights have now beat two ranked opponents in a single year on two different occasions. The first was back in the 2018-19 campaign, where UCF returned from No. 6 Houston with a win before beating No. 19 Cincinnati in Orlando five days later. This season, the Knights boast triumphs over No. 3 Kansas and No. 23 Oklahoma, marking the second occurrence.

With the win, Coach Dawkins owns seven of UCF’s nine ranked wins in program history. He also became one of six active Big 12 Conference and 82 NCAA Division I head coaches to reach the milestone.

MB_CK_5696_020324_18343673Johnny Dawkins | Photo by: Conor Kvatek

UCF’s inaugural home game in Big 12 Conference play more than lived up to the hype. The Knights earned a 65-60 win over No. 3 Kansas, the highest ranked opponent the Black and Gold had ever beaten. It represented the first win in UCF’s new league and was just the second defeat of a Big 12 foe in program history.

The Jayhawks jumped out to an early advantage, jumping out to a 16-point edge late in the first half. UCF was able to cut the deficit to eight before the half, setting themselves for a furious comeback. The Knights shot 47.8% in the second half compared to Kansas’ 31.8%, aiding in the rally. The Black and Gold took their first lead with 13:14 remaining in the game at 45-44 and trailed only once by a single point after that, holding off the Jayhawks for a monumental victory.

Coach Dawkins and his squad put on a show in front of the third-largest crowd in program history in front of a sold out Addition Financial Arena, just the second sell-out in the venue’s existence for a men’s hoops contest.

The win represented Dawkins’ second win against the Jayhawks as a head coach, joining his triumph over Kansas as the head coach of the Stanford Cardinal March 23, 2014 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Overall, Dawkins improved to 4-0 against the Jayhawks in his career, after he also bested Kansas twice as a player with Duke in the 1985-86 season. Against Self, Dawkins also improved to 4-0, having previously beaten his now-fellow head coach as an assistant coach with Duke in the tournament’s second round in 1999 when Self was at Tulsa, and in 2000 Dawkins bested Self when the latter was with Illinois as well.


Coach Dawkins and the Knights technically earned the program’s first victory over in-state foe Florida in program history, traveling up to Gainesville for the first round of the 2023 NIT. The Black and Gold defeated the Gators only once before at a neutral site in what is now called the Kia Center in downtown Orlando, but the win over No. 15 Florida was vacated by the NCAA.

The Knights trailed the Gators early, falling behind 9-2, but responded with a 9-0 run over the next three and a half minutes. A three ball from the Gators were its only points in an eight-minute span as UCF continued on its run, constructing a 24-5 run to go up 26-14. Florida crept back into the contest, trimming the deficit to five, but that’s the closest the Gators got to rallying back. The typical Dawkins defense took over the game, forcing 13 first half turnovers, which was already an NIT record for the program. UCF finished the game forcing 18 total turnovers, holding Florida to under 50 points in its home gym for the first time since 1962. It was the sixth time during UCF’s 2022-23 run that the Knights held an opponent to 50 points or less, securing the 67-49 win.

C.J. Kelly led the Knights in scoring with 21 points while UCF’s first one-and-done, Taylor Hendricks, tallied 17 points, pulling in eight rebounds and swatting aside two shots. Thirteen of Hendricks’ points came in the first half while 14 of Kelly’s came in the second.

The win marked another victory over an in-state opponent, a calling card for Dawkins in his time with the Knights, which bumped his record up to 22-8 against Florida foes at night’s end.

 "To me, it's a really good win," said Dawkins. "We look at it as we have a really good state with a lot of talented teams and really good coaches, and so I think the opportunity to play each other is always good and I'm glad we had the opportunity to play against the Gators today."

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History was made in Columbia, S.C. as UCF got its first taste of March Madness since 2005 and for the first time under Coach Dawkins during the 2018-19 campaign. The Knights’ trip to the NCAA Tournament was earned via an at-large bid, the first in program history, resulting in the program’s fifth overall appearance at the Division I level.

A nine-seed, UCF matched up with VCU in the first round, an eight-seed who earned the Atlantic-10 regular season title. The Rams jumped out to a 7-2 lead in what was a defensive battle for the first seven minutes. UCF quickly worked its way back into the game, jumping in front 9-7, using a 7-0 run in 54 seconds to take the lead. VCU kept it close for most of the remaining first half, but never retook the lead. The Knights closed out the first half by going up 10 at 34-24 and proceeded to step on the gas out of halftime, pulling in front by as many as 21 points midway through the second.

Tacko Fall posted a double-double on the evening, tallying 13 points and 18 rebounds while adding five blocks. B.J. Taylor led the way with 15 points and snatched three steals, while Aubrey Dawkins also scored double-digit points, posting 14 with seven rebounds.

Coach Dawkins and company had made history, earning the first NCAA Tournament victory at the Division I level in program history. The team built its tournament resume throughout the year, but really boosted it with back-to-back wins against ranked foes. The Black and Gold beat No. 6 Houston on the road on Mar. 2 before hosting No. 19 Cincinnati and coming out on top five days later.

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The Knights opened what wound up being a magical campaign with Coach Dawkins’ 200th career victory with an 84-70 decision over Rider.

B.J. Taylor led the Knights in scoring, collecting 22 points, and was joined by a trio of others with double-digits. Aubrey Dawkins, in his first game playing for his father at the collegiate level, earned a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Collin Smith scored 14 points on the evening while Terrell Allen recorded 13.

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The first season under Coach Dawkins was a thrilling one, and it ended with a run to the NIT Semifinals. The Knights earned an NIT berth and made a compelling run that began with a home win against future Big 12-conference mate Colorado. UCF then visited Illinois State, snapping the Redbirds’ 22-game home winning streak with a 63-62 come from behind victory.

The Knights returned home following the win, hosting Illinois with a trip to the semifinals on the line. The game became the first sellout crowd in Addition Financial Arena’s history (then named CFE Arena), filling the stands with 10,011 fans. UCF built a lead as many as 19, but a pesky Fighting Illini team didn’t go away easy.

Four members of the Black and Gold finished the night with 10 or more points, with B.J. Taylor leading the way with 17. A.J. Davis and Matt Williams each had 16 points, with Williams making a team-high four three-pointers. Tacko Fall had a 10 point, 10 rebound evening with three blocks.

When the clock hit zero, Knight Nation stormed the court to the tune of New York, New York blaring over the speakers, as UCF had punched its ticket to Madison Square Garden where the NIT semifinals and final would be played. Coach Dawkins grabbed a microphone, climbed into the student section and hoisted an apple high, addressing the fans who were still partying on the floor.

The 2017 NIT appearance was the second in program history, but the win over Colorado was the first.


B.J. Taylor shouldered the load in UCF’s first win over a ranked opponent in the Coach Dawkins era, scoring 27 points on 10-for-19 shooting with three three-pointers. Tacko Fall helped ice the game with a pair of late free throws, starting the party in what was then named CFE Arena.

Knight Nation stormed the court following the victory as it was the first ranked win in the building’s history and third overall win over a top 25 foe in program history. It had been a while since UCF had topped a ranked foe, with the previous occurrence coming on Nov. 25, 2011, beating No. 4 UConn at a neutral site. UCF beat No. 16 Florida in a neutral site contest on Dec. 1, 2010, but it was technically vacated by the NCAA due to sanctions in the program.

The victory against the Bearcats aided in propelling the Knights to the NIT later that season.


Coach Dawkins’ first victory was one that was never in doubt. In fact, the first three of his games at the helm of the Knights resulted in 20+ point victories as UCF beat Nicholls to open the year, followed by victories over Mississippi State and Charleston in the Gildan Charleston Classic. UCF won seven of its first eight games under Dawkins, on its way to an NIT berth later in the year.

Five Knights registered double-digit points in game one of the Dawkins era, with Matt Williams leading the way with 20 points thanks to 6-of-11 shooting from beyond the arc. Tacko Fall and Nick Banyard registered double-doubles on the night, posting 16 points and 16 rebounds along with 10 points and 12 rebounds, respectively. Tank Efianayi tallied 16 points while B.J. Taylor cashed in on 14.

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Dawkins’ success continued at Stanford into his seventh season, earning another NIT championship, the second of his career and third in the Cardinal’s history. Stanford hosted UC Davis in the first round, earning a 13-point victory before hosting Rhode Island, winning 74-65. Vanderbilt was next as Stanford battled its way to a 78-75 victory to earn the right to return to Madison Square Garden for the semifinals.

In the team’s semifinal against Old Dominion, Chasson Randle set Stanford’s all-time scoring record. The Cardinal held a 25-4 lead midway through the first, but saw the lead vanish late. A handful of clutch shots by Randle down the stretch ensured that the contest would go the way of Stanford, hanging on to win 67-60 to advance to the title game.

Dawkins, Randle and the Stanford squad squared away the 2015 NIT title in overtime, topping Miami 66-64. Randle sunk the final two points of the game from the charity stripe with 3.4 seconds left on the clock. He scored 15 points in the 2012 NIT championship game as a freshman, which was also won by Coach Dawkins and company, and scored 25 points in his farewell game.


Coach Dawkins and his Stanford squad pieced together a fantastic year in his fourth year as head coach. Leading the Cardinal, Coach Dawkins and company won their first five games and first 10 of 11 contests, setting up what would be a magical season.

Stanford earned hosting right in the first three rounds of the 2012 NIT. They opened the tournament by topping Cleveland State 76-65 before squeezing by Illinois State 92-88. That was the last game that was close on the Cardinal’s run to an NIT title. Stanford hosted Nevada and beat them 84-56, punching the team’s ticket to the NIT semifinals in New York. In the semis, Stanford handled UMass, setting up a showdown with Minnesota in the championship game. Dawkins and his team cruised to a 75-51 victory, earning Stanford its second NIT title in the program’s history.

Johnny Dawkins_RS_032712_1580Stanford's head coach Johnny Dawkins yells to his team during the second half against UMass in a semifinal game of the NIT at Madison Square Garden, New York, N.Y., Tuesday, March 27, 2012. Stanford defeated UMass 74-64.

"I'm very grateful for the young men that have played for me. I was one of those former players, so I understand playing for my mentor, what that means. I'm very grateful that I've been able to coach some amazing young men. Not just because of the wins, but because of the people that they are and the people that they have become. That's the thing that I really look at the most. I look back at each one of the teams that I've coached and the players that were on those teams and I'm just thankful I've had a chance to work with some amazing people.

Johnny DawkinsUCF Men's Basketball Head Coach
MB_CK_5696_020324_18284851Johnny Dawkins | Photo by: Conor Kvatek