UCF head men’s coach Johnny Dawkins has built a particularly glossy college basketball playing and coaching catalogue—most recently including 2023 induction into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame and selection of a UCF player in the first round of the 2023 NBA Draft—as he joins the Knights in heading into Big 12 Conference play in 2023-24.
Dawkins’ resume showcases:
- 15 seasons as a major-college head coach (the last seven at UCF), including eight postseason berths and a pair of National Invitation Tournament titles
- Extensive player development, highlighted by Taylor Hendricks’ selection in the first round of the 2023 NBA Draft after only a single season at UCF
- 10 additional previous seasons of experience as an assistant coach at Duke, including NCAA Championship appearances every year, an NCAA title in 2001 and seven Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament crown
- A nine-year NBA career that included a career double-figure scoring average
- A collegiate playing career at Duke that featured national player-of-the-year recognition as a senior as the school’s all-time top career scorer, later culminating with his 2023 National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame selection
In seven seasons at UCF, Dawkins has led the program to unprecedented heights, in the only seven-year stretch with three or more postseason appearances. He led the Knights to their first NCAA Championship victory in 2019. He’s also responsible for producing UCF’s first lottery pick after Taylor Hendricks was selected by the Utah Jazz with the ninth overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. Now, Dawkins will look to bring the Knights to even greater achievements as UCF beginning in 2023-24 begins participation in one of the deepest, most challenging conferences in college basketball, the Big 12.
Dawkins boasts five wins over ranked opponents in his time at the helm of the Knights, accounting for the majority of UCF’s wins over Associated Press top-25 teams in the program’s history. Most recently, the Knights toppled in-state rival and 15th-ranked Florida State in Tallahassee in 2020, the program’s first victory over the Seminoles. The Knights ripped off consecutive victories over No. 6 Houston and No. 19 Cincinnati during the 2018-19 regular-season run to the NCAA Championship, solidifying themselves in the field of 64. UCF defeated No. 24 Alabama in December 2017, after earning the first ranked win under Dawkins on Feb. 26, 2017, beating No. 15 Cincinnati 53-49. UCF cracked the AP poll on Mar. 4, 2019, for the first time since 2011, earning a ranking of 25th late in the regular season. It was the latest into a season that the Knights had been ranked. The home finale against Cincinnati in 2019 marked the first matchup of ranked teams at Addition Financial Arena.
Dawkins was named UCF’s seventh head men’s basketball coach on Mar. 23, 2016.
The 2019 NCAA Championship Run
The 2018-19 season was Dawkins' best to date with the Knights as he guided UCF to a number-nine seed in the NCAA Championship bracket, its highest seed in five all-time NCAA Championship appearances, and defeated eighth-seeded VCU 73-58 in first-round action.
UCF then came inches away from upsetting top overall seed Duke in the second round, ultimately falling 77-76 to Mike Krzyzewski, Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett as BJ Taylor’s floater rimmed out and Aubrey Dawkins’ tip-in barely missed at the buzzer.
The Knights were stellar down the stretch to secure their at-large NCAA Championship berth, winning on the road at No. 6/8 Houston to snap the Cougars’ 33-game home win streak and topping No. 19/20 Cincinnati in Orlando. It marked the first time UCF had earned multiple victories over ranked opponents in the same season, and the Knights did it in back-to-back games.
Dawkins led UCF back to the NCAA Championship for the first time since 2005, and the first time as an at-large selection (with the previous four NCAA Championships as champions of the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament in 1994, 1996, 2004 and 2005). He helped three individuals earn all-conference accolades from the American Athletic Conference in 2018-19, as UCF led the league with three honorees. BJ Taylor became the first Knight to earn first-team AAC honors, while Aubrey Dawkins was named second team and Tacko Fall added third-team honors. It marked just the second time that the Knights put multiple student-athletes on the AAC all-conference teams and the ninth time in the program's Division I history that multiple Knights earned all-conference honors in the same season (dating back to the 1993-94 season). With two players on the three all-conference teams, only Houston had more players earn all-conference honors.
Following the end of the 2018-19 regular season, Dawkins was named a finalist for the Skip Prosser Man of the Year Award and the Ben Jobe National Coach of the Year Award.
UCF finished the year 24-9, tied for the fourth most wins in a season in program history. The Knights’ 23 regular-season wins marked a record in UCF’s Division I era. The team went 13-5 in AAC play, the team’s most league wins since joining that conference, and earned the number-four seed in the conference tournament for the second time in three seasons.
Known for their defense under Dawkins, the Knights ranked 11th in the nation in field-goal percentage defense, holding opponents to just 39.4 percent shooting in the 2018-19 NCAA Championship run. UCF was also 27th in scoring defense, allowing 64.5 points per game that season.
Defense always has been a priority with UCF teams, as four of Dawkins’ seven seasons with the Knights have seen the team finish inside the top 50 nationally in scoring defense, including two top-10 finishes. UCF ranked third in the nation in scoring defense in 2017-18, holding teams to 61.7 points per game and 40.1% shooting, slotting the team at the No. 10 spot in the country. Dawkins’ first season with UCF in 2016-17 saw the team finish No. 1 in field-goal percentage defense, limiting foes to 36.5% from the field, and No. 6 in scoring defense, with opponents averaging 61.2 points per contest.
Taylor Hendricks qualifies as UCF’s top recruit in program history. He came into college as a top-100 player in two of the three major recruit rankings as ESPN pinned him No. 54 and Rivals had him at No. 87. Hendricks lived up to the hype on opening night, dropping a team-best 23 points in his collegiate debut and finishing with averages of 15.3 points and 6.9 rebounds.
Through plenty of work and coaching throughout the season, Hendricks quietly began to creep into mock drafts across the country. At season’s end, Hendricks had achieved two career-high marks of 25 points and recorded five double-doubles. He was the nation’s only player to make 60 or more three-pointers, tally 55 or more blocks and record 35 or more dunks. He was honored with a unanimous selection to the American Athletic Conference All-Rookie Team and was named second-team All-AAC.
Hendricks announced his intent to enter the NBA Draft on Mar. 22, 2023, making him UCF’s first one-and-done player. The freshman phenom later went on to become the Knights’ first lottery pick as well as a first-round selection, going ninth to the Utah Jazz in the 2023 NBA Draft.
Enshrined in the College Basketball Hall of Fame
Dawkins was honored Aug. 30, 2023, as an inductee in the 18th class of the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. He was joined by former Duke coach Mike Kryzyzewski, who was officially honored in the class of 2023 after initially being among the Hall of Fame’s Founding Class in 2006.
Dawkins was inducted for his playing days as a Blue Devil and is one of the most decorated players in Duke history. He is regarded as a key early figure in the program's ascent to becoming a national power. From 1982-86, Dawkins piled up 2,556 points – a mark that stood as the school's scoring record until 2006 and remains second all-time. He was a two-time consensus All-American, a four-time All-ACC selection--and was recipient of the 1986 Naismith National Player of the Year award.
As a senior, Dawkins led Duke to the ACC regular-season and tournament titles, and an appearance in the NCAA national championship game. The 10th overall pick by the Spurs in the 1986 NBA Draft, Dawkins saw action in nine professional seasons with the Spurs, 76ers and Pistons. He averaged 11.1 points and 5.5 assists through 541 career NBA games.
UCF Player Honors
Multiple players have earned conference and national honors under Dawkins’ tenure. Tacko Fall earned a spot on the Lefty Driesell Defensive All-America team in 2016-17 and was named the American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year. B.J. Taylor earned first-team All-AAC and NABC first-team All-District honors in 2018-19.
Seven nods to the All-AAC Team were awarded while the Knights were members of that league. An additional three All-Rookie Team honors were earned, all over the last three seasons. Taylor Hendricks earned second-team All-Conference honors as well as a unanimous nod to the All-Rookie Team in 2022-23, as well as tallying a record nine conference rookie-of-the-week accolades. Darius Johnson and Isaiah Adams preceded Hendricks in earning All-Rookie Team nods in 2021-22 and 2020-21, respectively. Aubrey Dawkins (2018-19) and Taylor (2016-17) are the other Knights who received All-AAC second-team honors, while Darin Green Jr. (2021-22), Brandon Mahan (2020-21), Darius Perry (2020-21) and Fall (2018-19) all were members of an AAC third team.
On top of the NCAA Championship run in 2018-19, the Knights have punched two tickets to the NIT under Dawkins’ direction. In the most recent trip in 2023, the Knights travelled to Gainesville, Florida, and handily beat Florida 67-49, UCF’s first road victory against the Gators in program history. The Knights were the only team to hold Florida under 50 points all season. It was the sixth time that season UCF limited an opponent to 50 points or fewer. The Knights’ run came to an end in their inaugural meeting with top-seeded Oregon in Eugene.
The 2016-17 season took UCF to New York’s Madison Square Garden in Dawkins’ first year at the helm of the Knights. UCF hosted its first NIT game, defeating Colorado for the program’s first postseason win in an NIT or NCAA game. The Knights went on to defeat top-seeded Illinois State on the road, before coming home to the first sell-out crowd at Addition Financial Arena and winning 68-58 over Illinois to earn a spot in the NIT semifinals. Under Dawkins’ leadership, UCF led all NCAA Division I teams in defensive field-goal percentage, holding opponents to just 36.5 percent from the floor. The Knights were also sixth in the nation, allowing only 61.2 points per game, and gave up 45 or fewer points in four games over the course of the year. Dawkins was a finalist for both the Jim Phelan and Ben Jobe National Coach of the Year awards in his first season at UCF. Matt Williams set UCF records for three-pointers in a career, season and game, before signing a professional contract with the Miami Heat
In UCF's Dec. 11, 2021, win over North Carolina A&T, Dawkins picked up his 100th victory with the Knights, becoming the fastest coach in program history and just the third one to do so. Following the end of the 2022-23 season, Dawkins stands 131-87 all-time as head coach of the Knights, a winning percentage of .600, currently the second-highest in program history, trailing only Torchy Clark's .755 mark.
In seven years, Dawkins has done a similarly successful job with his players in the classroom. With Dawkins at the helm, the Knights men’s basketball program recorded an average semester team grade-point average over 3.0 for the first time in recorded history in 2018. Then the Knights did it again, setting a new program record with an average semester GPA of 3.03 in spring 2019. Under Dawkins' watch, more than 45 nods have been earned by Knights on the AAC All-Academic team.
When Dawkins took over at UCF, the Knights had gone 12-18 the season before and hadn’t finished above .500 since 2012-13. He led UCF to a 24-12 record in his first season at the helm, the sixth-best turnaround in the nation. With just seven scholarship players due to transfers and injuries, the Knights earned the fourth seed – their highest ever – in the American Athletic Conference Tournament, eventually falling to league champion SMU in the semifinals.
Stanford put together four 20-win seasons in Dawkins’ tenure as head coach. He is only the second coach in Stanford history with at least four 20-win seasons. Stanford’s success on the court came against some of the toughest schedules in the nation. During the 2015-16 season, the Cardinal faced the sixth-most difficult slate in the country—with a nation-leading 17 of Stanford’s 30 games against RPI top-50 squads. Stanford’s strength of schedule was rated in the top 50 each of his final four seasons, including two in the top 20, with an average rank of 27.75.
The Cardinal basketball program also excelled in the classroom during Dawkins’ tenure, earning at least three Pac-12 All-Academic selections for five consecutive seasons and producing back-to-back Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year recipients (2014, 2015). Stanford also received annual national academic recognition, with three players earning National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Honors Court status in 2015. The Cardinal was one of 20 NCAA Division I teams to earn an NABC Team Academic Excellence Award in 2016.
In 2012, Dawkins mentored Chasson Randle to become the consummate student-athlete. Randle finished that season as Stanford’s all-time leading scorer and earned the program’s initial first-team Academic All-America selection since 2006. Under Dawkins, Stanford recorded back-to-back perfect Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores of 1,000 in both the 2012-13 and 2013-14 reports.
Player development was also markedly improved at Stanford under Dawkins’ tutelage. Four Cardinal players were selected in the NBA Draft following their collegiate careers—including 2014 first-round pick Josh Huestis.
Learning from a Legend
The Washington, D.C., native coached for 10 years under the legendary Mike Krzyzewski at Duke. During Dawkins' decade as a coach at Duke, the Blue Devils won a national championship (2001), tallied six ACC regular-season championships, recorded seven ACC Tournament titles and posted a 330-60 (.846) record. In four consecutive seasons from 1999-2002, Duke finished the regular season ranked No. 1 in both national polls, a first in college basketball history. Duke reached a No. 1 national ranking in seven of 10 seasons with Dawkins on the coaching staff.
While at Duke, he also served as the player personnel director for the USA Basketball Senior National Team from 2006-08.
Decorated at Duke
Following a prolific high school career at Mackin Catholic High School in Washington, D.C. (McDonald’s All-American and third-team Parade All-American), Dawkins made his way to Duke, where he would become one of the most decorated players to set foot in Durham, North Carolina.
He played for the Blue Devils from 1982-83 through 1985-86, earning consensus All-America honors twice (1985, 1986). Dawkins was also voted the 1986 Naismith National Player of the Year and named a Freshman All-American in 1983. During his collegiate career, he helped lead Duke to three NCAA Championship berths, including an NCAA title-game appearance in 1986. He was an All-ACC honoree all four seasons as a Blue Devil. Dawkins helped Duke win the 1986 ACC Tournament title in his senior season, claiming the MVP award in the process.
Dawkins finished his career as the school’s all-time leading scorer and held that honor until 2006 when J.J. Redick surpassed his mark of 2,556 points. He recorded double-figure point totals in 129 of 133 collegiate games. Dawkins led the Blue Devils in scoring all four years, recording the fourth-highest season point total in school history with 809 in 1986. Dawkins remains Duke’s career record-holder in field goals (1,026) and field goals attempted (2,019) while also setting the school’s single-season mark for field goals (331) during the 1986 campaign.
Dawkins was inducted into the Duke Sports Hall of Fame in September 1996. His jersey number 24 was retired by the school.
A 1986 first-round NBA Draft pick (10th overall) by San Antonio, Dawkins saw action in nine NBA seasons with the Spurs (1986-89), Philadelphia 76ers (1989-94) and Detroit Pistons (1994-95). He averaged 11.1 points, 2.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists over 541 career NBA games.
Giving Back to the Game
Dawkins has served as a member of the National Association of Basketball Coaches Board of Directors since 2012. He currently serves on the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Ethics Coalition, an independent committee of current and former coaches, charged with promoting ethical conduct through leadership, education and mentoring opportunities, while identifying key issues challenging the coaching community.
The Dawkins Profile
Birth Date – Sept. 28, 1963
High School – Mackin Catholic High School (Washington, D.C.)
College Degree – Bachelor of Arts, Political Science, Duke (1986)
Wife – Tracy
Children – Blair, Sean, Jillian, Aubrey
2016-Present – UCF – Head Coach
2008-16 – Stanford – Head Coach
2000-08 – Duke – Associate Head Coach
2006-08 – USA Basketball Senior National Team – Player Personnel Director
1998-99 – Duke – Assistant Coach
1982-86 – Duke
Naismith National Player of the Year (1986)
NCAA East Regional MVP (1986)
ACC Tournament MVP (1986)
Consensus All-American (1985, 1986)
First team All-ACC (1985, 1986)
Second team All-ACC (1983, 1984)
Freshman All-American (1983)
Duke Team MVP (1983, 1984, 1985, 1986)
Drafted – 1986 NBA Draft, San Antonio Spurs, First Round, 10th overall pick
1986-89 – San Antonio Spurs
1989-94 – Philadelphia 76ers
1994-95 – Detroit Pistons