He led the Cardinal to an NIT championship this past March, and they should be in contention -- behind UCLA and Arizona -- for a top-three Pac-12 finish and an NCAA tournament berth in 2012-13.
Dawkins made the right move in his first head-coaching job when he hired one of the most respected coaches in the country in former Santa Clara coach Dick Davey. He was promised three years from Davey. He got four.
Todd Warshaw/Getty ImagesFormer Stanford player Mark Madsen will bring energy and passion to the Cardinal sideline.
And now he has made another astute decision to improve his staff and the program at a critical time.
In hiring Mark Madsen to replace Davey, Dawkins added the most enthusiastic player from the past 14 years in college basketball -- and the one available coach who knows exactly what it means to be recruited by, play for and succeed at Stanford.
The timing was perfect. Madsen had been at Stanford the past two seasons working on his MBA. He was around the program and went on the team's summer trip to Spain.
"He was great to be around, and it was a great chance for us to get to know him better,'' Dawkins said. "I had a better feel for Mark. I had heard amazing things as a player. He has had great experiences, a terrific career in college and in the NBA. He did a stint in the D-League as an assistant coach. He comes in with experience.''
And Madsen is a winner.
He won at Stanford; as a player, his teams compiled a 105-24 record under Mike Montgomery, now the head coach at Cal. Madsen was on the first No. 1-seeded Cardinal team in 2000, and even more impressive, the 1998 Final Four team. He was a two-time All-American. He was also on two Lakers' title teams in 2001 and '02 and played six seasons for the Timberwolves.
Few players in the NBA and college played every possession with as much passion as Madsen.
Dawkins has a statesman-like presence. He is above reproach because he has treated those around him with respect. But he was still a Stanford outsider, as there wasn't a tie to the past success of the program.
And if he was going to bring such a Stanford guy back, then why not deliver to his staff a coach who knows exactly how to play with passion and energy? Dawkins said Madsen knows the culture at Stanford since he's been through it.
But Madsen can do more. He said he can teach with passion and energy, and that it isn't -- nor should it be -- instinctual.
"Phil Jackson talked about energy all the time with the Lakers,'' Madsen said. "Jerry West said playing with energy and passion is a skill like shooting is a skill. I hope to convey that to all the players, that when they step on the court they have to have that energy. It can be a huge asset for the team, the program and the university.''
As a a player, Madsen never got everything handed to him. He earned it. He was an aggressive performer who bulldozed his way into the lane; he grabbed rebounds off the backboard and 50-50 balls on the floor. But he didn't expect a handout when he was done playing. He became an assistant coach with the Utah Flash in the D-League in 2009-10 and then went back to school for an MBA.
"I'd love to be a head coach,'' Madsen said as he headed to his professor's house Tuesday night for a graduation get-together. "I wanted to come back and be around this campus. I hope I can come in and chip in and do my part. I'm excited to be with Johnny and his whole staff, recruiting, X's and O's and every element of building an elite program. I want to learn from them and share my unique inside aspect of playing at Stanford and in the NBA.''
Stanford has its core back from the NIT title win over Minnesota. The top returning scorer is guard Chasson Randle, a sophomore-to be. Three of the next four top scorers -- guard Aaron Bright, Anthony Brown and Dwight Powell, all rising juniors -- are back, too. The only significant top-five scorer who is gone: senior forward Josh Owens.
With top-five recruiting classes, both UCLA and Arizona have the offseason buzz. But Stanford has experience and can't be dismissed in the race.
The Cardinal visit potential ACC title team NC State and are in arguably the top nonconference tournament -- the Battle 4 Atlantis with Louisville, Duke, Missouri, Minnesota, VCU, Memphis and Northern Iowa. And Saint Louis, one of the A-10's top teams, will come to the Farm.
"The biggest thing is that these players have had a taste of success and realized how good they are individually and collectively,'' Madsen said. "They've demonstrated that. The guys are confident now.
"Arizona, UCLA and Washington and UC Berkeley have always had strong traditions," Madsen said, "but Stanford always competed to win a championship, even in years when our record hasn't been perfect. The Stanford tradition is to give it all you have and to win a [Pac-12] championship, and get to the NCAA tournament, where anything can happen.''
Dawkins couldn't have added another coach who better understands how to do that like Madsen does.
The Cardinal got better on Tuesday without a point being scored.