The Chronicle sat down with former Duke men's basketball player and 2010 national champion Andre Dawkins to ask him some questions about his playing career, incoming head coach Jon Scheyer and head coach Mike Krzyzewski. Dawkins played at Duke from 2009-14 and had a brief professional career before transitioning to media.
He is now host of Dawkins on Duke, one of the college basketball podcasts in Jeff Goodman and Rob Dauster’s Field of 68 Media Network.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
The Chronicle: What did you like most as a player about playing in Cameron Indoor Stadium?
Andre Dawkins: Probably just like that they were always with you, it didn't matter what the score was. Whether we were winning or losing or it was a close game, or we're getting killed—the energy was always there. Fans weren’t leaving early and giving up on us. So probably just always supporting no matter what.
TC: What was going through your head against Michigan State in 2011 when you scored 26 points in the game that gave Coach K his 903rd win to pass Bobby Knight?
AD: That game was a lot of fun. Obviously, winning is always great, playing well is good. But it was a lot of pressure on us. I remember before we went up there, after our last meeting or film session before we were getting ready to leave [Steve Wojciechowski] let coach leave the room and he basically told us not to mess it up. So it was a little bit of pressure. Obviously, there's tons of people up there, it’s ESPN and it’s at MSG. But it was a lot of fun and I’m glad I was able to be a part of that game.
TC: Did you ever see yourself going into media while you were a player?
AD: No, not really, honestly. The podcast, it kind of just came out of nowhere. Jeff Goodman, who runs the whole Field of 68 network—check out the podcast anybody listening, Dawkins on Duke, shameless plug—but yeah, he just called and was like, ‘Hey, you want to do a podcast about Duke?’ And I was like, ‘I guess. Sure.’ So it kind of came out of nowhere. And that's actually a shout out to Jon [Scheyer]. Jeff reached out to Jon. And Jon gave him my name. So that's kind of how that came about. Jon put me on that and it's been a lot of fun.
TC: Do you see yourself going into coaching in the future at any level?
AD: I'm actually going to be working with a local high school team this upcoming season, I’m going to be assisting with kind of like a friend of a friend. We go way back to AAU days. So it should be fun looking forward to that. And who knows after that, obviously, there's a regime change coming at Duke and I love Durham. I’d love to come back, but I'm not gonna bombard Jon as he's trying to make the transition to become the head coach at Duke. If the opportunity ever came I would jump back for sure. But for this year, I'll be at high school helping them out. And you know, hopefully it doesn't turn me off to coaching completely (laughs).
TC: We hear a lot about Scheyer's basketball IQ being off the charts. Can you talk to us about Scheyer’s basketball IQ and the way he sees the game?
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AD: I think if you just go back and look at his playing career, especially at Duke, obviously I was only there for the one year, but that year, pretty sure that he led the country in assist to turnover ratio. He was honestly more of a scorer, coming out of high school, broke all the scoring records at his school.And for him to be able to adapt his game and become more of a point guard—to the point where he was the best point guard in the country that year— just goes to show his knowledge for the game, how he understands the game and sees it a little bit differently than most people. So I think that'll help him have a lot of success as he begins his head coaching career.
TC: Was there a specific moment when you realized how smart of a player Scheyer was?
AD: I think I learned pretty quickly that he was really good. Probably, early pickup games—I’m coming out of high school and I think I'm really good, I was a pretty good athlete, whatnot—And yeah, just understanding at the college level it’s a lot different. Jon used to kick my ass. And I'm like, man, I feel like I'm faster I’m stronger, but I can't do anything with him. I learned pretty quickly in pickup games, that he was no slouch for sure.
TC: Was there anything that you noticed while Scheyer was a captain and leader during your freshman year that you think he can carry into his role as head coach?
AD: I think his demeanor was important. And he never really got too excited and never really got too down. He's just kind of pretty even keel the whole time. I think you could kind of see that in the way he played, especially that year. So for me especially, I know I enjoyed having a leader like that on the team where he wasn't a guy that was gonna be all up in your face and yelling, screaming, but led by example, put in the work and then obviously led to results on the court. So I assume he'd be similar. I don't think his demeanor has changed much in the last 10 years or so. I think just his even-keeled demeanor will help, especially in those high pressure situations, still being able to think through things and make the right decisions.
TC: What was the relationship like between assistant coach Nolan Smith and Scheyer during your freshman year?
AD: They're great friends first and foremost and then pretty much brothers when you're on a team, and especially those two, holding down the backcourt playing most of the minutes together. And then culminating in a championship, you form a really strong bond and I think that they still have it, both having been back at Duke for a number of years now. It’s really cool that they got to win a national championship together as players and that they'll both be on the coaching staff hopefully bring in another national championship as coaches, so excited to see that dynamic and if you know Nolan you love Nolan. So I'm excited to see him out on the recruiting trails. And I think he'll really connect with recruits really well.
TC: What were you doing and thinking when you saw Goodman's tweet breaking the news of Coach K’s retirement?
AD: That’s how I found out was Goodman tweeted it. I’m scrolling through Twitter in the morning and I saw it, I was like, ‘Whoa, what’s going on.’ And that's not something you tweet out without any sources.... And then I think he tweeted out right after that Jon was taking over so, it was kind of bittersweet because it's like, ‘Coach [K] is retiring,' which obviously, at some point that had to come, but just when that moment, it kind of hit you like, ‘He's been the face of Duke basketball, he's why anyone really cares about Duke basketball’ having done so much with the program over 40 years. But then knowing that Jon was taking over. I was excited for that and I texted him, and I wasn't trying to ask him a bunch of questions so I just texted him eyeball emojis and he sent it back to me. So we kind of understood each other that way. So I was just sitting around the house. And then I had to hop on the podcast, and do a quick reaction with Jeff.
TC: Is there a specific Coach K story that stands out in your head from your time at Duke whenever someone asks you about Coach K?
AD: Not really. The moments I remember a lot were we always had a Thanksgiving tournament so we're always somewhere for Thanksgiving. And he always made sure that we had a Thanksgiving dinner as a team. Obviously, not being able to be with family because we're playing. But, he always made sure we went out and had a nice Thanksgiving meal as a group. His family would be there and the assistant coaches’ family would be there, so you got to have a nice Thanksgiving dinner as our little family every year and then he always gave us Christmas off. So we always got to actually have Thanksgiving, albeit not with our immediate families, but with our Duke basketball family. Then we always had at least a few days off, where we could go home and spend Christmas with our families.
TC: What has The Brotherhood meant to you?
AD: It's one of the coolest things really because you get to have a bond with guys who you never stepped foot on the court with, like I never played with Gerald [Henderson] and he's my guy. And I feel like it comes through a lot in the podcast. A bunch of the guys I've talked to, they never coached me, I never played with them or anything like that. Even going all the way back to like a Tommy Amaker, Kenny Denard. Guys like that who are from a different era in Coach K’s tenure, but you still have that bond and I feel like it comes through really well when we're talking to each other and sharing similar experiences across four decades of Duke basketball. So it's really a unique thing and with having K Academy is back this year, in a few weeks, so I’ll go back to that and really looking forward to it and just seeing a bunch of the guys. It’s super unique and I'm super grateful for it just because of the the bond you’re able to form with a bunch of guys over shared experience and Duke basketball.
TC: Do you have any special message for the Duke faithful?
AD: I'm excited for this upcoming year. I think the team is gonna be really good. I know it'll be a little bit of pressure on them with Coach’s last year but I'm excited for what they have in store and having the fans back and hopefully I can get to a couple games and see them in person. I'm just excited and I think this team has a lot of potential and so I can't wait for this season.
Max Rego is a Trinity junior and sports managing editor for The Chronicle's 117th volume.
Jake Piazza is a Trinity junior and sports editor of The Chronicle's 117th volume.