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An 'amazing moment' for Johnny Dawkins

While Duke won the national championship, Johnny Dawkins watched from behind the team bench, beaming with pride.

Alongside the Stanford head coach were his former Blue Devil teammates Mark Alarie, Danny Ferry and Weldon Williams, with former Duke stars Shane Battier and Mike Dunleavy watching with the group as well.

Sitting on the sideline stool was Mike Krzyzewski, who coached Dawkins into the 1986 national player of the year and continues to be a coaching mentor after Dawkins spent 11 seasons as a Duke assistant.

And on the court was guard Nolan Smith, who is so close to Dawkins that he still refers to his old coach as "Uncle Johnny."

"It was an amazing moment," Dawkins said by phone. "I’ve either been on the bench or playing in a lot of those moments. For the first time in my career, I was able to be there to see them accomplish something that special from sitting in the stands. I was really proud of the guys."

Dawkins' final college game was a loss in the national championship game in 1986, and he was on the bench as an associate head coach when the Blue Devils won it all in 2001.

This time, it was special to see many on his former team win it all, especially Smith.

Dawkins' bond with Smith goes back to when he became close friends with Philadelphia 76ers teammate Derek Smith, who died on a cruise ship in 1996.

Dawkins remained a family friend and became a father figure to Nolan, who he eventually recruited to Duke. Smith has even said he considered leaving Durham after Dawkins was named head coach at Stanford in 2008 after his freshman season.

But Dawkins, who still takes time to send motivational texts to Smith, laughed and said it was a good thing the kid stayed and got to grow up at Duke without him on the bench.

"When someone has been there who’s a part of your life for that long, when you go off to college, that’s a moment for you to separate and grow kind of on your own," Dawkins said. "That’s part of the independence you acquire. If you have someone who’s been there, you have a crutch there. It’s almost like living at home still.

"I was very proud of what he’s been able to accomplish. Especially in the spotlight."

Dawkins is back in California now, spreading the word to his team about the high level of basketball he witnessed in Indianapolis. Stanford was 14-18 last season and tied for eighth in the Pac-10.

The Cardinal lose star Landry Fields next season, but return four junior starters led by guard Jeremy Green. They also have a highly regarded incoming freshman class.

And on the schedule next season is a road game against an intriguing opponent that Dawkins got to see up close in Indy -- Butler.

Dawkins and Bulldogs coach Brad Stevens know each other from serving together on the NCAA men's basketball ethics coalition, and Butler recently practiced at Stanford while playing in nearby San Jose, Calif., for the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament.

While Stanford didn't make it to a postseason tournament, Dawkins did.

"You come back from an experience like that and you share it with the guys," he said.