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Stanford Cardinal's head coach Johnny Dawkins talks to a referee during their game against the Washington State Cougars in the second half at Maples Pavilion at Stanford University in Stanford, Calif. on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013. (Nhat V. Meyer/Staff)

Johnny Dawkins will return for his sixth year as Stanford basketball coach next season, but his boss made it clear Friday the Cardinal will be expected to challenge for the Pac-12 Conference title and reach the NCAA tournament after a five-year absence.

First-year athletic director Bernard Muir, in a phone interview from Las Vegas where he is watching the Pac-12 tournament, suggested that another NIT bid next season won't be acceptable.

Stanford also will have junior All-Pac-12 forward Dwight Powell back in the fold, as Powell confirmed Friday he will remain in school rather than enter the NBA draft. Powell scored double figures in every conference game this season and had 23 points in the loss to Arizona State. He'll be one of four starters to return.

Stanford was eliminated in the first round of the conference tournament, losing to ASU 89-88 in overtime on Wednesday and likely will play in the NIT again.

The Cardinal is 18-14 overall after finishing in a four-way tie for sixth place in the Pac-12 at 9-9. Stanford was picked fourth in the conference in a preseason media poll conducted by the Pac-12.

"Johnny's coming back," Muir said. "Johnny and I talked throughout the course of the season. We clearly have set the expectation that we want to be playing this time of the season next year.

"We want to be playing for a (conference) championship. We think we have the caliber of kids who can do that. And we want to play in the NCAA (tournament). The goal has always been and will not change: We want to play well into March on the grand stage of March Madness.


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"There's a clear expectation that we can do that next year."

Asked if Dawkins was given a mandate to reach the NCAA tournament next season or face losing his job, Muir said, "Next year is a critical year for us. We've now had ample time for him to really get us to take that next step."

Dawkins has a five-year record of 93-73 at Stanford and a year ago directed the Cardinal to the NIT title. Stanford's five-year NCAA tournament drought is its longest since 1989.

A former star player and assistant coach at Duke, Dawkins has a long history of success in the NCAA tournament. Just not so far at Stanford.

"Johnny has high expectations of himself and his program," Muir said. "He knows we need to make this next step. We are capable."

Muir said he wants Stanford fans, many of whom have reached out to him with concerns, to know he remains confident Dawkins is the right man for the job.

"Next year, there's no reason why we can't get to where we want to be and have the opportunity to make a run in this thing," he said. "Coach is in his sixth year. There's a reason why he was hired to be our Stanford guy, and I have full confidence he can get us there."