STANFORD -- Coach Johnny Dawkins wouldn't let his Stanford basketball team feel pressure about his job security, and the payoff came Sunday with the program's first NCAA tournament bid in six seasons.
A year after athletic director Bernard Muir said Dawkins had to get his team into the NCAAs this season to keep his job, the point is now moot.
The Cardinal (21-12) earned a No. 10 seed in the South region and will face No. 7 New Mexico (27-6) on Friday at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. Tipoff is 10:40 a.m. PDT.
A win Friday would likely pit Stanford against No. 2 seed Kansas on Sunday.
Dawkins and his players were all smiles Sunday after the tournament pairings were announced. But the 50-year-old former Duke star wanted the story to be his players.
Asked if he and Muir had discussed his future, Dawkins chuckled. "No discussions about what's going on with me," he said. "I expect us to focus on New Mexico. That's what we've done this whole season, and that won't change."
Muir said he is excited for the team and that Dawkins got done what was necessary to retain his job.
"If you put two and two together," Muir said, "our goal was to get to the tournament."
Dawkins said the team's approach all season was to tackle small goals that would add up to this moment.
"It's been a long time coming for us," he said. "I thought our kids really responded, especially our senior class. We talked about leaving our legacy, and we wanted to be the team that got us back to the tournament.
"I wanted our kids to enjoy the experience. I didn't want the weight of the world of expectations to define who we were. I've never let expectations define me."
Senior Josh Huestis said the players were nervous before the announcement even though there seemed little doubt the Cardinal would be selected.
But throughout the season, he explained, Dawkins helped keep the team from becoming distracted over issues beyond the players' control.
"Despite all the chaos that may be going on around him, he stays very focused on the task at hand," Huestis said.
Dawkins said being able to keep his eye on the ball is a lesson his father taught him during his junior year in high school. Dawkins was having a great basketball season and enjoyed reading the glowing reports in his local newspaper.
"My father walked up and said, 'You should stop reading that stuff.' I was like, 'Why?'
"He said if you continue to read, eventually it will always turn. And so if you can't handle reading the bad, you probably shouldn't read the good."
Dawkins said he rarely has failed to follow that advice, and it's allowed him to worry only about his own expectations.
All-Pac-12 forward Dwight Powell said that doesn't mean the players didn't feel an urgency to end the NCAA drought.
"We definitely felt there was pressure on the future of everyone," said Powell, who bypassed a chance to enter the NBA draft last spring to return for his senior season. "Making it to the tournament and having a successful year, especially as seniors, is something very important and something you'll remember the rest of your life."
New Mexico will be a serious challenge for Stanford. The Lobos won the Mountain West Conference tournament crown for the third straight year Saturday, beating regular-season champion San Diego State for the second time in three tries.
The Lobos are led by first-year coach Craig Neal, who took over when Steve Alford departed for UCLA. Neal played college ball at Georgia Tech in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and Dawkins said their teams met in the ACC tournament final in 1986.
Of greater immediate concern is New Mexico's talent, which includes 6-foot-9, 250-pound Australian senior power forward Cameron Bairstow, who averages 20.3 points.
Asked what kind of immediate scouting report he had on the Lobos, Huestis said, "We don't know as much as we'll know tomorrow."
SOUTH REGION at St. Louis: Stanford (21-12) vs. New Mexico (27-6), 10:40 a.m. TBS