When confronted by an FBI agent that he was on the brink of being arrested for bribing college basketball coaches and defrauding universities — charges that merited up to 200 years in prison — basketball middleman Christian Dawkins was offered a deal.
Help the government get then-Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino and NBA agent Andy Miller, and everything could go away.
Just then, as Dawkins sat inside a Manhattan hotel room in September of 2017, his phone, which was being wiretapped by the FBI, rang. It was Arizona coach Sean Miller. Add Miller to the list, Dawkins was told.
He flatly refused on all requests. Seconds later, a herd of agents carrying assault rifles stormed the room and took him away for booking.
All of this comes from Dawkins in the new HBO documentary “The Scheme,” which premieres on March 31 at 9 p.m. ET. The film tells Dawkins’ story of going from would-be sports agent to convicted felon in a federal case that threatened, but never quite accomplished, upending the sport of college hoops.
The FBI’s three-year investigation into the sport ended with the arrest of 10 men, including four assistant college coaches, but never touched the game’s bigger names.
Pitino, Andy Miller and Sean Miller (no relation) were never charged with any crimes.
The nearly two-hour film from director Pat Kondelis’ Bat Bridge Entertainment explains the myriad reasons the case went sideways at times, but part of the limited impact was Dawkins’ refusal to cooperate with authorities and instead take two separate cases to trial. In the end he was convicted on both and sentenced to three months for fraud and one year and one day for bribery. He’s currently out on appeal.
Now Dawkins, who has started a new career representing artists in the music industry, is willing to say a few things.
The film is told through his viewpoint — from his upbringing as the son of a high school coach in Saginaw, Michigan, to becoming in his early 20s a confidant and dealmaker between star players, shoe companies, college programs and agents.
It also contains a number of never-before-heard audio recordings of FBI-intercepted phone calls between Dawkins and LSU coach Will Wade and Arizona’s Miller.
In perhaps the most colorful exchange, Miller and Dawkins are discussing the rumor that Naz Reid, a 6-10 forward from New Jersey who was rumored to be leaning heavily to LSU, might actually commit to Arizona.
During the second federal trial, a recording of Arizona assistant Emanuel “Book” Richardson was played where Richardson said Wade had informed him that, “Look, there’s a deal in place, I got $300,000 for [Reid].” (Reid later denied ever getting any money or there being any deal.)
On the phone call, Miller quickly informed Dawkins that he believed that any rumors about Reid coming to Arizona was a potential trick designed for the Reid camp to get more money out of LSU.
Christian Dawkins: “In essence, let me ask you this: Do you think you’ll get Naz Reid?”
Sean Miller: “No. He’s going to LSU.”
Dawkins: “OK, he’s going to LSU, so that helps.”
Miller: “We’re not even bringing him on a visit. He’s not even visiting. That’s all [expletive]. Like, I’m looking at our recruiting board, he’s not even on it. I’ve never talked to the kid. All this [expletive] hype [expletive] on the phone, it’s stupid. He just probably said, ‘You know what, [expletive] you. I don’t want 75, I want a 120. I may go to Arizona.’ That’s all that was.”
Dawkins made a joke about Wade overpaying for recruits.
Dawkins: “And Will Wade — I told Book, I said, ‘Will Wade is like driving up the price of [players]. Cause he’s not even doing like real numbers.’ ”
Miller: “I tell you what, ‘I’ll give him credit. He’s got a big set of balls on him.’ ”
Dawkins: “No, Will Wade doesn’t give a [expletive], Sean.”
In another conversation between Miller and Dawkins, the Arizona coach asks for some help in navigating the recruitment of Nassir Little, a five-star recruit out of Orlando who would eventually sign with North Carolina. It appears that both Dawkins and Miller believed at the time that Little’s AAU director Brad Augustine and coach Darryl Hardin would have significant influence over Little’s college choice.
In fact, no evidence was ever presented and the Little family filed sworn affidavits that they never received anything from the AAU coaches. Multiple investigations also found no wrongdoing by the Littles or the University of Miami (which was recruiting him) or UNC. It’s believed Augustine and Hardin were just bluffing.
At the time, Dawkins says he was just trying to help Miller figure out how to win the recruiting battle.
“Sean wanted Nassir really badly,” Dawkins said in the film. “He knew I had a relationship with the grassroots coaches who at that time I think we were all under the impression had the juice with the situation. I basically told him that it basically was going to come down to Miami and Arizona. And what I think needed to happen for the kid to come out to Arizona.”
The call, as played in the film, went like this.
Sean Miller: “So, Christian, explain to me the difference in real talk between Brad and Darrell. Who do I focus on?”
Christian Dawkins: “They definitely want to get some [expletive] for themselves because they have been taking care of the kid, and they [expletive] like ...
Miller: “Miami doesn’t have an advantage over us in that area, do they?”
Dawkins: “Well, I’ll say this, what Miami does have is Adidas.”
The film plays multiple segments from a Sean Miller news conference where he repeatedly denies breaking NCAA rules and states that, “I have never knowingly violated NCAA rules” and “I have never paid a recruit or prospect or their family or their representative to come to Arizona. I never have and never will.”
“Sean should have his own movie agent or manager,” Dawkins said in the film when asked about that news conference. “He should be an actor.”
Was he lying? Dawkins is asked.
“Yeah, that wasn’t true.”
The film also plays in its entirety a previously reported call between Dawkins and Wade where Wade alludes to a “strong-ass offer” he made to a player that is presumed to be Javonte Smart, then a top recruit from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
A transcript of that call was originally reported by Yahoo Sports in March of 2019.
“I think the only way you can interpret someone in a head coaching position saying that they made a strong-ass offer, they ain’t talking about a scholarship offer, bro,” Dawkins says in the film. “One-hundred percent talking about money.”
Dawkins offered plenty of respect to Wade for keeping his job despite the details of the call coming out.
“Will Wade is definitely a gangster for what he did,” Dawkins said.
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