Dan Dickau has experienced the Portland Trail Blazers’ organization in several capacities.
A few more than the ex-journeyman NBA point guard’s cups of coffee with the Golden State Warriors, who take a 2-0 series lead into Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals on Saturday in Portland.
The former Gonzaga star, Spokane resident and Portland-born Dickau vividly remembers portions of his childhood in the early 1990s watching the likes of Clyde Drexler and Terry Porter.
In 2004, Dickau, a first-team All-American and first-round draft pick, was issued his own black and red jersey.
Dickau was traded to Portland from Atlanta midway through the 2003-2004 season, the first of three short stints – two as a player, one as a coach – with the organization.
“That was a surreal experience,” said Dickau, who prepped at nearby Prairie High School in Vancouver, Washington. “I was so excited that I showed up to the introductory media press conference an hour early.
“I mean, who can say they got to play for a team they grew up cheering for?”
Dickau appeared in his final NBA regular-season game in 2008 as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers, played briefly overseas and in the G-League and eventually pivoted into coaching.
He spent one season as a player development coach on the Blazers’ staff during their 2011-2012 campaign, the same year the organization had its eye on a gifted, high-scoring guard at a small Division I school in Ogden, Utah.
Weber State senior Damian Lillard was one of the nation’s leading scorers that year. When he visited Big Sky Conference rival Portland State, Dickau was in attendance scouting.
Lillard played all 40 minutes, scored 38 points and hit 7 of 8 3-pointers in a 88-81 win.
Four months later, the Blazers selected Lillard sixth overall in the 2012 NBA draft. He’s now a four-time NBA All-Star and one of the league’s most recognizable figures, leading the Blazers to their first Western Conference Finals since 2000.
Dickau, a TV college basketball analyst and business owner, isn’t taking credit for his ringing endorsement of Lillard.
“I don’t ever want to say I saw this coming, but I knew he was going to be pretty darn good,” Dickau said. “He’s turned into a legit MVP-candidate type of player.”
Lillard’s backcourt partner, CJ McCollum, had a similar path as Lillard, starring at relatively obscure Lehigh University. He was drafted 10th overall by the Blazers in 2013.
Dickau wasn’t part of the Blazers’ organization when they drafted McCollum, but Dickau was quick to laud former Whitworth head coach Matt Logie for discovering and developing him.
Logie, who led Whitworth the past seven seasons before recently accepting the same job at NCAA Division II power Point Loma (California) Nazarene, was an assistant coach at Lehigh and spearheaded McCollum’s recruitment 10 years ago,
New Whitworth coach Damion Jablonski was also an assistant coach at Lehigh during the 2010-2011 season, McCollum’s sophomore year.
Dickau starred at Gonzaga during the infancy of its national prominence, when the Bulldogs – now consistently a top-10 program – didn’t garner half the attention they do today.
Like Lillard, McCollum and Golden State star Stephen Curry (Davidson), he knows the arduous path from a small college to the NBA.
“I can appreciate the struggle that those guys had to face, being deemed too small or not good enough,” said Dickau, who also praised the development of ex-Gonzaga forward Zach Collins, who averages 6.6 points and 4.2 rebounds off the bench for Portland.
Like Curry, Dickau was an undersized shooter and distributor for Golden State, but briefly. The Warriors traded Dickau to Dallas after two summer months in 2004 and, in his second stint with the organization, was cut after the 2008 preseason.
A decade later, the Warriors, who’ve won three of the past four NBA titles and are two wins away from their fifth consecutive finals appearance, are a bona fide dynasty.
Dickau lauded the Blazers’ front office for aiming high like Golden State and keeping its talented backcourt intact.
“The window for winning closes so quick these days, because the ownership will sometimes blow things up too quickly,” Dickau said.
“But you have to give Portland credit for not blowing it up and keeping (Lillard) and CJ together.”
Follow along with the Zags
Subscribe to our Gonzaga Basketball newsletter to stay up with the latest news.