Indiana Interim Head Coach Dan Dakich Presser Part 1 of 2

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By Paul M. Banks

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Before the ousting of former coach Kelvin Sampson, Indiana interim head coach Dan Dakich was an assistant. Previously, he was a head coach at Bowling Green University for ten years. He certainly is a Hoosier through and through serving as team Captain his junior and senior seasons under Bob Knight and as an assistant coach under Knight for 12 seasons. What Dakich is most famous for however, is his stellar defensive effort on Michael Jordan in MJ’s last collegiate game. He did a fine job limiting the greatest player in history. Now I’ll be the first to admit that most press conferences can be far from exciting, but Dakich’s first post game presser as the head man was fascinating, exciting, and emotional. It accurately articulates the fallout and aftershocks of THE major national story in college basketball. Here Dakich opens up his heart and soul about a nationally powerful program in extreme turmoil and rough transition, a program he has devoted most of this professional life to.

His opening statement…….. 

I thought this was a heck of a college basketball game. I thought going into the game that this would be an incredibly difficult game for a couple of reasons. One, our circumstances, you go through our last 24-48 hours, kids that you see playing basketball are 18-to-22 year old kids. They’re not robots. They have all kinds of emotions, as do I, as does Ray, as does Jeff. The second reason is I think that watching Northwestern, they’ve really improved. They played us really difficult and tough in Bloomington, and they’re much better. Going in, Ray made a great statement at half time. We were kind a walking in, I said, “What do you think?” He said, “This is how we knew it would be. We knew this would be tough. We knew this was going to be something that wasn’t going to be easy.”  So my hats off to how hard the Northwestern kids played. My hats off to the Indiana fans for coming out; they’re unbelievable. But most of all I am so proud of our players, the way they’ve been so resilient in the course of the year. It’s a testament to all things that I think are good about Indiana University and Indiana University basketball. I guess I’m not just talking about the players. I’m talking about the managers. We had our managers last night at our walk through. Got together and ran Northwestern’s so that we could go quickly to bring 5 guys in, playing 5 guys; they’re just unbelievable kids. It’s a big deal on our staff. A lot of it is a testament to why Indiana is a pretty neat place. We had the fans that were here, we got the win…We’ll go from here.

On whether he truly relishes his first victory as a head coach………

“Not right now. I have a lot of emotions about this, feelings for Coach Sampson and what I know he and his family are going through, feelings for our players and I know what they’re going through. I feel a lot better that this is my first win as opposed to that this is my first loss. I can tell you that. We are going to move on and hopefully, as this continues we’ll get better.”
On the internal reaction of his players to the announcement that Sampson was being dismissed from the program…….

“Well, my thoughts were it’s natural. It wasn’t like a boycott. They got told at 11:45, I think was the meeting. We went down there; I finished up the meeting with them at 12:30. To ask them to go practice – well some do and some don’t. These guys are 18-to-22 year old kids. I’m having a hard time with it, and I’ve been through some things. Kids started texting me about 6:00. I wasn’t calling them to come back; I knew they’d be back. If you’re around kids, you understand. Yesterday was far deeper than just we had a practice. Way deeper, this is the second time TJ has been through something like this. I’m sure everybody out here has an opinion about how this should have gone, but your opinion is not based on being age 18-to-22,  25-26 games into a season with a guy that you came to play for, with a guy that you have worked with continuously, with a guy that you love. I heard Erik talking about how Coach is a father figure, and now for whatever the reason, he’s no longer there. That’s a difficult thing; so there was no chance I was going to sit there and demand that they do it. I have respect for 18 to 22 year old people. I push them, I yell at them, but I respect their opinions because they’re bright people. It was a non issue. When they came back, I was being text ‘Coach, I’ll be there; we’ll be there.’ Kids needed the time and needed space and probably still do. It’s tough.”

On the emotional and effective game played by his senior leader and star D.J. White….

“It’s like Manny being Manny, D.J. being D.J.…he’s done that all year. He’s been the best player that I’ve seen all year. I have more respect for him as much as any kid I’ve ever coached. He blocked the shot. Hit a couple free throws and won the game. That’s DJ.”

On why he didn’t enter the arena for first game until there was just a couple minutes to tip-off…

Just because it’s emotional. There’s a lot of reasons. I’m hanging out. I got done talking to the kids, the kids went out. The one thing I’ve never liked as a coach is warm-ups, I hate it. I came out with a couple minutes to go. Usually I come out with 1 minute to go because I hate it. I didn’t expect that, I didn’t think about it. I’m thinking why are they cheering. Then I hear people yelling. It was nice.”

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