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Indiana’s Hopes Lie With Dan Dakich, NCAA’s Forrest Gump

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The stories around Indiana University’s head coach have circled around Kelvin Sampson’s NCAA violations, and rightly so: it’s almost as if the man’s addicted to recruiting high school basketball players by cheating.

But the more brain-fondling series of events might be how IU’s interim coach, Dan Dakich, is not only again the head coach of a basketball team, but coaching a team of such prestige when less than a year ago he couldn’t retain the same job at a much worse program.

Even though the official books say Dakich resigned as head coach of Bowling Green State University, informed fans pretty much assumed that the school was not going to renew his contract, and the resignation was an agreed upon save of face. The last few years of his 10-year tenure at BGSU was riddled with players transferring away — two of them went to Division II and III schools, for Christ’s sake. And in his last two seasons, the team finished 9-21 and 13-18. There was every reason for a change of scenery.

But up until last week, Dakich was nationally known for three college basketball footnotes:

(1) Defending Michael Jordan in the 1984 NCAA basketball tournament, holding him to just 13 points in Indiana’s upset of North Carolina

(2) Accepting the head coaching position at West Virginia in 2002, before finding a potential NCAA violation there and returning to BGSU one week later

(3) February 13, 2007, when his Falcons team left the court against the University at Buffalo thinking they won the game 77-75, but in reality 0.6 seconds remained on the clock, and all BGSU had to do was chuck the ball inbounds down the court. Instead, they tried to literally run out of Buffalo with a win. But once they were obligatorily ushered back to the court several minutes later, the team was assessed a technical foul for delay of game, UB made the free throws, and the Bulls won in overtime, 98-90.

After that completely embarrassing game on February 13, 2007 (okay, it was funny to everybody else, ha ha. Seriously, though, stop laughing), Dakich was pretty much done at BG, and there was little certainly he could land another head coaching position right away. But the native Indianan accepted a job at his alma mater, Indiana, as Director of Basketball Operations. It’s a really strange job, judging by the description, but it’s mainly the team’s “dirty job” in that the tasks nobody wants to do yet need to get done normally fall under the jurisdiction of the DBO. (Changing Rick Majerus’ diaper, for example.)

Dakich’s demotion, so to speak, would have been a fitting end to the story of the hotheaded and fallible coach finally ending up at home in Bloomington, Indiana, where he both played and coached under Bob Knight. But strangely that was far from the end of the story.

Earlier this year Dakich replaced Rob Senderoff as assistant coach, because Senderoff left the program for almost the same reasons Sampson was bought out of his contract last week. Once last Friday’s news went down that Sampson was out and Dakich was in, the time elapsed between his departure from BGSU and backroom swearing-in didn’t even add up to a calendar year.

Now I know how Forrest Gump’s hometown connections felt when they saw him on TV meeting the president.

There’s no telling how Dakich will do in the final weeks of the season — he and IU won at lowly Northwestern on Saturday — although at 23-4, IU is looking at a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament. But moreover, I’m infinitely clueless on how I want him to fare as interim head coach. Do I want the guy to fail, so as to validate the last few seasons of futility he brought upon BGSU? Or perhaps I want the man to succeed, not only because a tiny bit of fortune might be due for him, but also to sufficiently disturb the peaceful equilibrium of college basketball.

By all proper reason, Dakich should not have been given a chance to sniff the collegiate sideline, let alone one near a Big Ten decal, and especially not as the role of head coach. But the alignment of Dan Dakich’s BGSU contract and Kelvin Sampson’s cell phone bill laid on a vector created purely out of circumstance. Now the man who coached a team to lose 14 of their last 17 games (in the Mid-American Conference, mind you) will now cook up plays on a dry erase board for a team ranked 15th in the nation, sitting ½ game back in the Big Ten, and showing no reason they can’t reach the NCAA tournament’s Sweet 16.

Coach, Forrest. Coach.

(Photo credits: J.D. Pooley/Bowling Green Sentinel-Tribune, Nam Y. Huh/AP)

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