BOWLING GREEN - A Season on the Brink, ESPN's much-ballyhooed foray into feature film making, receives a resounding two-thumbs-down from one of the movie's minor characters, Bowling Green State University basketball coach Dan Dakich.
The film is based on John Feinstein's book of the same name, which chronicled his observations after Indiana coach Bob Knight gave him unprecedented access to the program during the 1985-86 season.
The film aired for the first time Sunday night, and Dakich, who played for Knight and coached at Indiana for 12 years before coming to Bowling Green in 1997, found A Season on the Brink to be a movie with a stink.
“From the technical side, the whole thing was ridiculous,” Dakich said yesterday. He had several other major objections with the film, including its portrayal of the Hoosier players as timid and sheepish.
“There are two things about Indiana that, in my view, you cannot debate,” Dakich said. “The first thing is that to be an Indiana basketball player, you are a tough person. You don't get to Indiana, Purdue or Ohio State by being a wimp. And I thought the movie depicted all of the players there as wimps.
“When coach Knight yells and screams, nobody cowers. You don't sit there and put your head down like they had all of these guys doing. What you do is you sit up straight and you get mad and you go play even harder, that's what you do at Indiana.”
Dakich said that characterization was especially erroneous when it concerned Daryl Thomas, a talented player who helped Indiana win the national championship the following season, 1986-87.
“They showed all of the players to be wimps, particularly Daryl Thomas. Daryl Thomas scored 20-some points in a national championship game in front of 70,000 people and he was playing against Rony Seikaly and Derrick Coleman from Syracuse. Now that is not a wimp.”
Dakich said the other major aspect of the film that irked him was that it presented Knight, who was fired by Indiana after one of the most successful coaching stints in college basketball history, as a one-dimensional personality. Dakich said he found that to be grossly inaccurate.
“I don't care if you like coach Knight, you hate coach Knight, you think he's the devil, you think he's an angel or whatever you think of him, this is a fact - he is a hilarious guy and he is a very funny human being with his team.
“There was absolutely none of that [in the movie]. They showed him as an uptight guy who kind of sits around and watches practice and bitches a lot. There is a part of that - he does yell, scream and complain in practice - but he uses humor probably as much, I would say more, than he uses profanity. Those things weren't shown.”
Dakich said ESPN had contacted him about going on its post-movie reaction show, which featured two former Indiana players and an ex-assistant coach.
“I told them that if I go on this show, I'm really not going to say nice things about ESPN and the movie. I think ESPN should stay with what got them there. Sometimes you can maybe think you are more than what you are, and ESPN is a sports network that shows highlights and games and things.”
Dakich said he was miffed by former player Ricky Calloway criticizing the Indiana program in an appearance on the post-movie show. Dakich said he has a letter from Calloway, who transferred from IU after three years, that Indiana used in recruiting.
“In the letter Calloway apologized to coach Knight and the staff for basically being an alcoholic and drug user at the end of this time at Indiana. He said being at Indiana was the greatest thing [for him]. Now, when there is a television camera on him, he talks about, `It was three years of hell' and all this. The guy is a fraud and a phony. That's what I was going to say on the show.”
Dakich said that although he found the movie to be an absolute bomb, it was about what he expected. Dakich was glad his character was in the background.
“I knew when they said `viewer discretion advised,' and all they showed [in promos] was coach Knight screaming and throwing chairs, I knew it was not going to be a good or realistic portrayal of anybody. So, quite frankly, I was really glad when I did not see a character portraying me in any way, shape or form.”
Dakich said that despite ESPN's extensive promotion of the film, he doubts that it will be a classic.
“ESPN tried to make a big splash with this, like they were able to do with coach Knight's firing, and they weren't able to do that with this movie. I don't think anybody cares about it. Other than ESPN showing it about every other day, I think it will probably just go away.”