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Published: Tuesday, 2/6/2007

The Dakich debate

Fire Dan Dakich.

Rehire Dan Dakich.

If those are the two sides of a line drawn in the sand, then straddling it might be the best approach on Feb. 6, 2007.

Last season should have taught us that, at least.

Bowling Green coach Dan Dakich has had lots of frustrating times this season with his young Falcons, who are 11-11.
Bowling Green coach Dan Dakich has had lots of frustrating times this season with his young Falcons, who are 11-11.
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Dakich, the Bowling Green men's basketball coach, is in the final year of his contract and his Falcons are 11-11 overall and

2-7 in Mid-American Conference play. Some of the natives down in the flatlands are restless.

But on the afternoon of Feb. 4, 2006, the University of Toledo men's basketball team was 10-9 overall, 3-8 in MAC play, and sharks - fans and some media alike - were circling a pool of red that certainly looked like coach Stan Joplin's blood.

Joplin, as Dakich is now, was a lame duck with no promise, and seemingly little likelihood, of a job after the final game of the season. It would be naive to think that UT athletic director Mike O'Brien had not begun to compile, if only in his mind, a short list of coaches he would soon be pursuing to succeed Joplin.

However, when Dakich's Falcons lost to Toledo last Saturday, it was Joplin's hand he shook after the game.

Maybe Dakich could take some consolation in that and the fact that UT is currently 8-1 in MAC play a year after Joplin was considered toast. Or maybe not.

But the funniest thing happened to Joplin on his way to the unemployment line. A year ago, on the night of Feb. 4, his Rockets beat Central Michigan and they would not lose another league game for five weeks until they came up five points short of Kent State in the MAC tournament championship game.

UT won 10 straight conference games along the way, posted a 20-win season, got high marks on an academic report card from the NCAA, and Joplin tucked a new multi-year contract into his back pocket.

We're not suggesting that Bowling Green's team is capable of doing the same thing. Not based on what we saw Saturday night at Savage Hall. And not based on the Falcons' competing in the MAC East Division. The MAC, to be frank, is a so-so basketball league this season, but the vast majority of its better teams are in the East.

We are suggesting that it's too early to write off Dakich, who doesn't appear all too fazed by his challenge.

"I understand my situation," he said, "but there's nothing I can do about it except work my brains out and coach like hell. I can't hope. It's not Doris Day, whatever will be, will be. I just have to work hard every minute and see that my team keeps getting better."

Dakich has won 154 games in less than 10 full seasons at BG. His teams are 21 games over .500 overall and five games over .500 in conference play.

But his record must be broken down into two careers - before and after an ill-fated, several-day stint as head coach at West Virginia in the spring of 2002. Before he left for Morgantown, Dakich was 89-57 (55-35 in MAC). Since his surprising return, he's 65-76 (33-48 in MAC).

He was rehired after his short absence and was later given a contract extension by athletic director Paul Krebs, who was definitely an ally. But Krebs is gone and a new athletic director, Greg Christopher, will be making the call this time. Maybe he's already envisioning his short list.

What Christopher has likely noticed during his eight months on the job is that there is little gray area regarding Dakich. People either love the guy or flat can't stand him.

Those in the latter camp point to Dakich's recent record (including last season's 9-21 free-fall), the high number of players who either have transferred or been booted from the program, attendance woes at Anderson Arena, and his sometimes cantankerous demeanor and salty tongue that reminds people of his mentor, Bob Knight.

Those who love him refer to the entire record, the belief that while he may be a tough guy to play for, he holds athletes accountable and molds boys into men, that all but two players who have stuck around for their entire eligibility have graduated, and that his perceived personality traits are merely colorful and more along the lines of affable and loyal once you get to know him. That description, too, is reminiscent of Bob Knight.

Those who do reside in the gray area - and that would include this writer - would point out that Dakich recruits to one of the two worst facilities in the MAC (and certainly the most antiquated, something that BG's administrators had best address in a timely fashion), that injuries are a valid excuse and have affected his team's performance in three of the last five seasons, that the current roster includes two seniors, one of whom averages just 14 minutes per game because of a chronic injury, and six first-year players, some of whom seem very promising. While that young group has been coming up short on the scoreboard it does not normally come up short on effort.

And, in the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that this gray-area guy finds Dakich pretty likeable.

So I'm glad that his future will be Christopher's call and not mine.

But the call should not be made now. It's far too early to write Dakich off because he can still save his job.

Stranger things have happened.

Ask Stan Joplin.



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