Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Moving Forward

So Coach Dakich resigned yesterday.

The prevailing opinion seems to be that BGSU Athletic Director Greg Christopher told him that his contract would not be renewed, and gave him the option of resigning instead. I suppose that seems likely enough. Personally, I think it's just as likely that Christopher was giving Coach the runaround as far as actually meeting to discuss the possibility of an extension, and knowing it was probable that he wasn't going to be renewed anyway, Coach Dakich just decided to move on. I have nothing to base that on, of course, but given the way the athletic department seems to be operating these days, it wouldn't surprise me. And no matter how it went down, it all comes to the same.

BG's men's basketball team will have a new coach next season. Even though I knew that was almost certainly going to be the case, it still seems so strange to me. I came to BGSU the same year that Coach Dakich did, so to me, he is BGSU hoops. Of all the teams and programs I follow and cheer for, BG hoops is at the top of the list (at the very least it's 1A/1B with Troy football), and Coach Dakich is probably the main reason for that. As unlikely as it seemed, I was still holding out some small hope that he would get (and accept) another chance to move the program forward. So, needless to say, I have mixed feelings now that the expectation has become reality.

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of Coach Dakich. I loved the way his teams played balls-out all the time--even when they were overmatched, you knew they were going to put up a fight. I was struck by how much he cared for his players as people and students as well as athletes. I appreciated his straightforward, perhaps too honest approach to the media, and his sense of humor. When I finally got a chance to meet and talk to him a little bit last week (too little too late, I know), I saw for myself that he's just an all-around good guy. No matter where the Falcon basketball program goes from here, I'll miss having Coach Dakich in charge. I wish him all the best, and wherever he ends up (and I have no doubt that he'll land on his feet), that team will become my second favorite team behind the Falcons.

With all that said, now that he's definitively gone (I'm certain there's no change of heart in the offing, as there was last time), it's time for all parties to move forward, including me. I have to admit that I'm excited (that doesn't seem like quite the right word, but "interested" is too mild) to see where the program goes under someone else's direction. BG's men's basketball team hasn't been invited to the NCAA Tournament since 1968, and for those of you who don't want to do the math, that's a long damned time. Seeing the Falcons earn a tournament berth at some point is more important to me than it probably should be, and if a new coach has the magic it takes to get us there, then I suppose I'm in favor of it.

I just hope that the administration does this right. At this point I'm not exactly confident in their ability to do so, but I'm more than willing to be swayed. It's not as simple as finding the right coach for the program. I mean, the coach before Coach Dakich was Jim Larranaga; he couldn't take the Falcons to the tournament in his eleven years at the helm, and yet he managed to take George Mason to the Final Four last year. So it goes beyond the coach.

If the administration is serious about having a successful basketball program, there needs to be a serious financial commitment to the program. First off, they need to offer enough money to be able to hire and retain a good head coach and good assistants. Secondly, BGSU really needs (and I don't use that word lightly) a new basketball arena. I love Anderson Arena, absolutely love it, but it's an old, small, run-down building that is a nightmare to sell to recruits. Coach Dakich told me flat-out when we met last week that it's nearly impossible to sign a player that's getting any kind of interest from other programs due to the building. So let's not saddle the new guy with that burden from the start. Obviously, a new building is not going to be in place for next season, but getting a project started would give the new coach something to sell to recruits. I really wish we could have gotten a new arena for Coach Dakich, as I would love to see what he could have done in that situation, but I suppose that's beside the point. Now, I have no idea where the money for all of this is going to come from, but that's for someone else to figure out.

It's slightly off-topic, but I want to address one thing that is driving me crazy about BG's new athletic director, Greg Christopher. I read today that he wouldn't take questions during his press conference yesterday to announce Coach Dakich's resignation, and he also said he would have no further comments on the situation until the coaching vacancy is filled. Would a little openness hurt anything? I mean, we're talking about college sports here, not the goddamned nuclear codes. It's kind of the same thing with the football scheduling problems we seem to be having. Christopher is taking a ton of flak from Falcon fans who understandably want to know what's going on (myself obviously included). It just seems to me that he could provide some occasional insight, make people feel better, and save himself some headaches. Then again, what the hell do I know?

You can rest assured that I will almost certainly have further comments during the coaching search, especially as speculation and rumors begin to fly. The next few weeks will be an interesting time to be a BGSU fan.

We'll miss you, Coach. You'll always be a Falcon to me.

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