3-22-2017 | mark Whicker | THE L.A. daily newS | ARTICLE LINK
Dan Dakich has seen five Indiana coaches come and go, including himself.
“One thing people need to remember,” he said. “Coaching Indiana never ends well.”
In fact, he makes Indiana sound a lot like UCLA, without the Land Rovers.
Dakich played at Indiana, famously defending Michael Jordan in a 1984 NCAA Tournament upset, and then coached at Bowling Green.
He was Indiana’s interim coach when Kelvin Sampson was fired, and he got the Hoosiers into the NCAA Tournament but wasn’t retained.
He does Indianapolis sports-talk and analyzes Big Ten games for ESPN. His son Andrew plays at Michigan and was in that plane crash before the Big Ten tournament.
Dakich also lambasted Bob Knight, his former coach, when Knight wouldn’t let his animus toward university officials allow him to attend the 40th reunion of the undefeated 1976 NCAA champs.
So Dakich knows which way the sycamores bend.
And he knows Steve Alford.
“I was here before him and I’ve been here after him,” Dakich said, “and there’s never been anyone at Indiana who’s been more popular than Steve.”
Alford coaches UCLA into the NCAA’s Final 16 for the third time in his four seasons, beginning Friday.
The difference here is the Bruins have a chance to survive the Memphis minefield — even with Kentucky, North Carolina and Butler in the building — and reach the Final Four and win that.
The other difference is that the Indiana job is waiting there like an easy chair on the beach. Tellingly, it remains empty.
Athletic Director Fred Glass stressed his desire for a Hoosier at the helm. That would seem to narrow the field to Alford, Michigan State assistant Dane Fife and three former NBA head coaches: Mike Woodson and Lawrence Frank, both Clippers assistants, and Randy Wittman.
“The Indiana family, those on the inside, would definitely want him,” Dakich said. “Whether that means he’ll come is another question.”
There has rarely been a better time to coach Indiana.
The Hoosiers were 7-11 in the Big Ten yet lose only one senior from a roster rich enough to beat Kansas and North Carolina.
Knight, and his shadow, departed 17 years ago.
Glass is a lawyer and an IU nostalgist who got his bachelor’s degree in 1981, a championship year for the Hoosiers.
Assistant AD Scott Dolson was a manager on Alford’s Hoosier teams and is a close friend.
And there has rarely been a better time to leave UCLA.
Lonzo Ball, Bryce Alford, Isaac Hamilton and probably TJ Leaf are playing their final college games.
LiAngelo Ball, the middle brother, is part of another heralded recruiting class, but what if he doesn’t have Lonzo’s impact, and isn’t used the way LaVar Ball prefers?
That could cause hypertension, as will the inevitable letdown. No possible 2018 Bruins team will be as lethal or captivating as this one.
And that would remind the angry amnesiacs in UCLA’s base that Alford gave back a year of his contract last spring and apologized for a losing season.
Somebody paid a pilot to fly over Westwood with a “Fire Alford” streamer.
Alford could perform a double-pump payback by flying home, particularly if he has an NCAA title ring.
But Dakich does not think Alford thinks that way.
He says Alford actually got a perverse kick out of the enemy aircraft, because he thrives under incoming fire, as does his oft-criticized son.
The family reaction is not “buzz off.” It’s “game on.”
“It’s weird,” Dakich said. “I’m the same way. I guess when you play for Coach Knight you get that way. You kind of enjoy it when it gets tough.”
Marty Simmons, the Evansville coach who played at IU when Alford did, says Alford is more than comfortable in Westwood.
“I’ve heard him say nothing except how much he and his family love it there,” Simmons said. “He was honored when UCLA called him. He enjoys it. But people here still hold him in the same esteem.”
And nobody really thinks the money is a stumbling block, either, even though Alford would owe UCLA $7.8 million if he leaves before April, and the Hoosiers owe Crean $4 million if he doesn’t get another job.
“We have penny millionaires here,” Dakich said. “They have real millionaires out there (L.A.).
“We have people who put up $50 and think that entitles them to be in the Cabinet. But if it’s supposed to happen I don’t think that will get in the way.”
The more the Bruins win, the tougher the call. But because Alford knows the nature of applause, and especially how it sounds when it stops, he wins either way.