Dakich’s Dilemma

Dan Dakich watched in dismay as his BGSU men’s team suffered through an eight-game losing streak to end its worst season in 20 years.

During that span he dealt with a team that had seemingly burnt itself out with several close defeats and off-court drama.

But as painful as the final month was for Dakich, it didn’t compare to the way he felt two weekends ago when watching the final three rounds of the Mid-American Conference tournament on TV.

“I hate not playing when other people are playing,” Dakich said Thursday in his office on the second floor of Anderson Arena.

And he wasted no time in making sure the University has a court side seating arrangement for the bulk of next year’s league tournament. March 7, the day after the Falcons were eliminated from the MAC tournament in a 77-52 opening round loss to Toledo, Dakich packed his bags and hit the recruiting trail, attempting to erase this year’s debacle from memory.

“The basketball program had a bad year, but I believe it’s as much on the upswing as anytime that I have been here,” he said.

And in his case, it better be. He’ll enter the final season of a five-year contract having done little recently to warrant an extension. His future could rest heavily on the senior leadership of John Floyd, Patrick Phillips, Matt Lefeld and Martin Samarco. Historically, when Dakich has had a senior-laden team, its been successful. This year, though, the team had just one in Mawel Soler, who never asserted himself in a leadership capacity.

“I think we have a good nucleus coming back, and I’m really excited about our team,” he said. “I think we’re headed absolutely in the right direction without question.”

But losing players from the program remains an epidemic for the Falcons. Back-up point guard Perrick “Moon” Robinson recently became the 13th player to leave early under Dakich’s watch, and Steven Wright, the team’s second leading scorer this year, walked out following a home loss to Kent State on Feb. 21.

Dakich and Wright have not spoken since that interaction, when according to Dakich, Wright said, “No offense to you coach,” before leaving Dakich’s office.

When asked if there’s a chance Wright will return to the team, Dakich’s response indicated that there could be a chance for reconciliation between the two, but the first step has yet to be made.

“I’ve had a lot of talks with Steve, father to son, but I have not talked to him since he left,” Dakich said. “I love the kid. I think that everybody involved in the basketball program has really tried to help Steve, and I still love Steve on a personal level.”

Dakich understands how problematic it can be to a team’s growth when players routinely leave a program, but he’s also quick to note that many players have migrated to BG after having falling outs with their former team. Dakich is already getting inquires from potential transfers who could eventually end up at BGSU next fall. Floyd and Samarco both began their careers elsewhere, and Nate Miller, who Dakich raves about, came in from UNC-Wilmington in January and will be eligible for the spring semester.

Dakich is hoping Miller and Lionel Sullivan, who was academically ineligible this year, will grow to become impact post players. They’ll be joined by fellow first-year players Ryan Sims, a 6-1 point guard from Fort Wayne, Ind., and Marc Larsen, a 6-9 forward from Mattawan,

Mich., both whom will graduate from high school this spring. Dakich also intends to sign two more players via transfer, or from the ranks of high school, prep school or junior college. National Signing Day is April 15, but Dakich will take as much time necessary to find players he believes will address the team’s needs.

“We want to bring in two kids that can help next year’s group,” he said.

And next year’s group certainly isn’t short on potential. Samarco was the second leading scorer in the MAC, and Lefeld showed steady improvement despite chronic foot problems. Freshmen Darryl Clements and Brian Moten played valuable minutes as the season progressed, and classmate Erik Marschall has the potential to dominate games down the road.

Like their coach, the Falcons have already begun to put this year behind them in hopes of significantly improving on a 9-21 record and last place finish in the MAC East. They’ve been seen shooting around at Anderson, and Dakich is confident this year’s failures will provide plenty of motivation for the team.

“I’m hoping these guys understand you went through a really tough time, it didn’t kill you,” he said. You have two choices, you can quit or you can work harder at it.”