Bloomington, Ind. – What might have appeared to be a mutiny to some on the outside was no big deal to Dan Dakich on the inside.
When the recently-named interim head coach started his first practice as IU's coach last Friday, he did so without six players in attendance. D.J. White, Jamarcus Ellis, DeAndre Thomas, Brandon McGee, Armon Bassett and Jordan Crawford were all no-shows for that session, prompting many on-lookers to call into question plenty of the absentees.
But to Dakich, their absences weren't nearly as concerning as they were to many others. He knew that they had found out 3 ½ hours earlier that the coach that recruited many of them and guided all of them to a 22-4 start to the season was out, and some degree of discord was understandable.
"When they didn't come, we ran practice because we're going to Northwestern," Dakich said Monday during his first Big Ten teleconference. "But I also knew the kind of kids they are and I know how much the season means to them, and I knew they'd be back."
And that's exactly what happened. Dakich said the staff starting receiving text messages from the missing players at around 6-6:30 asking about walk-throughs and reassuring them they'd be there when it was time to depart for Northwestern. During face-to-face meetings, the players also let him know that their absence was because of the situation and not the administration's decision to put him in charge.
"It's hard for kids all of a sudden to say, ‘we lost our coach 25 games into the season, now let's go have a real good practice,'" Dakich said. "When I sat down with kids and the team, it was, ‘coach, this isn't about you. This is about our feels about the situation.'
"I knew that. These kids have been great to me all year. They've been great to Coach (Ray McCallum). They've been great to Coach (Jeff) Meyer."
Everyone did return and was on the bus for the trip to Northwestern, which ended in a down-to-the-wire, emotional 85-82 win over the Wildcats that kept the Hoosiers in the running for a Big Ten title with four games remaining.
After some of the dust had settled, Dakich said he finally had a chance to hear about some of the reactions to the players' absences, and it caught him by surprise.
"I'm amused by adults saying how kids should react, especially adults that don't deal with kids on a daily basis," Dakich said.
"You're an 18-22 year old kid. You've worked everyday since August, since last summer, since last year with a coach that's brought you to the point of 22-4 and now he's gone. That's hard.
"I'm 45 years old and been through a few things, and it wasn't easy for me. I've been around kids long enough to know how difficult that was for them and I understood."
Reaction to Absences Surprises Dakich
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