UK basketball notebook: ESPN's Dakich pulls no punches in first impression of Cats

Herald-Leader staff writerFebruary 1, 2014 

LSU celebrated a favorable call in the last minute of in the second half of the Kentucky at LSU men's basketball game at the Maravich Center in Baton Rouge, La.,, on Jan. 28, 2014. LSU beat Kentucky 87-82. Photo by Pablo Alcala | Staff

PABLO ALCALA — Lexington Herald-Leader Buy Photo

Andrew and Aaron Harrison "pouted every bit as much as they were playing."

Willie Cauley-Stein "needs to just shut up. Truthfully, he just needs to be quiet and nod his head."

John Calipari's rationale for refusing to play in Bloomington, which effectively killed the Kentucky-Indiana series? "He's giving me the load of crap that it's too dangerous. Which is crap. Some Playboy girl (Megan Dills) got her ankle hurt. Big deal."

Love him or hate him, Dan Dakich speaks his mind. He brought his refreshing candor to ESPN's telecast of Kentucky's game at LSU last week. That's when he questioned the twins' on-court demeanor, whether Cauley-Stein has accepted coaching from the UK staff and, perhaps most memorably, how the Cats merely played while LSU competed.

(The comment about the UK-IU series came earlier this season.)

"That's Dan," his mother, Roberta Dakich, said. "He's always spoken his mind."

Many commentators prattle on about the same old-same old: basketball minutiae, trite strategic decisions (foul on purpose when ahead by three points in the final seconds?) and, most importantly, who rates where on mock NBA drafts or on the various lists of high school prospects.

No B.S. artist, Dakich is plain spoken, direct and bracing.

"That's what happens when you're dumb," he said in deflecting a compliment with humor. "When you're dumb, you're not smart enough to lie."

Dakich is not dumb. He's brave.

"I don't really worry — I guess I should — about consequences," he said. "I was told to tell the truth and you'll be all right."

Dakich, who played for Indiana (1982-85) and was a team captain during his junior and senior seasons, credits his parents for inspiring his frankness.

"He may have gotten a lot of that from me," his father, Tom Dakich, said. "Not so much from his mother. His mother is kind of a nice person. I would never back off of anything."

Tom Dakich, whose father came to the United States from Serbia in 1907, played college basketball for Idaho State and Bowling Green in the 1950s. After college, he coached several sports, taught civics and later served as a school principal. Roberta taught third grade.

"We had a great competitive attitude and we did not like losing," Tom Dakich said in identifying something of a family trait. "And if we thought something was wrong, we'd speak up.

"But — but — not toward a coach or anyone else (in authority)."

So, it seems, Dakich's sense of justice was violated when he saw Cauley-Stein exchanging words with UK assistant Kenny Payne on the bench during the LSU game.

"I see a lot of guys with ability, because they don't listen to the coach, they end up in the D League or overseas when they should be in the NBA," Dakich said. "All you got to do is read Cal's bio. Cal's put a lot of guys in the NBA. Kenny Payne's working with the kid every day. The kid should be quiet and listen."

Nor does Dakich accept smirking as an acceptable player response. "That's all for children," he said. "You're playing at Kentucky, man. This is serious stuff to a whole lot of people. You represent a whole lot of people. If you don't want to do it their way, you're making a helluva mistake."

Apparently, at least some UK fans welcomed Dakich's sober appraisal of the Cats. John Hicks of Bardstown called The Herald-Leader to ask how to reach ESPN to ask for Dakich to work more Kentucky games.

"What I heard was absolutely the truth," Hicks said. "He made the game interesting."

Dakich, who usually works Big Ten games, said he did UK-LSU as part of an ESPN effort to broaden the commentators' horizons in preparation for the NCAA Tournament.

As for direct feedback, Dakich said he got a few "weird calls." But there has mostly been a positive reaction through social media.

"Kentucky people, No. 1, they know basketball," he said. "And No. 2, they know bad basketball."

Minutemen

Vanderbilt is down to seven scholarship players. So no surprise that some Vandy players are playing remarkable minutes.

Going into this weekend, guard Dai-Jon Parker had played the entire 40 minutes five times since league play began. Rod Odom did the same four times, and Kyle Fuller three.

The trio's average number of minutes in SEC games was 39.4 (Parker), 38.6 (Fuller) and 36.9 (Odom).

Assistant Director of Communications Andy Boggs noted that only one other player had played full 40 minutes in a league game this season: Alabama point guard Trevor Releford against LSU last weekend.

Parker and Odom had last gone to the bench for a breather with 1:27 left in the second half against LSU on Jan. 18. That meant a stretch of 120 consecutive game minutes with no rest.

"I'm not that tired," Parker said Thursday. "I think I'm pretty much in the best shape of my life. You can't be tired in the SEC, so I think I'm doing a pretty good job with that."

Parker, a junior guard from Baton Rouge, La., said that to acknowledge fatigue in the SEC is to invite a lack of concentration and zeal.

It's hard to put Parker's average of 39.4 minutes per league game into perspective. Neither the SEC nor the NCAA keeps statistics on minutes played.

In the last 10 years, the most minutes averaged by an SEC player for an entire season is 38.4 by Alabama's Ronald Steele in 2005-06.

Patrick Patterson may hold the Kentucky record for minutes played in SEC games. He averaged 38.9 minutes in 2007-08. Kenny Walker was another workhorse for UK. He averaged 37.6 and 37.7 minutes per league game in 1984-85 and 1985-86, respectively.

Given a Vandy-like short roster, Rick Pitino's first UK season of 1989-90 seemed a likely place to find Parker-like minutes. Deron Feldhaus averaged the most minutes in SEC play: 35.5.

Like most teams, Vandy players can signal when they need a rest. If a player raises a fist, that means take me out.

"I couldn't tell you the last time I did that," Parker said.

Parker wasn't sure whether Vandy Coach Kevin Stallings would acknowledge a raised fist. "He'd probably start talking and call a play," the player said.

Surely, Vanderbilt's minutemen would want to get rest during games.

"I would like to under ideal circumstances because we go hard the whole game," Parker said. "I can go as hard as I can for as long as I can.

"Once you take yourself out, you can put yourself back in. That's a good thing about Coach Stallings' philosophy. I don't really want to come out of a game, but sometimes you just need that blow."

Of course, all players want to play as much as they can. But Parker stopped short of agreeing that his average of 39.4 minutes per game represents too much of a good thing.

Competitors have noticed the minutes Parker plays, Fellow point guards Anthony Hickey of LSU and Fabyon Harris of Texas A&M know the mental and physical grind of the position. They've congratulated Parker for his perseverance.

"They just want to know how I do it," Parker said. "They're not jealous at all. They're supportive. That's what I like about our league. We love one another."

Oh those refs

In a recent blog, self-titled "Vol historian" Tom Mattingly recalled former Tennessee coach Kevin O'Neill.

"With just seconds to go, the ball went out of bounds in front of the Tennessee bench, and veteran official John Clougherty, who had done several Final Fours and other important contests, made the call it was Tennessee's ball," Mattingly wrote.

"There was a brief lull before the ball was marked ready for play. That's when O'Neill stepped in and shared a brief word with the official.

"'Isn't it a shame that we have these two great teams out here and this lousy group of officials?'" Mattingly quoted O'Neill as saying. "He didn't say 'lousy,' but if you knew Kevin, you get the picture."

BBN not boundless

Apparently, Winter Storm Leon did more than ice the Baton Rouge area. Leon proved that the Big Blue Nation is not boundless. The BBN had next-to-no presence in the Maravich Center for Kentucky's game at LSU last week.

When asked how many UK fans were at the game, LSU spokesman Kent Lowe said, "100 maybe. I would say their official party bus, player comps and I saw about 15 or 20 spread in other parts of the arena. They weren't as noticeable with 3,500 students going nuts the whole game to be honest."

Of course, the BBN could be applauded for staying away. The Baton Rouge Advocate reported later in the week that LSU chancellor F. King Alexander had second thoughts about playing the game Tuesday night. The decision to play was made at mid-afternoon. By 6 p.m., worsening conditions made a postponement seem the wisest course. But by then, it was deemed too late.

900 and counting

Syndicated columnist Norman Chad takes questions from readers. This question-and-answer at the end of last week's column caught the eye.

Reader Dan O'Brien of Chicago asked, "Mike Krzyzewski just got his 900th win at Duke. Would you let him coach your stepson extraordinaire Isaiah Eisendorf?"

To which, Chad replied, "I give Coach K credit — he had the better team in nearly 550 of those games; in the other 350 or so, Duke just got all the calls."

Like soup?

Reader Ernie Henniger of Harrodsburg regularly shares his observations. He expressed again his dislike of the so-called one-and-done rule in an email last week.

"College basketball is like a pot of soup," he wrote. "No matter how you select the ingredients, without proper seasoning it can leave a bad taste in your mouth."

The mind drifted to something George Costanza said in an episode of Seinfeld entitled "The Marine Biologist."

"The sea was angry that day, my friends," George said. "Like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli."

Happy birthday

To Truman Claytor. He turns 57 today. ... To Rick Robey. He turned 58 on Thursday. ... To Stan Key. He turns 64 today. ... To Josh Carrier. He turned 31 on Thursday. ... To Andre Riddick. He turned 41 on Saturday. ... To Walter McCarty. He turned 40 on Saturday.

Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Email: jtipton@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com.

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