Asmussen | Criticize him all you want, but Dakich a fan of Underwood's Illini

Asmussen | Criticize him all you want, but Dakich a fan of Underwood's Illini

Dakich visits with WDWS Saturday at 10:15 a.m.

"This won't end well for Illinois."

That was ESPN2 analyst Dan Dakich right before Ayo Dosunmu's clutch three-pointer Tuesday night against Michigan State.

Dakich's words drew the ire of some Illinois fans. To be fair, he was commenting on the status of that particular play and not predicting the future.

During his Wednesday radio show in Indianapolis, Dakich welcomed Illinois coach Brad Underwood.

Dakich pointed to his own failure, calling himself an R-rated version of dope.

"Next thing you know, whap, a three," Dakich said. "That's a freshman doing that."

If Illinois fans want to peg Dakich Public Enemy No. 1, they should first read what he had to say about the current Illini team. And the future.

I talked to Dakich on Tuesday morning as he drove to C-U.

Before he saw a shot or rebound in the upset win over the ninth-ranked Spartans, Dakich had already made his mind up about the Illinois men's basketball team.

"I tell you what, Illinois is going to get pretty good, pretty fast," he said.

It had been a while since the former Bowling Green and Indiana coach called an Illinois game. The matchup against Michigan State was the first time Dakich got to watch Underwood's guys in person.

But he has seen them on tape. And Dakich is a fan.

"When I watch tape on a team, two things happen: They either start looking a lot better than I thought or they start looking a lot worse than I thought," Dakich said. "It happens almost every time."

Dakich's son, Andrew, now a grad assistant at Ohio State, told his dad: "Second half of the season, this is a dangerous team."

Dan agrees.

"I love the way they play," Dakich said. "I love their youth. I think they've got a couple guys that might be not only really good players, but great players in the league."

There are some unknowns. Starting with the status of freshman star Dosunmu.

"The NBA's sniffing around," Dakich said. "But with the big kid (Giorgi) Bezhanishvili, I like where they're headed."

Of course, there are no guarantees. Players get hurt. Or decide to transfer.

But ...

"They play hard, they're aggressive and they seem to be getting confident," Dakich said. "Everybody's back except for Aaron Jordan. They've got a real future here. I think it's going to be exciting."

Having Underwood as coach is a plus, Dakich said.

"I love what's he's trying to do," Dakich said. "I always have, going back to when he was a junior college coach.

"I like being on top of people defensively. Right now, a lot of people play off, play back. That's fine. It works for a lot of teams. But his is different. His is more like Coach (Bob) Knight tried to play, Coach (Gene) Keady tried to play."

When Illinois lured Underwood away from Oklahoma State, Dakich told athletic director Josh Whitman "great hire."

"I think it is and I think it will be," Dakich said. "It's going to take a minute or two to figure it all out. You can see them getting better."

Underwood holds people accountable, Dakich said.

"I think a lot of coaches make excuses for guys and I've never known Brad to be a guy who makes excuses for players."

Will his style work?

"Absolutely," Dakich said. "Who just won the Super Bowl? (Bill Belichick). That's all that guy does. He holds everybody accountable.

"A lot of coaches coming up are making the mistake of thinking they've got to be buddies and friends and all that kind of stuff. I don't think Brad's that. Brad's a coach, he's teacher, he's a tough guy and he holds people accountable. "

Different time

Dakich worked against Illinois as an Indiana assistant during Lou Henson's long, successful run. He watched Lon Kruger, Bill Self and Bruce Weber win at a high level.

The team has made only one NCAA tournament appearance since 2011.

"When I was working in the '90s with Coach Knight, we always felt Illinois and Michigan were two of the best jobs in the country (because of the talent in the states)," Dakich said. "Recruiting has really changed. Teams are more national now. I don't know that I ever thought Illinois would be where they are."

Most of the teams in the Big Ten have had a down cycle in past two decades. Except for Michigan State and Wisconsin.

"I guess it shouldn't surprise me," Dakich said.

The bounceback can happen in a hurry. Which is what Dakich projects at Illinois.

"I think they're going to go into next year as a team that should make the kind of jump that Iowa is making, where you are around the first four or five in the Big Ten," Dakich said.

Interested fan

Dakich is keeping an eye on Ohio State, where his son works for coach Chris Holtmann.

Dakich got to call some of his son's games during Andrew's Big Ten career. At rival schools.

Andrew Dakich originally went to Michigan before spending a season as a grad transfer at Ohio State.

Dan Dakich appreciates the kindness shown by coaches John Beilein and Holtmann.

"It was incredible," Dakich said. "The main thing for me was how cool John Beilein was.

"You read so much about the crap of college basketball. This was the other side. This was Beilein and his staff being awesome to a kid that just wanted a chance to play and Chris Holtmann giving him a chance. It was the time of my life watching that unfold."

Andrew plans to follow Dan into coaching.

"He's enjoyed the tough stuff of coaching, the late nights, the watching video," the elder Dakich said. "He's got a much better knack with people than anybody else in our family, including me."

Welcome back

Dakich visited State Farm Center on Tuesday night for the first time since the former Assembly Hall was renovated.

What did he think?

"It looks great to me," Dakich said. "The suites look great, the Krush area, everything. I'm sure the infrastructure is even better.

"Bob, this is awesome. I always thought it looked like a spaceship from the outside and a spaceship from the inside. But now it looks awesome."

He said it is one of the iconic buildings in the Big Ten.

"You've got to keep up with the Joneses so you've got to do something on the inside and they did," Dakich said. "State of the art."

Tuesday was also the first time Dakich has been back since the "spat."

Four years ago, Dakich got into a Twitter fight with then-Champaign Mayor Don Gerard. The mayor wasn't happy with a foul call against Illinois guard Jaylon Tate at Michigan State.

Dakich disagreed and said so on Twitter.

"Of course, my big mouth I have to come back at him," Dakich said.

Probably why Dakich is a popular radio host. He tells it like it is.

"Whatever happened to him, is he not the Mayor anymore?" Dakich said.

No, Deb Feinen is now in charge.

"Good," Dakich said.

Bob Asmussen can be reached at 217-351-5233 or by email at asmussen@news-gazette.com.

-