MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia fans peeved over the dearth of tickets for Tuesday’s NIT game at Georgetown can find another griping point when tuning into ESPN’s broadcast: Dan Dakich is doing color commentary.
“I catch hell all the time from a variety of fan bases, one of which is West Virginia,” Dakich said during a good-natured phone call Monday afternoon. “I totally get it. I understand.”
And he gets why Mountaineer Nation might be more inflamed than others.
He was WVU’s basketball coach for all of eight days in 2002, before a close-up view of the program’s obstacles had him returning to Bowling Green. Out of coaching and into broadcasting since 2008, Dakich’s polarizing opinions have flowed freely. He infamously tweeted last year that West Virginia would be celebrating two national titles had he stayed.
“When people come firing at me, generally my policy is not a smart one … but I figure out how to fire back,” he said. “I understand that people on Twitter are generally 18- to 25-year-olds that don’t know their ass from third base, I get that. But still, it’s sometimes fun to fire back at them.
“Instead of just sitting there and taking it, you kind of figure what will stick it back to these people where there will be no response. And you can’t really respond to something as stupid as saying we would have already won two national championships.”
Even more infamous than his chain-jerking tweet were Dakich’s assertions to writer Pete Thamel for a 2012 New York Times piece on former Mountaineer player-turned-drug-felon Jonathan Hargett. An article in which Dakich recalled his brief stay at WVU and claimed to find “a culture of dishonesty” that extended all the way up to then-president David Hardesty. Dakich said he and his then-wife met with Hardesty to spotlight Hargett being promised $60,000 to play for the Mountaineers, and he recalled the president warning, “If you go any further with this, we’ll destroy you.”
At the time of the article Hardesty denied making the threat, though being 10 years removed from the conversation he couldn’t recall the precise exchange. Two years even further along, on the eve of Dakich working courtside at WVU-Georgetown, the ex-coach labeled the episode “a dead issue.” Though not-so-dead that Dakich would decline a chance to reiterate his claim.
“I know Hardesty told Pete (Thamel) he was going to lawyer up, but there was no chance he was going to get lawyers, because he would not have had the truth on his side,” Dakich said. “What Hardesty says or anybody else says doesn’t make any difference to me or my ex-wife, because we were there. We know exactly what happened.
“We understand that people need to cover their back sides and talk big and all that kind of stuff. But when Hardesty told Pete that he was going to lawyer up, my first response was, ‘Let’s go. That would be fun. Let’s do it.’”
That quote seems to sum up Dakich’s Myers Briggs makeup: always frank, typically unrelenting and occasionally combative. He’s glad he no longer copes with the physical maladies that followed his worst nights as a coach—”I can’t handle losing,” he admitted. There’s less second-guessing when it comes to providing game commentary or working the mic at his daily ESPN radio show.
“I figure ESPN hired me because I do have an opinion … and I think it’s an informed opinion,” he said.
His opinion regarding Tuesday night’s matchup?
“It’s who wants to be there. I went down to Miami (for an NIT broadcast) a couple years ago and they no more wanted to be in that game than the man in the moon. And neither did their fans, so they got beat.
“I know this: We’ll figure out within five minutes of the game who’s going to win the game. just base on who wants to be there and who doesn’t. You can tell that pretty quickly.”