Dan Dakich and Don Fischer talk toughness, fragility

  • 01/25/2011 11:53 am in

If you’re not following us on Twitter, you might have missed the link I tossed out last night to a podcast of Don Fischer’s weekly appearance on The Dan Dakich Show.

This segment is a must-listen each week for IU fans as Fischer and Dakich offer candid analysis. A lot of interesting stuff, but nothing more so than the following:

Dakich: This is the wrong thing to say, OK, but this is what real coaching is. When the season’s over, there’s gonna have to be a couple of these guys make a decision on whether or not they want to stay here. And there might actually be a couple of them that the decision’s going to be made for ’em. There’s too much fragility, mentally, among some of these guys and you know what? Some of them aren’t freshmen. There’s not freshmen and at some point, you know what, hey, we’re paying about about 30 grand a year to come here and do this and if everything’s so fragile, maybe the MAC’s for you, not the big time.

Fischer: (Laughs)

Dakich: I mean, truthfully.

Fischer: (Laughs) No, the reason I’m laughing Dak is because now I don’t have to say it.

Dakich: Well, it’s true. (Laughs) Hey, every game, big life, big stage, Big Ten, right?

Fischer: That’s right. (Laughs)

Dakich: It’s a big stage, Indiana basketball.

Fischer: That’s exactly right and the frustration level is at probably an all-time high in the sense of how this coach and his staff are looking at it right now, I can tell you that.

Dakich: The problem is, nowadays, then the guy goes to the paper: “well, Crean kicked me off.” Yeah, well, tough.

Fischer: Trust me, whatever they say now, everybody ought to be saying the same thing. “Really?”

Dakich: Really. It seems to me they’ve given you a pretty good shot here for a couple of years.

Fischer: Holy cow, have they ever.

Dakich: You know, players kind of have you during the season. But I’ll tell you what, the minute that final buzzer goes off, “Alright, really? I just made a call to Ball State, congratulations, you can be a Cardinal if you’d like.”

Fischer: (Laughs) No, you’re right Dak. This team is fragile, there’s no question about it and it’s unfortunate that we just don’t have that guy.

Dakich: Let me ask you something. Let me ask you something, Fish.

Fischer: Sure.

Dakich: Because you come off as the nicest guy ever and you are. But I’ve played golf with you and you’re a competitive guy, OK. Like, the whole grandfatherly, yeah, rah, IU thing is great.

Fischer: Yeah, it’s all BS.

Dakich: So let me just ask you a question. Because I know I am. Aren’t you tired of saying, “these guys are so fragile.” I mean, at some point, they’ve gotta decide that, you know, we all have to quit making excuses for them and I’m including myself.

Fischer: Oh, I know. That’s where it’s at right now. It’s to a point where we have been as nice as we can possibly be and now it’s about time to get real. These guys just don’t get it for whatever reason. And I feel bad for them in that sense because when you don’t get it, then you’re sitting there going, “What?” But the what is, hey, you’re not tough enough. But if you don’t understand what toughness is, and we’re not talking about getting into somebody’s face and punching them, we’re talking about mental toughness here. That’s where it all boils down. And this team is not mentally tough. It’s that simple.

Filed to:

  • HoosierFromCT

    ESPN should hire you to take over recruiting. Buss has been playing really well. I see some EJ him.

    Another question…. is Indiana Elite going to play together again this summer? I’m not sure how the whole thing works but all I know is not only instant talent will be coming in but instant chemistry as well.


    no: scholarships are for 4 years of playing over 5 years of eligiblity. redshirting is condsidered a year. further they are renewed yearly.only way to open one up is for someone to leave the program.

  • Mariner

    As is typical, the answer likely lies somewhere in between. This coaching staff requires mostly thoroughbreds-coaches to those types of abilities, but had to recruit a full roster and may have brought in a few twinks to fill the seats on the bench. Most here really do seem respectful but we have all been taught over the years to be a might intolerant of less than stellar effort or toughness.

    I hear your fear but not many recruits (quantifiable?) have left programs because of lulu bloggers like us.

  • Swishmac IU

    I have asked this a couple of times, what happens to GMM’s scholarship after this year?

  • It doesn’t count against the scholarship limit of 13.

  • HPERrat11

    I see many folks on this and other boards giving props to Dakich and praising his wisdom. He was a head coach. He is no longer a head coach. He is now a talking head. Why is he not a head coach? Just sayin.

    As for IU’s troubles in general. Two of the top four scorers out of the game. A third (Hulls) puking at halftime. The balance of the roster…..the bigs (if you can call two guys who are 6-8 bigs these days) are severealy limited. One (Elston) has a decent mid-range game, but not much in the post and has trouble on d. The other (Pritchard) has lay-up range, appears to fear getting the ball anywhere on the court and provides decent d but a history of foul trouble. One guard (Rivers) is outstanding defender but limited on offense, another (Roth) is a great spot up shooter but offers little else. Then you have two freshmen who have some nice ability but are quite raw/inconsistent and the rest of the crew is roster filler.

    Please note that I am not trying to dog these players. In fact, I am a bit disturbed by the number of adults who have no problem bashing teenage kids who are in most instances trying their best. I give them a world of credit for taking on the rebuilding challenge.

    As for Crean…..can’t really tell yet what he can do. First year doesn’t count – that team might not have won the intramural title. Could they play better, sure. I think the jury is out until at least Zeller’s junior year. Not an apologist, just a realist. Sometimes I wish Crean would quit and then see who you get in his place. Big name – not likely given the situation. I at least applaud the guy for taking on a train wreck and working his butt off to turn things around.

  • Anonymous

    I love it! Thanks for making me laugh as usual and after reading a lot of these downer posts. At the same time I also completely agree with you – IU could use this guy.

  • Anonymous

    I love it! Thanks for making me laugh as usual and after reading a lot of these downer posts. At the same time I also completely agree with you – IU could use this guy.

  • BFowler

    That is one thing you could easily say about Coach Knight’s players. If they hung around for more than a year or two, they were mentally tough, or crazy. I am not a Knight apologist nor do I wish he were still here, but if the criticism is mental toughness, he had that down.

    As far as this team goes, I think it would be hard ot be mentally tough when you have a culture of losing. The culture and history is what it is. You are in one of the great men’s basketball traditions of all time, you have not met your or anyone else’s expectations and you have a culture of losing so far. No one on this team has won consistently at Indiana. The culture is losing right now. Someone needs to be tough enough to overcome that and lead others in that direction. Culture comes from leadership and we talk all the time about leadership, but what does that say about the hired leaders of the program?

  • HPERrat11

    Forgot to add Watford. Pretty nice skill set, obviously still needs to develop physically. He and VJIII are two of the unfortunate teenage receipients of the venom sometimes spewed by the rabid fan base. Bottom-line is I see a very young, limited roster with no margin for error. Actually, they have played pretty darned good at times recently (Michigan, Wisky). Enough with my diatribe.

  • Anonymous

    Agree 100%

  • Anonymous

    Great post and very much welcomed at this point in the season. Had a nice mental picture by the 3rd sentence. Hell I’d take a guy with half of those qualifications.

    That may just be the best description of what this team needs that I have ever seen posted on ITH. If Alex has an “instantly classic post folder” on his computer somewhere this one most assuredly makes into it.

  • Anonymous

    I think there is toughness on this team – I’ve seen it at times from everyone. I will beat the same dead horse I have been lately – the problem imo is sustaining the toughness for the entire 40 minutes (or 2 hours + whatever) of basketball on the court. Playing hard for parts of the game is not close to playing hard and to your ability during every second of every single possession. It’s a game of inches – a small number of possessions can ultimately affect the outcome of the game. They seem to let up way way way too often whether it be at the beginning of the game, the end of the game, or some stretch in the middle.

  • cooper

    Agree but if he is going to call for players heads he should show the guts to call out who he is talking about

    part of the toughness issue is Crean saying over and over you don’t realize how bad it was. Plus saying how the team misses VJ and Creek just gives more excuses for players to wilt

    no more talk about the past and no talk about injured players will help with toughness

  • Kelin Blab

    If nothing else the conversation between Dak and Fish was entertaining if you heard it. They just verbalized alot of things many of us thought or were thinking.

    One thing I thought about and don’t have an answer for is….

    Do you want the NIT or CBI tourney this year and improve with this group……
    Do you want a ‘flex’, motion type offense, and those kids who are elite athletes are wearing Baylor (Hanner), Illannoy (Buss), UK (Lyles), and Notre Dame (Yogi) uniforms.

    Tough call but I take the 2nd option and sack up this year and next….

  • Anonymous

    For all the CTC haters, just think if the Duke fans got rid of coach K after his first 3 years ( 17-13, 10-17,11-17) and he was left with a decent team. Give it time. We will be back on top. It is INDIANA!!!

    GO IU!!!!!

  • RobD

    he does LOOK like him, in the face, and body structure. but watford is playing out of position and trying whatever he can to get things going down low. i feel for that kid more than any other player on the roster. what else is he supposed to do? his only help down low: pritchard, elston, capobianco. what would you do?

  • Anonymous

    What this team lacks more than anything is a bona fide leader. There’s just not a single person on this team that everyone looks to in a crisis situation. I think that’s been one of the biggest factors to our inconsistent play and inability to display mental toughness.

    Another result is that this team lacks any semblance of an identity. You can’t rely on a coach to be your leader and provide your identity. Someone has to be the vocal leader on the court and then the team as a whole has to develop its identity. Honestly, I wish we had a junior or senior with the attitude and passion for the game that Will Sheehey displays.

  • Kelin Blab

    Smitty what I don’t understand is ‘why’ they sill lack a leader. These guys are not perfect but surely someone has some leadership skills…..I know Hulls does, I believe VJ does, and even Mo Creek…..just don’t get why no one has taken that opportunity on this team. Hell if need be I will be the leader….

  • Anonymous

    Another characteristic mentioned in a post a while back is that the guy also needs to have a lazy eye–talk about scaring the hell out of everybody. You can never be sure but you hope he isn’t looking at you.

    Just let him off the leash at game time and feed him raw meat at the training table.

  • InTheMtns

    Smitty, I agree with you about this being one of the biggest factors to our inconsistent play and toughness.
    I listen to the pod casts of all 11 men’s team coaches, as well as a couple of the women’s team coaches, each week on bigten.org and I’ve listened to Dak’s interviews with several coaches on his show. The importance of – and/or the struggles with – leadership on their teams has been mentioned several times. We’re not the only team struggling with team leadership but it definitely seems like the coaches that mention it as a struggle right now are the teams at the bottom of the league.

  • InTheMtns

    Kelin, the “why” sure seems to be a puzzle, doesn’t it. I’ve been wondering lately if maybe we do actually have some leaders on the team, but they are incomplete leaders. As many on ITH have mentioned, we have guys with some talent, but none of them have a complete game. Maybe that’s true about their leadership skills as well.

    The other thought I’ve had is not only does someone need to lead, but the others have to follow. If you tell guys to play harder and then you turn the ball over, maybe others stop listening to you. If you get on someone about their defense and they hate playing defense and score way more points than you do, maybe they don’t listen to you because they think they’ll make it up in points. Maybe our problem is leaders AND followers.

  • Abpreston

    Boy it is about time this was brought up! There is a time to step up and play with pride. As they say now a days ….Man UP! CTC first team played with more pride and b**lls and they only won 5 or 6 games! If the players gave 100% and were only 10-10 then it would not be because they didn’t give 100% and played the best they could. We can not say that today!!!!!!!

    Hoosier fan for Life!

  • Anonymous

    Alex, I greatly appreciate how the site is run with class. At least for myself, it’s a very big reason why I’ve followed the site (and then finally registered to post).

  • HPERrat11

    I am not suggesting he would not be in trouble at that point if they are not in the national conversation. I just believe that it will take until the 2012 guys are sophmores to really determine if Crean can coach. Hyped as they are, I don’t necessarily expect all the younger guys to make an immediate impact. You just never know with young players (e.g. Harrison Barnes and Josh Selby who are both struggling despite being considered 2 of the top 3 freshmen recruits). By then, Crean will have some talent in the system with upper class leadership. If they are still getting hammered by Iowa when CZ is junior – we have a problem.

  • Anonymous

    I think some of what you say is a bit off base. I sincerely doubt that the players who came here to play for CTC were not aware of what type of offense Crean expected them to run. I am pretty sure he makes that part of his presentation to these guys since it seems to be so important to him. It certainly is not a departure from his previous preferences. He wants an uptempo offense and defense. The players who came in early knew they were expected to play hard, even through tough stretches when they would probably lose a lot of games (and did.) If these guys came in thinking they would be running RMK’s motion offense, they were obviously smoking some Cheech and Chong stuff. I’m not going to lie and say that I’m excited about running that offense with these players, but I also don’t think the players were blind to what would be expected of them coming into it.

    Also, some of your assertions could be a simple case of which came first, the chicken or the egg? Do CTC and staff tell them to switch and double-team because they can’t run through screens or can they not run through screens because they’ve been taught to double-team and switch?

    I’m not so keen on blaming it all on the players or all on the coach. I imagine there is some dysfunction going on behind the scenes based on the erratic nature of their play this season. It could be growing pains, bad coaching, bad attitudes, etc. I feel like this particular thread is disrespectful to the team, and I’m not very excited about this type of airing of grievances in the middle of the season. It is one thing to come on here and air out some frustrations about missed plays and speculate on the nature of practices and what might have happened if X player had done this or CTC had called that play. It is another thing to be in a position of privilege (i.e. having the opportunity to speak to the team, watch them practice) and use your bully pulpit to dog the team. I think this could have been a radio topic “when the season’s over.”

  • Anonymous

    I think you’re right, Stonaroni, in that it’s probably a better indicator of talent to look at scholarship offers than recruiting service rankings.

  • stonaroni

    He is 6’9″ and should be better defensively. I want to see him be the leader the rest of the season.

  • stonaroni

    It would make sense, right? Believe me, AE had Purdue, NW, Mich, OSU, Tennessee, Georgia, Texas and Florida very interested in him as a Soph in HS and he committed early. he would have had many more offers. Then you look at a guy with mid major offers ranked higher….doesn’t make sense.

    Buss, had solid offers too and committed early. Buss would have had so many more offers, combo guards are at a premium. In fact, both he and AE would have moved up the boards had they not committed.

  • Anonymous

    I had this drilled into my head as a kid by my dad, who was good enough to get played to play the game for a few years.

    A favorite example of his was when Pitino coached our southern neighbors. There was a lot of talk about how great Pitino was, and how he developed such a great system. Well, with the talent he had, you’re gonna win with whatever system you choose. And he was basically just doing a variation on what Branch McCracken did decades before, not some invention.

    Pitino’s true greatness was helping the Bluegrass State to rip-off what Hoosiers had done a half-century before them.

  • stonaroni

    Indiana Elite will be in existence again this summer. Guys like AE and CZ will be at IU in June for summer work outs, but the 2012 class like Yogi, HP, Buss, and PJ will be playing together.

    Keep in mind all of these kids are in Indiana so it is not uncommon for them to get together and play in Indy or Bloomington for open gyms and scrimmages.

    I would gladly do the recruiting for ESPN, would be fun.

    Buss is VO, but better! That is scary!

  • Anonymous

    It’s like Coach Whiner’s team in the knock-off Hall to the west of Indiana. They sould be a top-5 team nationally with the talent they have. However, the temperament of that team has cost them many games over the past 3 years. They’re nothing Whiner can do about the fact that his team will fold on random nights, he’s stuck till they graduate and guys like Jeremi Richmond take over.

  • Anonymous

    Funny timing Kelin, as I read Pat Forde’s latest column where he touches on the issue of “program potential”.


  • Anonymous

    Dakich had nothing to do with that team imploding

  • Bbanta

    So you post a conversation all about players needing to be transfered, but we can’t talk about who? Cake, can I have; and may I eat as well?

  • Beard

    My apologies I certainly did not intend to be out of line. Would it be possible then to discuss the number of estimated players Dakich thinks will leave? Not names specifically. The reason I say that is if someone leaves you would hope they are replaced with a better player. I think at this juncture it is going to be hard to see how any of the top 8 players leaving would benefit this team at all. I just don’t think that there is much chance that a freshman who is not yet signed would come in and be a bigger contributor in the ’11-’12 season. So from my perspective I certainly hope that no one leaves. And especially I hope that all the guys who are sophomores this year stick around for the entire four years. They still have an opportunity to leave a mark on the university as the class that got IU basketball back on the map. I hope they see it that way.

  • I posted a transcript of what Dakich and Fischer said because I felt it was of interest to our readers. As has always been the policy here, there will be no speculative posts about specific players transferring.

  • Diesel

    I think CTC has been a player’s coach, encouraging, that sort of thing because there haven’t been a lot of options the past couple of years. In the media, he is behind his players 100%. This was the precedent.

    Then he pulled Watford at Northwestern. Then after the Iowa debacle he calls out some of the players. I think we seeing a quicker trigger and a more firm approach with these guys moving forward.

  • Diesel

    Fantastic. I’m not following anyone who isn’t willing to D up their man, get on the floor, and play with 100% effort. If he’s not doing that, he’s not the leader.

    I posted this late into the Iowa thread, a tweet from ESPN’s Pat Forde during the Wisconsin game:

    “Christian Watford not exactly a get-on-the-deck guy when there’s a loose ball to be had”

  • Diesel

    Anyone watch Notre Dame and Pitt last night? I just caught the highlights, but man how freaking tough is Ben Hansborough? That guy just oozes toughness. It might help that his brother’s name is Psycho. He was not about to let his team lose. Loved it. We need a guy like that.

    Even caught Brey on the sidelines clapping several times, not sure how Ben could be that tough with all the clapping going on.

  • Diesel

    Casey, you’ve been nailing it the past few days. Thanks.

  • Anonymous

    Agreed. It’s a disturbing question. I know we don’t have many juniors or seniors, but you don’t have to be an upperclassmen to lead. Maybe there’s stuff that goes on behind the scenes that we don’t see, but I guarantee if you put these guys in separate interrogation rooms, we’d have a lot of different answers to the question “Who is this team’s leader?” The follow up of “How do they show it?” would probably be filled with a lot of silence.

  • Anonymous

    I agree. I shudder to think that our basketball program and even the fans now to some extent have the same losing mentality that’s plagued the football team since…well…forever.

  • MillaRed

    In AE, I’m thinking Blake Hoffarber from Minnesota with a better handle and better driving ability.

  • Anonymous

    I second what Diesel said.

  • Brian Evans

    here is one point no one else has brought up.


    It is obviously not 100% his fault, but he should claim 100% responsibility. That would motivate the players. But instead, crean is always saying, “this team isnt tough enough yet, this team doesn have enough energy, focus, etc.” He is right about all these things, but what needs to follow after is: and its my responsibility to teach them these things and its my fault they arent displaying it. When he is in the locker room, he can blame them and berade them all he wants, and he should. but to the media, he needs to blame himself.

    I watched a documentary film on andy reid the nfl coach and was most taken aback by one thing- how his players responded to him always taking responsibility for losses with the media. His players loved him, they fought for him, and were fiercely loyal to him. In my sports experience the opposite happens when coaches pass the buck to players. The players, in turn, respond by blaming the coaches and questioning their coaching scheme and coaching abilities, by not buying into the system and not wanting to defend the coaches honor by their play. This seems to be happening with this IU team, it looks like a team that has given up on its coach.

  • Anonymous

    To me it appears that coach is losing the squad and they are tuning him out. They are just going through the motions much of the time, especially on D. If Dakich’s views are shared by Crean I would not be surprised to see three transfers after the season ends. If that happens next year could be ugly too.

  • InTheMtns

    Many of us have gotten pretty discouraged since the Iowa blowout. Although Ohio State’s ripping of Purdue probably put at least part of a smile back on our faces. The inconsistency of our team right now has us troubled but at least we aren’t dealing with players problems like Michigan State and West Virginia are.

    Michigan State fans woke up Wednesday morning to learn that coach Izzo announced very late Tuesday night that guard Korie Lucious has been dismissed from the team for the remainder of the season for unspecified “conduct detrimental to the program.”

    On Sunday, No. 21 West Virginia’s backup forward Danny Jennings quit the team in the middle of a game (in the middle of the game!). The next day, Coach Huggins announced that leading scorer Casey Mitchell has been suspended indefinitely as a result of an undisclosed team rules violation, leaving West Virginia with just eight healthy scholarship players for now.

    And as far as that losing stuff goes, once No. 9 Syracuse has lost its last three games. A sports reporter described Syracuse as having “suddenly ineffective defense” and said that Syracuse’s offensive’s problems were ” the same old story – guards continue to struggle with shot selection, decision-making and turnovers.” In their last outing, Seton Hall, the worst shooting team in the Big East, shot 54.1 percent for the game while holding Syracuse to 5 of 21 from long range and a season-low 36.1 percent from the field. (Does this sound familiar?)

    I don’t know if this comes from the “Misery loves company” Department or the “perspective” Department, but I thought I’d offer it.

  • Anonymous

    Shocking but probably needed to be verbalized by someone outside of the program- but close enough to know that this is the case and sanctioned by others within the program. If this hadn’t been in line with the program- then certainly Fisch would have been reprimanded for such open and pointed criticism.

    We certainly have a likeable basketball team- but we need some high motor, intense players who like to rebound and defend. I think that it is clear that some on the team just aren’t in the longer term picture as they don’t have these skills.

  • Diesel

    From the Perspective Department:

    What the hell was Matt Painter thinking last night? 100% on him for not having his team ready to go
    Fire Jim Boehim. He plays the weakest nonconference schedule and has had a few lucky runs to the Final four on the tails of guys named Derrick and Carmelo