ESPN college basketball analyst Dan Dakich finished my sentence before I could, probably because he’s heard the question about his son a thousand times. Stereotypes have no trouble sticking to slippery topics.
Me: “Why do you think Ohio State fans think Andrew is so much fun …
Dakich: “To watch? I get it, that people go with the little white guy thing. But what’s impressed me the most about him is he has been able to guard. He gets to the right spot.”
The little white guy — eye roll — certainly does. And at the moment that spot is coming off the bench for the Buckeyes, where the 23-year-old graduate transfer from Michigan brings a confident calm — except when he opens his mouth (more on that in a moment) — to a program still learning, albeit quickly, how to fit into its new skin.
Dakich knows who he is and who he is not, which is to say any resemblance to Aaron Craft — here we go again — is purely coincidental. Still, Dakich plays a pivotal role for OSU because he plays sneaky-good defense, sees the floor well and finds the open man.
OK, not always. After tossing an air-ball on a baseline three-point attempt early in Ohio State’s 64-59 win against Nebraska, a victory that moved the Buckeyes to 9-0 in Big Ten play — Dakich’s more-famous father tweeted a message for his son: “Pass.”
“I’ve ripped him on the air twice,” Dan Dakich said Monday.
The son is used to it. And if not from his dad, then from teammates. Dan Dakich, who coached Andrew in AAU, shared how during a summer-circuit game, Andrew questioned his father’s strategy.
“We’re down two points and I’m drawing up a play to drive the ball to the wing and kick it (for a three-pointer) and he says, ‘Dad, we only need a two. What are you doing?’ Every guy on the team yells at him, ‘Shut up, Andrew, for once.’ We end up hitting the three and every guy gave it to him after that. And he’s done the same thing to (Ohio State coach) Chris Holtmann.”
Holtmann said in December, “The one thing you know about Andrew Dakich is he’s always going to give you his opinion. He’s not one that’s going to sit back and wait for you to ask.”
“I’ve never been afraid to really talk,” Dakich agreed.
He’s not afraid to win, either. That is crucial for Ohio State, which suffered something of a confidence drain the past few seasons. Coming from Michigan, where during his four years the Wolverines won six NCAA Tournament games and one Big Ten championship, Dakich has helped the Buckeyes put their minds in the right place. Their bodies, too. Dakich quarterbacks a huddle like Drew Brees.
“He is the best at making sure we huddle,” Jae’Sean Tate said. “It helps us keep our composure and is helpful in late spots.”
Holtmann agreed, explaining that Dakich is a “connector for us … who at times is hard to pull off the floor. What he lacks in athleticism, and let’s be honest he lacks it, he makes up for in IQ and connecting teammates.”
Papa Dakich is most proud of that last part.
“I’ve always said Andrew is one of the best teammates I’ve ever been around,” Dan Dakich said. “He cares about people legitimately, way more than I do.”
Hmm, that type of deep caring, for someone other than the man in the mirror, has been missing from this program for too long.
More practically, the 6-foot-2 point guard provides essential backcourt depth. A perfect little Dakich montage among his 21 minutes against Nebraska, which included the final 13:16 of a tight game, featured a steal followed by an alley-oop pass to Keita Bates-Diop for a dunk that energized the Value City Arena crowd.
Dakich is fun to watch. Good eggs usually are. Whatever their color.