Their Ohio State playing careers were separated by six years, but Jared Sullinger and Andrew Dakich’s coaching careers got off to a simultaneous start.
As The Basketball Tournament got underway at Capital University during the weekend of July 19, both former Buckeyes found themselves on the sidelines trying to coach their respective teams to the $2 million prize that awaits the winner. Although Sullinger’s Carmen’s Crew fended off the upset challenge from Dakich’s Big X in second-round action July 20, both said the TBT experience has given them an idea of what the coaching life is like.
What does that mean for the future for Sullinger or Dakich? That’s still to be determined.
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“I’m still figuring that out, but I’m passionate about it, for sure, and that’s as authentic as it gets,” Dakich told The Dispatch after the loss to Carmen’s Crew. “It’s easy because we had a great group of guys who want to win and I want to win with them. I’m definitely passionate about it, for sure.”
Both have significant family ties to the profession. Sullinger played high school ball for his father, Satch, at Columbus Northland, while Dakich’s father, Dan, was the coach at Bowling Green and Indiana and now is an ESPN commentator for college basketball games.
After Carmen’s Crew won its first-round game, the younger Sullinger shared an embrace with his father.
“It meant a lot,” he said afterward. “It really did. Sharing that moment with my dad was big-time because he said he was proud of me, he was happy to be for the first time I was ever a head coach. It was just big-time to have him in the fans to support me.”
It’s technically not the first foray into coaching for Sullinger. He told reporters that he’s been coaching in a men’s over-35 league but that this experience obviously brought a different intensity level.
“It’s easy,” he said of coaching. “I had some great coaches: my father, Thad (Matta), Brad Stevens, Doc Rivers, Dwayne Casey. Taking format from them and applying it over here, it’s real simple. They’re pros, man. They know what to do.”
Dakich spent last season as a graduate assistant on the Ohio State coaching staff following his lone year in the program as a player and is set to return in some fashion this year. For roughly a month leading into the tournament, he said he’d been working on figuring out sets and assembling his roster. Then his plans were scrambled when Jae’Sean Tate, expected to be a significant part of Big X, earned a last-minute NBA camp invitation and had to pull out of the tournament.
It all amounted to a crash course for Dakich.
“I texted Holt (Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann) right after the game (Friday) night and said, ‘I don’t know how you do it,’ ” Dakich said. “It was just exhausting. You put a lot into it and the game, it was like, one of the first times I checked into a meaningful Big Ten game it was like a deer in headlights. It almost felt like that on the sidelines. Things are going back and forth. But then you settle in, and it was just fun. It was exhausting. I wanted it for our guys because they wanted it. It was a fun team to be a part of for sure.”
Plans on hold
Carmen’s Crew will resume TBT play this Thursday in the quarterfinals, which will be held in Chicago. Sullinger will again be the coach, but his plans for the coming year are currently on hold for family reasons.
He’s about to become a dad.
“My wife is pregnant with twins,” he said. “She’s due September 28. I told her, the last eight years we’ve been together, she has always put me first. I said for this situation, especially being twins, her being high-risk, she’s first. Until the twins get here and we understand her health, then I’ll make my decision on whether if I want to continue to play this year or watch the twins or whatever.”
After four seasons with the Boston Celtics and one with Toronto, Sullinger most recently played in China last season before suffering an injury and returning home.
“The last year’s been a real roller coaster,” he said. “Right now (my plans this year are) up in the air, but eventually I’m going to play again.”
While playing in last year’s TBT for the Ohio State alumni team, Aaron Craft told reporters that he was planning to take the MCAT with an eye on attending medical school.
“I felt awful leaving, but I did better than what I felt when I left, so that was a positive,” he said.
Earning his doctorate remains a goal, and that could lead to his career coming to a close sooner than later. Craft spent last season playing in Italy.
“That’s the trajectory right now,” he said when asked about becoming a doctor. “(Playing for) as long as I can is probably not accurate. If I want to go back (to school), I need to stop sooner than when my body tells me no. Maybe it’ll coincide, but right now it probably won’t be as long as I can go.”
“Growing up, you knew about European basketball but not so much. Of course the goal is always the NBA, but just basketball for me, period, is a blessing. I’ve traveled the world for free and get paid to play the game that I love still. For me, it’s even beyond basketball: the friendships, the bond, the brotherhood.” – David Lighty