As we inch day by day towards another thrilling and highly anticipated edition of March Madness – because March Madness is always thrilling and highly anticipated – I continue to be struck by one nagging negative thought: there will be no Gus Johnson this March.
While no one can ever replace Gus, there is one clear way that the folks at CBS and Turner Sports can rise and fire a shot in the arm of their NCAA Tournament coverage for this year and into the future: sign up Dan Dakich as a color commentator.
More on Dakich and what would make him an immediate upgrade in a second. First, a very quick requiem for Gus.
I know it seems incomprehensible. No Gus Johnson during March Madness? HOW CAN THIS BE?
Well, Richard Deitsch of SI.com broke it down last May when it happened. The two sides could not agree on a deal, so Gus became part of the Fox Sports. While I like that this makes him a featured voice on the Big Ten Network, I would gladly trade regular season Gus for March Gus.
But the purpose of this post is not to spend and inordinate amount of time dwelling on depressing thoughts like March Madness without Gus Johnson. So let me have one good cry and let’s move on.
Why Dan Dakich?
So…why Dan Dakich, you may ask? If you are asking that question, you clearly have never heard Dakich call a game.
While there are sure to be dissenters out there, and I welcome your feedback in the comment section, I rarely hear any negative comments about Dakich’s work from fans of either team during a game he’s calling or from neutral observers. What makes this especially interesting is that the majority of the games I watch that feature Dakich on the mic are Indiana games.
In case you don’t know, Dakich played at Indiana, he coached at Indiana under Bob Knight for a number of years, and he even bridged the short and tumultuous gap between He Who Shall Not Be Named and Tom Crean. You might think, then, that his calls would be somewhat biased. I’ve never found that to be the case, nor have I ever seen a fan of an Indiana opponent criticize Dakich for being a homer.
You may be thinking: great Jerod, that’s really wonderful you jackwagon, but since when does “He’s not a homer” qualify someone to be an announcer for the NCAA Tournament?
Because it speaks to Dakich’s #1 and #2 qualifications: he’s honest and he’s candid.
I have no doubt that Dakich is loving seeing IU’s return to national prominence this year, and he isn’t shy about sharing anecdotes from his IU tenure as a player or coach. But he takes his role in the media seriously, like his daily radio show in Indy, and there are no “sacred cows” with Dakich. He will criticize an IU player, or Tom Crean, when a situation calls for it, and he will laud someone from IU when the situation calls for it. He’ll do the same for their opponents.
Usually, he’s spot on.
Furthermore, Dakich knows people, and he knows things. And he relays these things to the viewer.
On more than one occasion, I’ve thought myself, “I wonder if Dakich should really be saying this on TV?” in regards to an anecdote he’ll give about something that happened at a team’s practice or other “insider” info that typically isn’t given during broadcasts. And these insider stories don’t always shine positive light on their subject. They do, however, shine honest light on their subject, and they provide viewers with a more well-rounded and contextualized understanding of the game they are watching.
Contrast this with someone like Dickie V who, God love him, has made it his personal crusade to protect every coach and spout almost nothing but plaudits and platitudes that we can all see coming from 10 miles away. I sometimes feel like if you gave me a Dick Vitale sound board, I could fill in for him and no one would notice.
But Vitale isn’t an NCAA Tournament announcer, so comparing Dakich to him is pointless. I do so only to highlight the value of having Dakich’s voice on the college basketball beat now. It’s refreshing. It’s informative. It’s compelling.
And Dakich has been around the block a few times too. He played college basketball. He’s coached it. He’s experienced good times, bad times, weird times. Most importantly, he’s smart about the game, and he’s very adept at explaining things that happen concisely and cogently. This is a must-have for a good color commentator, and Dakich has it.
And now he needs to make its way into March Madness.
Who Would Dakich Replace?
Even without Gus Johnson, there are a number of voices and personalities to look forward to come March. Bill Raftery is and will always be ONIONS! Jay Bilas* gets better every year, and he has gone from someone who annoyed me to someone whose perspective I now actively seek out. Marv Albert and Steve Kerr are a terrific tandem that did a much better job calling college games than I figured they would. Clark Kellogg has an entertaining style and genuine love for college hoops that I enjoy, even if Jim Nantz’s work has really started to become an annoyance to me. Dan Bonner seems solid.
But Len Elmore? Jim Spanarkel? Bob Wenzel? REGGIE MILLER?
Elmore is okay, I guess, and I may be short-changing Spanarkel and Wenzel (please comment below if I am) but neither one has ever differentiated himself for me. Reggie Miller’s awfulness goes without saying, even though I want to say it anyway because he’s so awful.
Please someone give me a good reason why Dan Dakich would not be an upgrade over any of those four guys? Frankly, I’d take Dakich over almost anyone currently slated to provide color analysis for the NCAA Tournament, but I don’t expect you to be quite as excited about it as I am. So let’s just reduce the argument to the worst and/or least respected/anticipated/differentiated voices (however you want to describe them) of March. Why shouldn’t Dakich, whose done games on ESPN for a number of years now to raise his profile and prove his skill, be calling the season’s most important games instead of those guys?
In case you’re thinking but he’s at ESPN, how could he work for CBS and Turner Sports too? So is Bilas. So is Raftery. So is Bonner. A lot of guys affiliated with the Worldwide Leader still call games during March. So could Dakich.
And he should.
Update: As @AwfulAnnouncing reminded me on Twitter, Bilas didn’t do Tourney games last year. Crap. First no Bilas, now no Gus. We need Dakich more than ever!
A New ‘Movement’
In conclusion, with admittedly no idea of the logistics that would be necessary to actually make this happen, I am calling on all college basketball fans who want to make March Madness better to join me in a movement (not to be confused with The Movement) to bring Dan Dakich into our basketball loving homes during the greatest basketball month of the year.
This movement should probably start with making sure that Dakich wants call March Madness games – but why wouldn’t he? Tweet him and ask him. He’s one of the cool media folks who interacts with fans on Twitter. (He’s also just generally a good basketball follow, so follow him too.)
And then, it’s up to the folks at CBS to make it worth Dakich’s while. Conveniently, CBS Sports seems to have an active Twitter account that could be used for this purpose. The CBS Sports website also has a feedback form with one of the categories being “Comments about CBS TV.” There is also one for “Complaints” so I guess that one could used as well.
Let’s make this happen people. I promise you it will make March better; and with no Gus to excite us, we might as well have an intelligent, experienced, personable college hoops junkie like Dan Dakich to both entertain and inform us. It’ll make us all smarter, happier basketball fans.
Dakich, we’ve got your back bro.
Image source: Indy.com