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(Information in this team report is as of October 1.)
COACH AND PROGRAM
There have been too many goodbyes at Bowling Green since the 2001-02 season ended. That was the year the Falcons should have been in the NCAA Tournament. Led by Keith McLeod and Len Matela, Bowling Green advanced to the MAC championship game, settled for the NIT, and finished 24-9.
Soon after, Dan Dakich said goodbye and accepted the top job at West Virginia. He quickly reconsidered and within days Bowling Green took him back.
That same year, the Falcons said goodbye to the MAC East Division. Bowling Green moved to the West Division for three seasons and then last year rejoined the East.
Two years later, the team's leading scorer, Ron Lewis (17.0 ppg), transferred to Ohio State.
Last season, after a home loss to Kent State, junior guard Steve Wright (11.4 ppg, 3.5 apg) quit the team.
After a 9-21 posting in 2005-06, junior point guard Perrick "Moon" Robinson (2.3 ppg, 1.8 apg, team-high 37 steals), bolted the program.
In March, Dakich's top assistant, Artie Pepelea, left after eight seasons at BSGU and accepted a similar position at Middle Tennessee.
Then in early September, after Dakich had had to pull his scholarship for disciplinary reasons, John Floyd (9.7 ppg, 3.2 apg), a 6-2 senior combo guard, quit, leaving the Falcons short-handed at point guard.
Bowling Green has struggled the last four seasons (54-65) for a variety of reasons. The Falcons did fly into a hornet's nest last year when they rejoined the East Division. The East was superior to the West and BSGU finished last in the six-team division, but probably would have been fourth or fifth in a seven-team West Division.
"It has kind of followed us," Dakich said. "When we went over there [to West Division], Chris Kaman and Central Michigan were pretty good, and Western Michigan was having a good run."
Injuries, too, have played a big part. The career of oft-injured forward Germain Fitch is the best illustration of BGSU's injury woes.
"People also have to understand that when we have been healthy, which we've only had four out of the nine years that I have been here, we have won at least 18 games," Dakich said. "If we can stay healthy, we've usually been pretty good."
But steady turnover in personnel also bit BGSU in 2005-06 when the Falcons lost 11 of their final 12 games and ended with seven double-digit losses. It was an especially frustrating stretch for Dakich who had never experienced a 20-loss season during either his playing or coaching career.
"Nobody was more disappointed in last year than we were," Dakich said.
Bowling Green had a good early win at Virginia Tech (72-71) and the Falcons were sitting 8-10 after yet another upset win at Kent State. The season-ending slide began with overtime losses to Akron and Ohio in a six-day period. The Falcons were unable to recover emotionally and limped to the finish line. Toledo eliminated BGSU in the first round of the MAC Tournament, 77-52, at Savage Hall.
"We didn't handle [the overtime losses] well," said Dakich, reportedly headed into the final year of a five-year contract. "We should have looked at them as positives. Then we got dinged up and had a kid quit."
That "kid" was Wright, who BGSU was pushing for MAC Sixth-Man-of-the-Year honors. Dakich tried for a reconciliation with Wright, but as of the start of school, he was still off the team.
"I love Steve on a personal level," Dakich told the BG News.
The 44-yard old Dakich is cut from the same cloth as his mentor, Bob Knight. His "tough love" approach works for some and not for others. In the meantime, his overall mark of 143-122 (86-76 MAC) in nine seasons at Anderson Arena would seem to make for a good security blanket.
Two statistics haunted Bowling Green last season -- rebound margin and personal fouls. The Falcons were out-rebounded by 6.1 per game, which ranked last in the MAC. Furthermore, BGSU opponents attempted an average of 28 free throws per game.
"We were not a disciplined team," Dakich said. "We didn't move our feet and we might have led the country [in personal fouls]. As far as rebounding is concerned, we just weren't big enough. We had only two guys bigger than 6-foot-6."