Jack Dahm had a bad feeling heading into a Thursday afternoon meeting with Iowa Director of Athletics Gary Barta.
Dahm could sense that his 10-year run as the Iowa baseball coach was about to end. He was so convinced that he already had written a letter telling his players that his contract wouldn’t be renewed. Dahm had his secretary send out the letter once he knew for sure that he wasn’t coming back.
“I’ll be very honest; I could tell that I was going to be gone,” Dahm said Thursday afternoon. “I knew I was going to be gone.
“I can tell people. That’s what I do. And I could tell I was going to be gone.”
Dahm said he would’ve preferred to have told his players face to face, but that he wasn’t given the opportunity. He and Barta met at 2 p.m. Thursday and barely an hour later a press release was issued saying Dahm’s contract wouldn’t be renewed.
“I would rather have handled it differently,” Dahm said. “I would rather have been able to tell the team in person.”
Barta said it was an “incredibly difficult” decision to not renew Dahm’s contract, which expires at the end of June.
“That’s all based on the fact that Jack is just a great person and good coach,” Barta said. “So those are always some of the hardest decisions I have to make.”
Barta’s decision came after a season in which Iowa finished 22-27 overall and failed to make the Big Ten Tournament for the seventh time in 10 seasons under Dahm.
“I had a pretty good sense when the season ended that it was a decision that I needed to make,” Barta said. “But I went through my process and Jack and I talked a couple times.
“The last couple of years we’ve talked about the need to win more games. Jack does so many great things and he’s been doing this now for ten years. So when I look at the body of work over ten years, we just weren’t winning enough consistently during that time. Ten years is a good period of time for a coach to show a body of work.”
Dahm believes that the Iowa baseball program is close to turning the corner with a young roster that included 12 freshmen and 12 sophomores this past season. He also was hopeful that Barta would take this spring’s adverse weather into consideration, and Iowa’s recent success in recruiting, and give him one more chance to get over the hump.
“I was hoping for another year, another couple of years,” said the 46-year old Dahm. “We basically have our entire team coming back besides a couple of pitchers. It took us a while to really get the recruiting going. But we finally got two nationally (ranked) recruiting classes and those guys will be sophomores and juniors next year. It’s going to be one of the more talented teams in the Big Ten.
“I was hoping I’d have the opportunity to reap the benefits of the hard work that me and my assistants have put in recruiting-wise. Unfortunately, (Gary Barta) didn’t see it that way. I can understand where he is coming from, but I had hoped to be back. It’s going to be a very talented team and they’re going to do very well with the guys that they have.”
Barta said a search for Dahm’s replacement would begin immediately. He said the Hawkeyes will be looking for someone who “fits the culture” of the school. The University of Iowa has the only Division I baseball program in the state.
“It’s a state that embraces the sport,” Barta said. “We have some apathy in baseball right now. We need some energy and excitement back into Duane Banks Field.”
Indiana State coach Rick Heller was considered a candidate for the Iowa job when Dahm was hired a decade ago. Heller was the head coach at Northern Iowa back then. He coached the Panthers for 10 years from 2000-2009, winning 270 games and one Missouri Valley Conference Championship.
Heller led Indiana State to its first outright Missouri Valley Conference title in 2012. He also was the head coach at his alma mater Upper Iowa University for 12 years from 1988-99.
Dahm said he and Barta met two weeks ago because Dahm wanted to know if a decision had been made. Dahm said Barta told him that he hadn’t made a decision because Barta wanted to wait to see how the team finished the season.
Iowa closed the season by winning five of its last six games, including sweeping all three games at Purdue to end the season.
“He said he wanted to see if we could finish strong because I told him two weeks ago that if he had made up his mind I’d like to let the team know,” Dahm said of Barta. “And he said he hadn’t made up his mind and then we went 5-1.
“We talked Monday and then met again today, and he said he decided that he wanted to make a change.”
Dahm said this past season was the worst he ever has dealt with in terms of the weather. It was made worse he said by Iowa not having a sufficient indoor hitting facility.
“This year was a very unique year, especially in the state of Iowa, where we just didn’t get the opportunity to practice,” Dahm said. “I think we had five outdoor practices. I was hoping that we’d get a chance, especially with the circumstances of the weather and the injuries and not having a place to practice, the facilities that we need at times to be able to get our team better. So that was the tough part.”
Dahm, who grew up around the Chicago area, said he wants to stay in Iowa City because he and his wife and their three children enjoy living here. He denied a rumor that said he was being considered for a fundraising job at the University of Iowa.
“I really like Iowa City,” said Dahm, who played baseball at Creighton from 1986-89 and was head coach at his alma mater for 10 years from 1994-2003 before moving to Iowa. “I actually love Iowa City. I love the people of Iowa City and the University of Iowa. I see myself staying around. My family really likes it here.
“I’m 46-years old now and I’d love to continue to coach. But I just don’t see an opportunity for me to pick up my family. Now I could be wrong. I think I could do some other things even though I’ve never done anything else.”