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Remembering the AJ Palumbo Center

Remembering the AJ Palumbo Center

If you want to know about Duquesne basketball history, the first stop on your journey you should be longtime broadcaster Ray Goss.

As Duquesne’s A.J. Palumbo Center Prepares to meet the wrecking ball to become UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse, Goss believes Duquesne basketball is back on the rise again as attendance is up and morale is trending in the same direction.

“We’re getting over 3,000 fans and in the past sometimes getting 1,000-1,200 fans was difficult,” said Goss. “I think we are starting to draw some fans back but for some of the longer-suffering fans, it’s going to take a little more. We’ve had several coaches over the last 15-20 years. (Keith Dambrot) knows what is doing, he’s doing a great job and hopefully we see more success.”

But that didn’t stop him from sharing some memories of the old building.

Goss will never forget Jan. 25, 2014, when Derrick Colter had 3.8 seconds to atone for missing free throws which would have tied a team’s game against Atlantic 10 foe St. Bonaventure.

Colter, the inbounder on the pass was given a quick toss back from L.G. Gill and then had to run the length of the court and shoot a running three-point shot to beat the buzzer, all of which he did, to give Duquesne the win.

“It was certainly one of the more exciting finishes I have ever seen,” Goss recalled. “There were only a couple of finishes like that. That was certainly memorable, especially if he had made the two free throws, which would have given us the lead with a few seconds to go. I knew he could make it up there in that time, he was that quick. He actually went beyond the three point line and let it fire, just as he did, a defender was obstructing him a little bit. It was almost an impossible shot.”

Goss also remembers being asked where he wanted to broadcast Duquesne games, which at the time he did with Nellie King.

Duquesne ultimately placed Goss close to where the scorer’s table sat for recent seasons, but a problem arose as right behind him was the student section.

Goss recalled receiving several knees to the back and he requested to be moved into the upper corner where he had a better line of sight and certainly did not have to contend with referees running through his line of sight. At some point, the Atlantic 10 decided it wanted all announcers to broadcast on the floor so Goss was moved to the location where he broadcasted games through this past season.

On March 10, the Palumbo Center held the Atlantic 10 Women’s Basketball Championship final between VCU and Fordham, a contest which marked the final contest in the building as we know it.

The Palumbo Center, which originally opened in 1988, is going to be renovated in a 12-to-18 month process with the final result being the UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse.

Duquesne’s athletic administration has already moved their possessions out of the Palumbo Center, with the basketball court itself being taken down and moved to the Power Center on campus.

With all of that in mind, PSN asked some close to Duquesne what their overall memories will be of the venue and received a variety of responses.

“I would say when we upset Xavier when they were ranked No. 9 in the country in 2009. The sell-out crowd stormed the court. Pretty cool memory.” – Former Duquesne athletic trainer Vic Bauer

“The A.J. Palumbo Center was a place I called home. I experienced countless priceless moments while a Duke. I’ll remember the close knit we had with our committed supporters who made it to every game to cheer us on… I’m looking forward to seeing how the university will evolve with the reconstruction!” – Duquesne women’s basketball alum Wumi Agunbiade

“The best athletic performance would be Shawn James’ triple-double with 10 blocked shots, or anytime T.J. McConnell touched the ball. My favorite memory without question was my daughter Maya, who was a mop girl for womens’ basketball for several seasons, wearing the student section balloons after a game. Getting Dambrot as coach would be up there.” – Duquesne Athletics photographer Dave Denoma

“My instant thought is that it’s weird how the Palumbo I know no longer will be there considering how many hours me and my teammates spent day and night improving our game and building the best team possible!” – Duquesne women’s basketball alum Emile Gronas

“I loved announcing Duquesne events at the Palumbo Center but my favorite memories from announcing at the A.J. Palumbo Center were the special events I had the pleasure of being a part of. I’ve been fortunate to announce for the A-10 Volleyball Championship (2017) and this (month) for the A-10 Women’s Basketball Championship, I also got to announce the Championship Finals for the 2018 NCAA DII and DIII Women’s Volleyball Championships this past fall as well. There’s something special seeing the jubilation on the winning teams who achieved their dreams of winning a championship. Seeing the confetti, trophy presentation and net cuttings is truly a joy to be a part of.” – Duquesne public address announcer Dom Errico

“It’s between these: 1-The retirement of April Robinson’s number 32, 2-The defeat of highly ranked Xavier by the Dukes (Aaron Jackson, Billy Clark, etc) 3-String of Women’s Basketball City Game Championships especially under our Coach (Dan) Burt, though not in this order.” – Duquesne fan Ed Massarsky

“Palumbo is more my home than the dorm I live in, the amount of time we spend in there between practices, lifts, conditionings and just hanging out takes up most of our days! I have too many great memories from the place to pick one. Records were broken and history made in there! It’s going to be hard to say good bye to it! Despite all of this, I am very excited for the upgrades that are coming and hope every athlete who gets to use the new arena will appreciate it as much as I appreciate the Palumbo Center.” – Duquesne women’s basketball senior forward Kadri-Ann Lass

“My two favorite memories are Dukes beating Pitt and Sean Miller, Darrelle Porter and a pretty good Pitt team. Bobby Martin too I believe. Dukes had Shanahan, Dobbs and a very underrates point guard, Clayton Adams among others. I also have a great memory of a concert with my late Duquesne godparents to see traditional Irish music The Cheiftains.” – Former Duquesne football player and current judge in Allegheny Court of Common Pleas Jack McVay

“The A.J. Palumbo Center has been a critical landmark; not just from my college years, but my entire life. Growing up just blocks from the Bluff, it was a site for different events and experiences from my childhood. But then to be able walk through that building as a student, an usher, a mascot, a beat writer, a sports reporter/anchor and now an announcer has created a vast collection of memories that will stay with me for the rest of my life.” – Duquesne aulm and current radio/television host Josh Taylor

“I was at Duquesne during the end of the good years, the back to back Eastern Eight titles right as it sunk into the abyss. Let me tell you there was no worse atmosphere than a few hundred people in the frigid Civic Arena watching bad basketball. To me the Palumbo center was a thing of beauty when it was built. I was thrilled with the anticipation of an on campus facility that would be an intimidating place for opponents to play, just like the Fitz had been at Pitt. Six years later when I was at the first post season game there, the NIT game against UNC Charlotte we were all certain that things had turned around. The Palumbo was indeed going to be that place. The arena was electric that night and we beat the 49ers for our first tourney win in 14 years. Never heard the place so loud. Of course it was just a mirage and the crowds shrunk over the years but that initial excitement about the place always stuck with me. I look forward to the same feeling when the Cooper Center opens.” – Duquesne alum and Pittsburgh author David Finoli

“My greatest memory was coach Burt inviting me to the post-game celebration for the girls and saying I was part of the family. Secondly, the great staff on both Duquesne side and Landmark side. Finally, all the friends I’ve made along the way from players to staff. They’re all family.” – Landmark Security Supervisor Rachel Boardley

“I used to be in the Red and Blue Crew back when no one was in it frankly. There had to be fewer than 10 people in the Red and Blue Crew when I went to the Duquesne vs Saint Joe’s game when Jameer Nelson was the National Player of the Year. Saint Joseph’s had this wonderful year and Duquesne had another mediocre to below mediocre year. My buddy Eric Pippi from the football team was with me were bouncing up and down and Nelson is going from our left to our right as the Red & Blue Crew used to be behind the Duquesne bench. We’re behind Danny Nee and the boys and no one was making any noise. Nelson comes down, shoots his first three of the game, and misses. Pippi starts trash talking and he was one of five people making noise. He goes ‘it’s going to be a long day for you Jameer’. Jameer Nelson actually looked over at us and laughed and we had to laugh too. There was nobody there and of course they trounced us he had a great game. Pippi and I are still friends and for us to even presume that we were going to influence that game at all back then was funny to both us and Nelson.” – Duquesne alum and current university professor Bob Healy III

“The memories in the A.J. Palumbo Center are countless. The blood, sweat, tears, excitement and grind all took place in there. History was made. Of all the special moments of playing there, the best were with my teammates. It’s a special place, that’s where I played. To see the building evolve over the years is incredible. It’s time for a change, one that can lead Duquesne programs to further success by giving them the resources needed to be NCAA contenders.” – Duquesne women’s basketball alum April Robinson

“There were a lot of Palumbo Center memories that come to mind. Whether it was interviewing athletic director Dave Harper his first day in office, scrambling during and after a women’s basketball game for hours trying to get the particulars done for the Duquesne bus debacle a few years back, the various times I would work at Palumbo and leave the building after 2 a.m., having finally finished writing or the seemingly countless times Chassidy Omogrosso or Jordan Robinson nearly ran me over when I was taking pictures. The memory that stands out though came Dec. 15, 2015 when Erin Waskowiak stepped onto the court for the first time after a couple years prior she was hit with the family car and had a compound tibia fracture which required several surgeries, then when she recovered, suffered an ACL tear which caused her to sit out again. Waskowiak refused to give up her dream and checked in with 3:10 remaining in the fourth quarter, recording both an assist and a rebound. There was a not a dry eye in the Palumbo Center that day because of what she battled through, how she refused to let it define her and because the smile never left her face that day. Waskowiak would play six games that year and another game her senior season before the injury bug bit again, but the way she battled and got to enjoy her dream, even if it was for less time than she desired, played out at the Palumbo Center. On that December day, there was so much love and emotion that played out and everyone was genuinely happy. It does not get much better than that.” – PSN’s Zachary Weiss

“I am pretty sure it was spring of 1998. My cousins went to school at McKeesport, I went to Penn-Trafford. They kept telling me about this girl on the girl’s basketball team that was not only a good basketball player, but better than most of the boys. Cousins from different schools might be prone to a little bit of exaggeration, friendly banter. They convinced to see McKeesport girl’s basketball and they were playing the WPIAL AAAA championship game at the Palumbo Center. That was the first time I saw Swin Cash play basketball and oh my gosh, yes she was a dominant girl’s basketball player and she probably could have played with the boys. If you think about women’s basketball in this area, that’s the player in my lifetime, she is the gold standard and that was the first time I got to see her play. It was also the first time I had been to the Palumbo Center.” PSN’s Alan Saunders

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