PITTSBURGH — Duquesne has already had its most successful basketball season in over a decade, winning 21 games for the first time since 2009 and winning 11 conference games for the first time ever.
Duquesne has been playing conference games since 1976. So the Dukes have already accomplished a good deal in Keith Dambrot’s third season as head coach.
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But Dambrot is not satisfied.
After the Dukes’ loss to Richmond to on Friday to clinch a sixth-place finish in the Atlantic-10 this season, Dambrot expressed his frustration that his team had fallen short of his championship-caliber expectations.
“If I sound frustrated, I’m a little frustrated,” Dambrot said after some poor shooting let the Dukes down with a chance to clinch a double bye against the Spiders. “But that’s what makes me good. I just felt like that’s a game we should have won. …
“We’re getting to the point where we’re a top four team in this league. You have to show up and win that game.”
What Duquesne has to play for is not just the seed and not just the slightly better chance of winning the tournament that comes with it.
What Dambrot has been pushing for since he arrived on the Bluff is respect. Duquesne’s recent history certainly doesn’t warrant much. But Dambrot’s has, and his results thus far speak for themselves.
“I think Duquesne has a very poor history of winning tradition, but at some point, you’ve got to man up and make your own damn tradition,” Dambrot said. “You’ve got to show up and play. You’ve got to play better than that. …
“We’ve had a hell of a year, don’t get me wrong. But it could’ve been better.”
The Dukes’ 21-9 regular season record will have to stand on its own. But there is still a postseason that will factor greatly into how the the 2019-20 Duquesne basketball season has been remembered.
Dambrot thinks his Dukes are capable of fulfilling his championship-level aspirations, even if they haven’t shown it consistently to this point in the season.
“Nobody in the world thinks we can win the tournament, right?” he said. “You sit there and watch the A-10 games and they show the standings up there and they’ll skip over us and go to the teams below us and say, “They can win the tournament.’ Davidson can with the tournament. Saint Louis can win the tournament. St. Bonaventure can win the tournament. But you never hear anybody say Duquesne can win the tournament.
“That’s why I get so mad when we lose games like this, because I’m fighting for respect and our guys should be fighting for respect, as well. I don’t think we quit at all. We kept competing, but we didn’t make anything. You have to keep earning your respect every single day.
“So we can win the tournament. We can. Now, we’ve got to play a hell of a lot better than we have all year.”