BROOKLYN — Like everyone else, Duquesne men’s basketball coach Keith Dambrot has been following the news regarding the coronavirus pandemic.
Upon arriving in Brooklyn he expressed optimism that the tournament was going to go on as scheduled, with teams able to complete play at Barclays Center.
Of course as concern raised, professional leagues and collegiate conferences across the country all modified their proceedings and all basketball conferences except for the MEAC have cancelled its respective conference tournaments.
The Atlantic 10 cancelled theirs just moments prior to tipoff with the warmup buzzer even sounding.
Dambrot stated that he felt that his team had practiced well in the past couple of days and had a hunch that his team was prepared to go on a run, but was clear that health comes first.
“Whenever the right thing is done, I don’t really get frustrated,” he said. “There was no choice in this matter, the commissioner did the right thing. I love the game of basketball but I love my players more than that. Once it became clear the virus was spreading to professional athletes and our guys were in harm’s way, our guys needed protected. All it takes is for one student-athlete to get sick from this, no game of basketball is worth it. I feel badly that they couldn’t fulfill their dreams, but health and well being is more important than winning a game.”
After news broke, Dambrot talked to his team and understood that his team has to embrace the unknown.
Duquesne will be trying to leave Brooklyn but as an institution, Duquesne is currently closed.
“Obviously we had to meet about all of this with leaving and coming back and academic issues with the school being closed,” said Dambrot. “The thing I am most said about is Baylee Steele not being able to play his last game. The rest of them all have an opportunity to come back and play.”
Taking a step ahead, Dambrot stated that with so many conference tournaments cancelled, the selection committee may not have any work to do with knowledge and cases of coronavirus on the rise.
“My gut feeling is there will be no tournaments, I think we’ve seen our last college basketball game of the year,” Dambrot said. “I don’t think it will get any better than worse. It hasn’t peaked. It’s too risky. The NBA can go into the summer, the NCAA is kind of time locked. I’m planning on the season being over but I’ve been wrong before though.”
Dambrot did express regret in such a scenario for Robert Morris being unable to play if an NCAA Tournament is not held and held a similar emotion for Hofstra Joe Mihalich who he has a good relationship with.
If Dambrot’s assumptions are correct, Duquesne will finish the season with a 21-9 overall record and an 11-7 conference record. The 11 conference wins represent a program best.
Dambrot is expecting all who played this season save for Steele and walk-on Caleb Davis, both of whom will graduate.
“We’ve shown we can be competitive, we’ve made huge strides,” said Dambrot. “Stay the course, I think good things are ahead.”
As far as the spread of coronavirus goes, Dambrot expresses hope that things improve for the better.
“It’s unfortunate, let’s just hope our country overcomes this, everyone is healthy and the economy gets better and that it doesn’t turn worse,” he said.