During his four years as Duquesne men’s basketball head coach, Keith Dambrot has consistently harped on his team being championship caliber.
As evidenced by Friday’s 75-59 Atlantic 10 Championship quarterfinal loss to St. Bonaventure, the Dukes are not there yet.
As Dambrot stated after Thursday’s second-round victory over Richmond, it was a win but he would not be satisfied until Duquesne got into the NCAA Tournament. Friday’s loss guarantees that will not happen.
“It’s all maturity, character, caring about winning,” he said. “We just have to keep recruiting good people and at a high level and hold them accountable. No matter the consequences otherwise the problems never get fixed.”
Dambrot was pressed with the follow-up about what triggered the emotional problems in Friday’s game, he admitted that most coaches would not answer that question.
Keith Dambrot is not most coaches though.
“If you’re connected, then you overcome emotional issues and maturity issues,” said Dambrot. “If you’re fake connected then you’re going to have times where things are good and times when things are not very good. Ultimately that is all on me and my staff. If we’re not connected, not playing the right way or put up things we shouldn’t put up with, that’s on me, not them. It won’t ever happen again.”
There was not much reading between the lines there. It seemed very apparent that Dambrot is once again challenging his team.
Normally his challenges stay in the locker room, but this moment seemed to be chosen and in a sense may even represent a fork in the road.
Now in an offseason where players across the country will transfer either by choice or by recommendation in addition to potential NCAA measures which could make such a decision even easier, it will be up to everyone to decide how committed they are.
Dambrot saying having fake connection will never happen again, is an interesting point and in time it will be seen how that will be policed by the staff and student-athletes themselves.
“I’m going to make sure we have a team of guys who care about winning and I’m going to coach them accordingly,” Dambrot said. “You can be too empathetic as well, you can be too hard. You have to find reality in between those two things, that’s really is the key to winning games. You have to have good players, you have to get them to play together and they have to be connected through good, bad and ugly. You have to learn how to get what you want with your team winning, that’s coaching.”
ACUFF BRINGS IT
In terms of who was most consistent during the two days of Atlantic 10 Championship play, Tyson Acuff had to be at or near the top of the list.
Acuff showed a willingness to aggressive, and a desire to provide leadership that would be crucial next season, if any or all of Duquesne’s seniors choose to depart the program.
“We just saw a different level of aggression from Tyson,” senior forward Marcus Weathers said. “He was super confident and super sure about himself. That’s one of the things you have to be when you are out there as the point guard. We just had everybody back him up. It’s kind of been up and down for him but he’s a youngin so he stayed at it and stayed hungry. For him to have those couple of games is big time and it should be big time for his confidence.”
Dambrot spoke in more generalities, but even so praised Acuff for coming on at the end of the season.
“The freshmen each have different issues to become good players but they got a lot of good high-quality minutes and it does account,” he said. “If you don’t look yourself in the mirror, you can’t get better and I like those guys.”
All season long, Dambrot has maintained that this season has been tougher for more-experienced coaches such as himself because routines and how everything from practices on down have drastically changed.
No day was taken for granted because it was never promised.
Still, what did Dambrot learn this year that made him a better coach and person?
“I try to do the right thing,” he said. “I try to have empathy and compassion, sympathy and treat them like my own children, hold them to a high standard, tell them the truth. I might be a dinosaur because I tell them the truth and sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth. I like it when people tell me the truth. I might not like it short term, but I know they care about me when they do. I’ve tried to live my life the right way. There are a lot of areas where I could get better.”