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Opinion

Vukovcan: Duquesne Should Appreciate What it Has in Keith Dambrot

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This appears to be a case of a fan base that has lost perspective and a grip on reality.

Just five years ago, the hiring of Keith Dambrot was universally celebrated by Duquesne basketball fans, who had no doubt they finally had a head coach that would end their decades of losing and of them being completely irrelevant in the world of college basketball. Fast forward to today and the feelings toward Dambrot sure have changed.

While in the midst of a 13-game losing streak and likely their worst season since 2005, a portion of the Duquesne fan base believes Dambrot is no longer the man for this job, and they’d like to see a new person in charge. From what I’ve gathered on Twitter, Facebook and message boards, the anti-Dambrot crowd have grown tired of the large number of yearly transfers from within the program and believe the 63-year-old is not capable of relating to today’s athletes.

The bitterness over the transfers stems a lot from the success that guys on last year’s team, like Sincere Carry, Tavian Dunn-Martin, Chad Baker and Marcus Weathers are having this year with their respective teams.

While on the surface and with what we’ve had to watch this season, I completely agree with that frustration, but trust me, those players no longer being on Duquesne had a lot more to do with them than it did with Dambrot. Head coaches want players that can help them win and don’t “encourage” them to move or throw them off the team without a good reason. In most cases, these exits don’t happen after 1 or 2 incidents, instead, it comes after months, years and season after season of caring more about themselves than the team.

Following their latest loss, Dambrot was asked about the volume of players that exited last season and part of his answer was “I still think I did the right things by morals and ethics standards, but I still hurt myself, I hurt our school and I hurt our team,” he said. “We had too much bullshit going on and I had enough.”

When referencing hurting himself and the team, Dambrot’s clearly admitting that while he improved the culture and character level of his roster, he didn’t come close to matching the talent level that left and thus not giving the team a good enough chance of competing. The bottom line is that this roster isn’t talented enough to compete on a night-in and night-out basis in the Atlantic-10.

While one problem might have been fixed, a another big one has been created and one that Dambrot and his staff will look to rectify this off-season.

It was made official today that Dambrot will get the opportunity to come up with a plan of improving the talent on the roster as he’ll return next season as Dukes coach.

Frankly, unless he wanted to retire, I was shocked that this was presented as news by members of the national media. Why wouldn’t Dambrot be brought back? Someone would consider firing a coach after one bad season?

Shame on the portion of the Duquesne fanbase that were endorsing this. You guys must have really short memories.

In his first three seasons, Dambrot immediately won a combined 56 games, including a 21-win season in 2019-20. While that might not seem like a huge deal, Duquesne previously had enjoyed one 20-win season since 1980. That three season stretch of 56-wins tied for the most in program history since 1970-73 seasons.

I’m not sure whether it’s more laughable or insane that some Duquesne fans believe it’s time to change coaches.

The more I think about it, it’s actually a shame that considering the profile of this program from 1981 until Dambrot’s arrival in 2017, that the value and credibility he brings to Duquesne isn’t recognized.

Dambrot had a .687 winning percentage at Akron, and this will be his first losing season since 1992-93. He didn’t forget how to coach in one season.

Coaching today’s college basketball players is hard and made even more difficult with the problems that the Transfer Portal presents so this won’t be easy for the Duquesne staff. Hell, it isn’t easy for any coach today.

Dambrot’s biggest fault is that he no doubt believes in and coaches by a moto that I subscribe to which is, “Lower Your Standards and You’ll Lose Your Winners. Raise Your Standards and You’ll Lose Your Losers.”

The challenge that Dambrot now faces is finding those players that will allow him to keep standards and win basketball games at the same time.

As he found out this year, that’s easier said than done.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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Simms
Simms
9 months ago

Agree 100% with this and it’s why I am advocating for his return.

Michael Anitori
Michael Anitori
9 months ago

What you fail to mention here is that all the players that left the program were brought in by this same coach. The fact that he and his staff whiffed so badly in judging their character the first time that he had to rid the program of them gives the fan base no confidence that he will be able to lift the program out of the mess that he and Dave Harper created.

Terrence
Terrence
9 months ago

What player on this current roster is there to be excited about going into next year I’ll answer NONE so you tell me how this gets better I’m getting tired of you can’t win at duquesne if you can win at st Bonaventure Davidson dayton then why can’t duquesne I’m not ready to pull the plug on dambrot yet but he’ should be on a short leash he’s had a horrible year and this is on him

Simms
Simms
9 months ago
Reply to  Terrence

Agree for sure. His leesh is short, but he certainly deserves one more season.

Michael Anitori
Michael Anitori
9 months ago

What the author fails to mention is that all of the players who left were brought in by this same staff. So obviously they didn’t do a very good job of evaluating their character when originally recruiting them. And the “better character” players he brought in this year have proven to be incapable of winning at the A-10 level. That’s why the fan base has lost confidence that Dambrot and company can turn this ship around.

Dukes

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