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Duquesne Basketball

Dave Harper Outlines Expectations For Duquesne Men’s Basketball

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Following Saturday’s Duquesne Women’s Basketball game against Saint Joseph’s, PSN’s Zachary Weiss exclusively sat down with Duquesne Vice President of Athletics Dave Harper to discuss the men’s basketball program.

Harper confirmed Jon Rothstein’s tweet that Keith Dambrot would return to the program as head coach, earning a sixth year.

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The below conversation is unedited and offers an insight about what to expect from the program moving forward.

Zac Weiss: Jon Rothstein broke the news that Keith Dambrot would return as Duquesne’s Men’s Basketball coach next season, how important is it to make this publicly known now?

Dave Harper: I’ve never had a focus on anything on than that. We’re in a circumstance that is unacceptable for everyone involved and you have to embrace it and fix it. That’s what we’re focusing on. If it doesn’t get fixed, then things need to be changed.

ZW: Keith has spoken at length about his frustrations, seeing it all from up close, how frustrating has it been for you to watch?

DH: You have to focus on what’s there. I do not pay attention to noise or anything other than how are we going to fix this? During the nonconference season, you kind of knew what was coming and you had to get out in front of it. I think a different recruiting strategy that we’re having will hopefully pay some benefits.

ZW: How important is it to enhance recruiting strategies?

DH: One of the strengths of our staff is in-person evaluations, those were eliminated, but it doesn’t give you any excuses. We missed. We’ve got to find guys now. We have no player that has signed with us. We’ve got to find guys that will help us short term and long term. There’s a combination and a way to do that to stabilize things. The transfer portal is one thing, but there is also a backlog of kids that didn’t have scholarships because kids have extra years of eligibility. There’s a three-year backlog in there and there’s a lot of talent out there that’s overlooked and probably doesn’t have a home or higher shelves we have to pick from. That’s our sole focus. You add in NIL and all of these other factors, it’s a wholistic strategy. Finding the players is one thing, getting them is another.

ZW: How tough is Duquesne’s position in the transfer portal? In your current spot in this current state, how much of a challenge does that present?

DH: It’s more of an opportunity than a challenge on both ends of the spectrum. You have to execute like anything else. The time you put in is important and when anyone hits that portal, it flashes up on a staff member’s screen and they’re all over it. That’s just the way that it has to be. The recruiting board per se that we have is as wide and I’ve ever seen it. In terms of prep, high school, junior college, transfers, it’s the widest we’ve ever seen it. You have to be able to evaluate. Patience, I think sometimes is important, you’ve got to spend a lot of analysis and finally we’ll have kids in here and work them out. It’s going to be critical for us and you’ve got to be able to sprint and think in this environment. Things can change overnight. It’s more chaotic than ever, but chaos requires disciplined processes, disciplined strategies and disciplined perspective and that’s what we’ve instilled this year.

ZW: In today’s society how do you feel Keith as the coach, can relate to those everyday challenges?

DH: I love what Tom Izzo said when he was asked about the handshake line and what it’s all about. The discipline of finding a player who wants to be coached at a high level and wants to be a great teammate and do all of the right things academically. That’s what works and we have to find those types of kids. Being honest up front with them can be a filter sometimes. That’s maybe something in the process where we collectively all can talk about.

ZW: How do you make sure if players decide to stay that changes can be made or dialogue can improve on both sides so that improvements can be made?

DH: It’s our world. I’m not fazed by it; you have to embrace it. If you’re fazed by it and it becomes daunting for you, then you’re not at the right spot. We know exactly what we have to do to fix this thing and we’ve got to go do it. It may sound overly simplistic, but it’s just reality. Look at the number that transferred last year, there’s going to be the same go around this year, maybe not as great, it’s going to be messy for four-or-five years. You’ve got to have a strong strategy and be disciplined in your practices, disciplined in what you’re looking for. We defined what we wanted to look like and were 21-9 going into the Atlantic 10 Tournament with a pretty darn good team. Now I’m not saying we would’ve gotten past Dayton that year, but we were the only team to be ahead of them at halftime at their place. It slipped; we have to correct it.

ZW: This team has experienced successes and Keith has stated he feels this year was an overreaction and overcorrected, how do you make sure this program can go back up to the levels you both are expecting?

DH: It can’t get any worse than it is right now. We’re going to focus on disciplined processes, doing a really strong job recruiting, getting out in front of those things and doing what it takes to be successful in the conference. We saw what it looked like, know what it looks like. You can run every X and O out there, but if you don’t have the athletes to compete, it doesn’t matter. We need to do what we need to do.

ZW: This year has been frustrating; how has it been trying to keep a level head when play has not been up to expectations?

DH: You have to deal with the reality that’s at hand. Keith and I started talking about this a long time ago. We collectively know what we’re trying to get. There are no misconceptions by either of us about what we should be doing, we figured it out a long time ago, we just have to execute the plan.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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