Vukovcan: Dambrot’s Bold Turnaround at Duquesne Deserves More Attention
College basketball is once again alive and well in the Pittsburgh and I am not just talking about the Pitt Panthers.
Jeff Capel’s team has not only surprised the Pitt fanbase this season with its 19-7 record, but a case can be also made that the Panthers are one of the best stories and surprises in college basketball.
Because of this, something that is not receiving the amount of attention as it should be is the turnaround story of the Duquesne men’s basketball team. A legitimate argument can be made that it is a bigger success story than Pitt this season.
Last season was a nightmare for Keith Dambrot, as his team finished the season with a record of 6-24 and ended the year on a 17-game losing streak.
Not surprisingly, people started to question Dambrot and his coaching ability. Was he too old to relate to today’s players? Was he capable of fixing things and truly turning Duquesne into a team that contend for postseason play?
The doubters extended beyond the Duquesne fan base and probably some within the university. In the preseason Atlantic-10 media poll, Duquesne was picked to finish dead last again in the conference.
Following the 2022 season, Dambrot did something that raised some eyebrows and that got more people to question him and that was almost completely gutting his roster.
And when I say he gutted the roster, that’s no exaggeration.
Dambrot and his staff were on a mission to not only get better players, but they also were looking for players that were talented and good teammates and that were coachable. The 2022 team was not only not talented enough, but they were also near impossible to coach. That’s a very bad combination and thus the 6-24 record.
“People probably thought I stunk, or I lost it. I can’t coach anymore,” said Dambrot. “All that did was reinvigorate me into working like I did when I was 25. The main reason you win is because you have pretty good players, the staff did a great job of bringing in good players and people.”
That’s an understatement, as Tevin Brewer, Jimmy Clark, Dae Dae Grant, Quincy McGriff, Kareem Rozer, Halil Barre, David Dixon, Matus Hronsky,, Devin Carney and Joe Reece were all added to the roster.
Adding ten new players to a team is unheard of, but Dambrot made the decision to truly start over and it’s worked out to perfection.
Grant came in with a lot of hype and it’s lived up to all of it and more. Clark has maybe been the biggest surprise as he’s arguably the most complete and best player on the roster. Reece has been a steady veteran presence down low and after starting slow because of injuries, and Brewer has been really good over the last couple of weeks.
The encouraging thing for the future is the production Duquesne is getting from its first-year players. McGriff has the size and all-around skill set to be a really good player, Rozier is the Dukes’ point guard of the future and despite being just a freshman, he is already the unquestioned leader of the team. The Dukes will be losing a couple big men after the season but Barre and Dixon look like they’ll have no problem picking up and eventually surpassing their production next season and in the future. Hronsky has legit offensive potential, and the offseason will be beneficial to him as he works to figure out his role and what’s wanted and needed from him.
Following last night’s win over St. Joe’s, the Dukes are 18-8 and 8-5 in the Atlantic-10, just 1.5 games out of first place. Yes, that’s from a team that was picked to finish last this season.
Credit to the coaching staff for the talent evaluation as well as getting all of these new faces to gel and to look and perform like one of the best teams in the conference.
These players have bought into what’s being asked of them and truly look like a group of players that enjoy playing with each other and the results show.
Speaking of results, Duquesne has at least six games remaining and will have the opportunity to achieve some remarkable things.
*The win last night was their 15th at home, one shy of a school record.
*The 4-0 start to February is the first time they’ve done that since 1970-71.
*Dukes are 2 wins away from 20 wins, which is something they’ve accomplished only twice in the last 41 years.
*Dukes are 3 wins away from 21, which would equal the highest total of the Dambrot era.
*If Duquesne is able to win 4 more games this season, it would be the first time they’ve collected 22 wins since the 1961-62 season.
As you can see, there are plenty of things left for this Duquesne team to accomplish, the biggest of which is winning the Atlantic 10 postseason tournament and receiving a bid the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1976-77.
Don’t be so quick to dismiss that because as he’s shown this season, when you have arguably the best head coach, pro or college, in the city of Pittsburgh, anything is possible.
Should be an interesting next 3 weeks. Let the Madness begin!
Unquestionably the City’s best coach
It would be great to get better better coverage , because it is hard to follow this team when you don’t know when they play. Congratulations to Coach Dambrot for the job he is doing. He is indeed the greatest coach in Duquesne history and I hope that he breaks Red Manning’s record for season wins. GoDUQ.
its too bad they cant even get a good radio braodcast, 104.7 HD only, and that cuts in and out if you arent close to the city. I get espn+ so I watch all the games, for 4-5 months its about $40-50. After bball is over I quit it.
Try iheart ESPN 970. Crystal clear.
He has done a great job. Like Pitt they are an old team, too. Hopefully they can win the A10 tourney and get in the NCAA Tournament. Sucks the A10 is a one bid league. They are definitely on the NIT radar.
they arent that old, they play 10-11 guys, sure Grant and Clark are older and Reece, Rozier and Rotroff are done after this year, but Dixon, Barre, Rozier, McGriff, Carney, Horonsky are freshmen. Williams has another year with Grant and Clark, I believe(covid rules) They need to stay here tho. Team can really become something if they stay. But thats a lot to ask in todays ncaa. Maybe bring in some nice HS talent(Bron James Jr).
See how many stay after the season before giving accolades. If only sin had stayed
RaDICK , You had to come to a Duquesne article to bash Capel ????? You’re a total joke !!! I was wondering where you were hiding !!! LOSER