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Vukovcan: Duquesne Fans Should Appreciate Keith Dambrot

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Seven years ago, Keith Dambrot made the decision to leave a very comfortable situation coaching his hometown Akron Zips in order to take one of the more challenging jobs in college basketball.

Dambrot left a situation at Akron where he won 20-plus games in 12 consecutive seasons, were MAC regular season champions six times and qualified for the NCAA Tournament three times.

He did this in order to take on the biggest challenge of his coaching career, with the ultimate goal of restoring prominence to his father’s college basketball team. To call his job to rebuild the Duquesne men’s basketball program and make it relevant a challenge is a vast understatement.

Prior to Dambrot’s arrival in 2017, Duquesne was a mess, irrelevant and a laughingstock in the college basketball world. Want proof? Consider the following:

-Before Dambrot, Duquesne hadn’t won 20 games in a season since 2008. Prior to that, you’d have to go all the way back to 1980-81. However, since the hiring of Dambrot, the Dukes have had three 20-win seasons in seven years.

-Under Dambrot, Duquesne has had only one season with a losing record. How’s that compare to his predecessors? In the previous 35 years under Jim Satalin, John Carroll, Scott Edgar, Darrelle Porter, Danny Nee and Ron Everhardt, Duquesne basketball had losing records in 27 of the 35 seasons.

-Duquesne’s Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 1976. 

Seven years later, although Dambrot hasn’t achieved his ultimate goal, the Dukes basketball program is one that the university can be proud of and one that’s more than competitive year in and year out.

The reason I’m bringing this up is because of the speculation going on regarding Dambrot and his future with Duquesne.

Will Dambrot decide to retire following the 2023-24 season?

While there’s been plenty of speculation, no one aside from Keith and his family truly know the answer to that question. This won’t come down to whether or not Dambrot has the passion to coach. Instead, it will be about family and the health of his wife Donna, who has been battling breast cancer. Family is more important than coaching basketball and, in the end, Dambrot will make his decision based on what’s best and right for his family.

I’m not a big message board person but when I do go on to check out comments, I’ve been stunned with the amount of Duquesne fans that aren’t satisfied with the job that Dambrot and his staff have done. This actually began to start surfacing last season and has gained steam in 2023-24.

The portion of Duquesne fans that feel the program is underachieving, are you aware of the stats that I listed above? Three 20-win seasons in the last seven, one won losing season, plus the increase in caliber of recruit that Duquesne is now bringing in.

Duquesne will enter this week’s Atlantic 10 tournament with as legitimate a chance to win it as anyone in the conference. Does that mean they will? Of course not, but they’re capable of doing so, something that was never the case prior to Dambrot arriving.

All I’m going to say to Duquesne fans is to be careful what you wish for and don’t take for granted what you have.

The basketball program is as solid as maybe it’s ever been in recent memory. Thanks to an upgraded facility, NIL contributions and talent coming into the program, Duquesne is able to compete on a yearly basis and that’s because of Keith Dambrot.

How would things change if he decides to step away from coaching? No one knows and that should be the scary thing if you’re a Duquesne fan. There are no guarantees in life and certainly none when it comes to replacing a legendary coach.

First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with Donna and the entire Dambrot family. Let’s hope that everything is ok with her. If so, here’s hoping that the month of March isn’t the end of Dambrot, and he returns to the sidelines for the 2024-25 season.

If he doesn’t, it’ll be a sad day for college basketball in Pittsburgh and a HUGE loss for Duquesne men’s basketball.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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Stanley Kupp
Stanley Kupp
2 months ago

Love your article. Couldn’t agree more with your sentiment. Also best of health to Mrs. Dambrot. I hope Coach D can still around a lot longer.

Terry
Terry
2 months ago

100 percent agree mike ,great article

John
John
2 months ago

Mike, thanks for your article. I could not agree more. I am a DU alum from ’93. Those who rooted for the Dukes during those lean years know what Dambrot has done for the program.

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