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Introducing ’47 Years,’ a New Book About Duquesne’s Historic Season

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Duquesne basketball had an absolutely historic season in 2023-24, making the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 47 years.

The Dukes, led by Keith Dambrot, marched back from a brutal beginning to the conference slate all the way to an Atlantic 10 Championship run and later to the NCAA Tournament’s Round of 32. The season had, what some would call, a storybook ending.

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To showcase the importance of the 2023-24 Dukes and all that went into the legendary season that put the team into the University’s Hall of Fame already, scribes Zac Weiss, Robert Healy, and David Finoli have set out to write a book about the team’s journey.

“It almost reminds you of a college version of the Cubs streak, or the Red Sox,” Weiss told PSN about the Dukes’ streak. “It’s been 47 years since this Duquesne men’s basketball team has made it to an NCAA basketball tournament. There’s a lot to be said. There are a lot of different reasons, of which some will be included in this book. Even as close as two years ago, this team had seven wins. There were a lot of questions, and not many answers, with that seven-win team. Keith [Dambrot] stripped everything to get the team back to where he saw fit, and I think he might have over corrected, and I think he might admit that as well. There were a lot of questions — was Keith the right guy? Could he still relate to the guys? His promise that he made to his father Sid, is he going to be able to see this through? Every single year it almost felt like the great pumpkin would — you’d have fans that would come in the first home game saying ‘this is the year, and this is why.’ For whatever reason, that excitement would wane throughout the season.”

Duquesne finished the season with a 25-12 record, but that result did not come easy — the Dukes faced loads of adversity throughout the year, all of which make the story even better.

“Certainly, there were bend, don’t break moments throughout the season — of course, going 0-5 to start conference play is something that was not what the doctor ordered,” Weiss said. “But it was also something that helped re-focus this team to really put themselves to the test and they were able to respond and play their best basketball when it mattered most. This is a team that makes an NCAA Tournament, and almost immediately after they get the chance, they’re already inducted into the Duquesne Athletics Hall of Fame. That, already, is something that is extremely showing what that team means to the University, what that teams means to the city as a whole — they want to bring the love of basketball back to the city, especially in a time where there is interest being caged in relation to NBA and WNBA franchises within the city. Duquesne has really put the pieces of the puzzle together, they had something really, really special. So many people celebrated — there were so many people that said, ‘All I really wanted before I passed away was for Duquesne to make the NCAA Tournament.’ A lot of people had the opportunity to see that goal and aspiration come to fruition with this team. This team meant so much for everybody, and it was a story that was told on somewhat of a national level. But we hope to facilitate this being a small part of what could be described as the legacy of this team. The goal and aspirations of this is to use this as a tool to help teach people, when all of us are gone, what this team meant, and what this team’s spot in history is and how this team got there.”

Weiss mentioned players like Tre Williams, Andy Barba, Austin Rotroff, and RJ Gunn as leaders in the Dukes’ journey to March Madness. Despite Rotroff and Gunn not even playing for this past season’s team, Weiss looked to those four as a group that showed the program that this was possible.

“That quartet was kind of the start of why this was possible,” Weiss continued. “That belief that they had in the staff that this was the right place for them, that this could be done, that winning could be done at Duquesne. That’s when you get guys like Dae Dae Grant, like Jimmy “Tre” Clark, that are generational players for Duquesne and decided to play before last season and see this through. It’s a group that, coming from so many different countries and so many different walks of life, found basketball as a commonality and used that basketball to build family, to build continuity, and to build a relentless tenacity to see all of its aspirations through.”

Duquesne's 2024 March Madness Tournament coverage is sponsored by Leon's Billiards & More, Moon Golf Club and Archie's on Carson! Their contributions have allowed us to cover the Dukes run in Omaha, Nebraska. We appreciate their support!

Weiss will be writing the story along with Healy and Finoli, two people who represent Duquesne through-and-through.

“We compliment each other so well,” Weiss continued. “There has been nobody that has followed the day-to-day of Duquesne basketball and has the connections as I do. Bob Healy is someone that has written books on Duquesne — he is published as a media professional. He is someone that can really relate and teaches every day at Duquesne. He has a finger on the pulse, he knows the history very well, and was a student athlete in his own right, playing for the Duquesne football team — so he wears Duquesne on his heart. He is amazing in his knowledge and he is a very good friend. Dave Finoli, this is his 42nd book on Pittsburgh sports. Knows the history, loves the history, he is a Duquesne alum as well. This was one of the most shaping moments in his Pittsburgh sporting life.

’47 Years’

…Dave is somebody that immediately, the morning of the BYU game, I’m sitting in the hotel in Omaha, and I tell Dave, ‘Win or lose, this is a book, and I’d like to be absolutely somebody that writes a chapter on it. This is a topic that we hope generates buzz locally, nationally, and with the walks of life that these players come from, we hope that that can be internationally.”

As for a release date, the group is aiming for the beginning of the 2024-25 basketball season to have the book out. It will be readily available through Amazon, and will also available on Duquesne’s campus upon its release. The group hopes to conduct book-signings in conjunction with the release.

“We are aggressively attacking that,” Weiss said. “It’s a quick turnaround, but given our background, and our ability to tell the story, is definitely not an ambitious one. A lot of the “grunt work” is already done — with our connections and our knowledge of the history. our ability and our access to the players, which is thanks to Duquesne University, specifically Jim Duzyk, among others. To be able to use what we already have, build on that, have additional conversations with a lot of the individuals who had an impact on their success. We want this to be a legacy piece that can transcend all of our lives, that can be used as a way to impact and to help tell the story of what this team was, how special they are, and how they feel this can be maintained beyond a one-year thing.”

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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