Natalie Fiorilli | The Duquesne Duke
When Duquesne women’s basketball head coach Dan Burt was considering a long-term career, he asked himself, ‘How can I impact kids’ lives the most?’ The answer for him, was becoming a basketball coach. Fast forward 17 years from his first assistant coaching position at West Virginia University, and you will see a head coach in his second year, who just led his team to arguably one of the most successful seasons in program history.
In this past season, Burt and his team racked up 23 wins, good enough for third all-time in the history of the program. The Dukes became one of 18 teams that have secured 20 or more wins for seven seasons successively. They entered the third round of the WNIT, a feat that has only occurred once before, in 2011. Burt led Duquesne to 12 wins in Atlantic 10 Conference play, going undefeated at home in A-10 games, both were program records. Regardless of their success, Burt and his team are still in search for something that Duquesne women’s basketball has not yet found: the coveted NCAA Tournament bid, something that they came very close to finding this season.
“We just came up a hair short,” Burt said. “We’re going to get there, and it’s going to happen.”
A major component to his coaching strategy is individual player development. Burt believes that next to recruiting, player development is the most important thing you can do within a basketball program. He considers senior forward Stasia King’s growth to be a proven example of the success found through his development strategy.
“Stasia is a kid that didn’t score a lot of points for us,” Burt said. “She’s a kid that didn’t play a lot for us. There is no one who has grown more as a person, as a student, and as a basketball player in four years, in all of my coaching career, than Stasia King. I am exceptionally proud of what she has done, especially during her senior year.”
Along with improving players on the court, Burt finds it important to provide a family-oriented environment for his team, especially keeping in mind the international players. Sophomore forward Amadea Szamosi shares a Hungarian nationality with Burt’s wife, Kata, and enjoys conversations in her native language with Burt’s wife and two sons, Soma and Milan.
“They are always very helpful and it’s nice that he understands a different culture, and what it feels like to be on a different continent and to be away from home,” Szamosi said. “He’s very good at making the whole team feel like a family and he realizes that it’s very important to help and support each other. He helps us get together a little more, and get to know each other off the court.”
Now that the 2014-2015 season is over, Burt and his team are focused on improvement and are looking forward to an even more successful upcoming season. With eight new players, seven being freshman, the Dukes are set to be a young team. On the other hand, three of their top scorers and two of their top rebounders will be returning to the lineup.
“This is not an off-season this is an on-season, Burt said. “They need to be in that gym working on their game more than they do during the season, and I’m definitely seeing that from our players.”
As for last season’s team motto, “Heart Over Hype,” Burt intends to keep that special for last year’s team in particular. “The one thing I like because we will probably play a little bit faster is “Run-DUQ”, it’s kind of a take-off of Run-D.M.C., the old rap group, and we may do something like that,” Burt said. “It’s one of those things that just kind of organically happens, something just fits, it will happen but I don’t know what it will be. We’ll know it when we see it.”
Junior point guard, April Robinson, realizes that the upcoming season is going to be a big adjustment for the team, and expressed that Burt’s support can help carry the team.
“He makes us play to the best of our ability,” Robinson said. “He’ll help if you go to him, and he’ll give you advice. Being a point-guard you always have to have communication with your head coach so there’s a lot of trust and communication between me and him. He also preaches always doing your best on the court, but also doing well in the classroom to carry over into the real world.”
No one knows what the upcoming season will bring, but at the rate Burt’s coaching career is going, good things should be expected. He has brought the Dukes to the second and third rounds of the WNIT in only his first two years on the bluff, was a finalist for the 2014 Maggie Dixon Division I Rookie Coach of the Year and was named Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year by Kenny Kallina of Florida Girls’ Basketball and John McGraw Scouting Service.
“There’s a lot of people out there that know a lot more X’s and O’s than me, and there’s a lot better recruiters than me, but I give every kid that we have come here, trust and loyalty,” Burt said. “I try to facilitate an environment where success is not only expected, it should happen every year.”