Natalie Fiorilli | Asst. Sports Editor
Coaching elsewhere was an option Duquesne women’s basketball coach Dan Burt wouldn’t consider.
“I had several universities contact me but it never went beyond a first phone call,” Burt said. “I knew that Mr. Harper and our administration was supportive of our program and myself. I had no interest in leaving something that is so special.”
Coming off of a season in which he led his team to it’s first-ever NCAA Tournament in program history, Burt recently committed to an eight-year contract extension to remain head coach of the Dukes.
Along with the team’s NCAA Tournament appearance this past season, Burt led Duquesne to 28 wins and 13 conference victories, both of which are program records. The Red & Blue advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament where they fell to the top-seeded University of Connecticut, who would go on to win its fourth straight title. Burt’s team was the only team, out of the six that faced UCONN on their championship run, to hold a lead on them during the 2016 Tournament.
For Burt, the players and coaching staff at Duquesne were the motivating factors in committing to his current position through the 2023-2024 season.
“We are a family,” Burt said. “As last year clearly showed, we have something special and very rare in women’s basketball at Duquesne. Our players’ respect for diversity, different cultures and their thirst for growing as athletes and students motivates me every day. They’re great ambassadors in the classroom and on the court for our University.”
So how does the team plan to keep up with last year’s momentum heading into the upcoming season?
Right now, the student athletes are busy conditioning both on and off the court, and in the classroom, according to Burt. Up next, the Dukes will be eligible to participate in 10 days of practice in compliance with NCAA standards, as they prepare for an upcoming foreign tour. Duquesne will travel to Hungary, Croatia, Serbia and Paris in August, and is set to compete in four games while in Europe.
Per NCAA guidelines, teams are permitted to engage in a foreign tour once every four years. These tours must occur during the summer break, and between the spring and fall semesters.
Director of Basketball Operations, Melissa Franko, explained that the team is anticipating the foreign tour along with the start of a new season.
“Players are already saying that they wish it was November,” Franko said. “That’s a positive and enthusiastic sign that our Dukes are committed and hungry, and that this is now their story to write. Our upcoming foreign tour will really cement how much of a family we truly are.”
Competing overseas will provide a young Duquesne team additional time for conditioning as they prepare for a season without leadership from the program’s winningest senior class of April Robinson, Deva’Nyar Workman and Emilie Gronas. The 2016-17 roster will consist of 10 active student athletes at the freshman and sophomore level, two juniors and two seniors.
Burt explained that finding leadership in such a young team will be a vital process in continuing Duquesne’s success this year.
“The players’ efforts in the classroom, in the weight room and on the court have been terrific this summer,” Burt said. “We must develop leadership, and that is somewhat of an organic process that sorts itself out usually. However, this year with so much youth, we might need to help the process along.”