By Adam Lindner | Asst. Sports Editor
On Thursday evening in the Lexus Club at PPG Paints Arena, Keith Dambrot was formally introduced as the new head basketball coach of Duquesne University.
The event, which was open to the public, saw an abundant turnout. University officials, media members, Duquesne basketball players, fans, students, and athletes from Duquesne’s other varsity sports attended the press conference.
Notably, among the players that attended were Mike Lewis II and Nakye Sanders. Both Lewis II and Sanders have been granted their releases from the university in order to begin contacting other schools regarding transferring after coach Jim Ferry was fired on March 13. Isiaha Mike, who also was granted his release, was not in attendance.
The inauguration began with opening remarks made by several university officials, including athletic director Dave Harper, Chairperson of the Board of Directors Marie Milie Jones, and University President Ken Gormley.
Once Dambrot finally took the podium, it was clear that he is happy to be here. Immediately opening up with a joke, Dambrot made himself comfortable, and was charming from the start.
Dambrot, newly-removed from the head spot at Akron, explained that being able to coach in his hometown of Akron was a dream come true and one that he was sad to see come to an end, but that he’d always revered Duquesne.
“I ran into this guy LeBron James who kind of resurrected my career. Akron gave me the opportunity. I got to coach in my hometown where my mother was a professor. My kids went to school, I went to school [in Akron]. I never thought I’d leave, really.”
However, with his mother having grown up in Squirrel Hill and his father having played basketball at Duquesne, Coach Dambrot elucidated that he’s always thought of Duquesne as a possible destination.
Dambrot went on to tell that his father wants to wear his Duquesne letter jacket in his casket when he dies. Nostalgically, Dambrot continued, “So I figured, if he wants to wear his letter sweater into his casket, then I have to resurrect Duquesne basketball before I die. Or I’m going to die trying and wear my letter jacket into that thing.”
While the new coach did an excellent job epitomizing his sentimentality, Dambrot also supplemented his appreciativeness with enthusiasm for the task at hand, as well.
“I had no reason – I had no reason to come here if I didn’t think Duquesne could be championship-level committed. It
wouldn’t have made sense for my family or for me at my age to do that.
“I believe we can win here or I wouldn’t have come.”
While clearly motivated and hopeful, Dambrot said that it won’t be easy. Just like anything else, it’s a process.
“There is no magical formula for this. We have to sell the institution. We have to sell the coaching staff. We have to sell the winningness, and we have to make sure that we rally behind this at this point. So, is it going to be easy? Listen, before I took Akron, Akron had won one MAC tournament game the entire time they’d been in the MAC. Now think about that. One MAC tournament game.
“I think we played in seven straight championship games. We played in 11 out of 14 championship games. If we can do it at Akron, we certainly can do it here. But we need all of you. We need all of you.”
After Dambrot had finished making his remarks, Dambrot and athletic director Dave Harper were made available for a Q&A session with the media.
The general consensus surrounding the press conference was one of confidence and excitement. Confidence in that Duquesne has hired a proven winner in Keith Dambrot, and excitement in that Duquesne has a blank slate to work with, with a bona fide leader at the helm.
“Again, I don’t think I’m a better coach than Coach Ferry. I really don’t,” said Dambrot. “I think sometimes people need new starts and people need blank slates and to start over. I think just for them, just getting a fresh start and a new outlook, and a new slate, just like for me, getting a new slate. I’m going to be reinvigorated.”
As will the program.
A new era has been ushered in on the Bluff. Anyone in attendance tonight will tell you that it was an enlightening experience, like a breath of fresh air. Nobody needed a breath of fresh air more than the dormant state that all-things Duquesne basketball were in prior to Dambrot’s hiring.
“Duquesne pride is coming back on the Bluff big time starting tonight,” said an eager President Gormley.