By Andrew Holman | Sports Editor
New head men’s basketball coach Keith Dambrot was introduced to the Duquesne basketball community in the Lexus Club at PPG Paints Arena in front of a packed room full of student-athletes, coaches, alumni, fans and members of his own family. Dambrot was welcomed and introduced by University President Ken Gormley, athletics director Dave Harper and Board of Directors chair Marie Millie Jones.
Within his opening remarks, Dambrot declared, “I have to resurrect Duquesne basketball before I die.” His poise, humor, confidence and passion for Duquesne basketball in both his opening statement and his answers to media questions resonated well with the audience, who proceeded to give him a standing ovation on multiple occasions. Dambrot will aim to rebuild a Duquesne program that has struggled for the past 40 years.
Below are some of the highlights from the press conference. The questions and responses have been condensed for space.
Q: Keith you mentioned about your fairy tale in your remarks. What made this fairy tale occur now versus five years ago or maybe earlier with temptations before that?
A: I think from my assessment right now I felt like that the commitment Duquesne was making to be great, interested me.
Look, we won 26 games last year, 27 games this year, and I wasn’t really happy. At that point you have to analyze whether you need to make a change. And it wasn’t just me, it was my coaching staff as well. We just felt like the one-bid league was bothering us.
So at that point, the commitment Duquesne made, I felt like a lot of people were underestimating my dad’s school, and I don’t like the fact that there are no banners in that gym from a long time ago until now.
Q: I was wondering about your meetings with the basketball team this past week since you took the job, and especially your meetings with the players who had expressed a desire to transfer?
A: One of the things I stress is spending time with the players. Spending time with the players is the key to all of us.
Shaka Smart worked with me, and I don’t know if anybody has ever heard him talk. But he’s a guy that uses that same philosophy. He kind of got it from me, and I got it from a guy named Ben Braun who was a coach at Eastern Michigan and California. That is the most important thing in coaching.
So I promise the guys I’m going to spend time with them. We’re going to make them better. We’re good at developing players. We’ve taken guys and made them players of the year.
Q: Keith, you mentioned earlier that Duquesne showed you a commitment to winning and that factored into your conversations. How did Dave or anyone you had conversations with demonstrate that to you?
A: 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. So I felt like Dave was the perfect man for the job to collaborate our efforts to try to make the fairy tale come true … While I wasn’t good enough to play at Duquesne, my dad was good enough, and I love Duquesne. I have Pittsburgh ties, so I believe in what the city stands for, and I believe I can rally the troops.
Q: Do you think there is a little more pressure on you at this job to succeed?
A: Well, in some ways less pressure. I mean nobody has won here, right? In Akron if I didn’t win an NCAA Tournament game they’re ready to hang me, right? Listen, nobody can put any pressure on you — if you’re worth your salt as a competitor, right, nobody’s going to put more pressure on me than me. I wasn’t a very good player, so this is my forum to show that I can be great at something, so I’m going to give it everything I have.
I kind of put blinders on and just kind of go, right. Donna will tell you, the hard part is going to be — we haven’t lost a lot of games, but I don’t come home until 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. in the morning after losses. So we better win some games or I’m going to get old quick.