Dukes’ victory is for the entire Duquesne Community

Brentaro Yamane | Multimedia Editor | Duquesne University President Ken Gormley shares an emotional embrace with Dukes center Chabi Barre after the buzzer at last Sunday's A-10 Championship game where the Dukes beat VCU 57-51.

Spencer Thomas | Sports Editor

The last time Duquesne basketball put on their dancing shoes, the footwear in style would have been something like Chuck Taylor’s or Converses. Now, they’ll go dancing in whatever they want.

Duquesne defeated the VCU Rams 57-51 on Sunday afternoon in Brooklyn to win the Atlantic-10 Conference Championship and clinch a spot in March Madness. It’s their first time in the NCAA Tournament since 1977.

It is the biggest win in program history, and is the climax of a season fit for the silver screen. Soon-retiring Head Coach Keith Dambrot’s father, Sid, played at Duquesne in the 1950s, reaching the NIT championship game. He remained close to the school long after, telling his son that he wanted to be buried in his letterman jacket. 

In his introductory press conference seven years ago, Dambrot said that this connection to Duquesne is what drew him to the Bluff.

“If he wants to wear his letter sweater into his casket, then I have to resurrect Duquesne basketball before I die,” he said. “Or I’m going to die trying and wear my letter jacket into that thing.”

Safe to say the resurrection is complete.

All week, Duquesne fans spouted off with those they wanted to win a championship for. Some said Ray Goss, Duquesne’s play-by-play radio announcer, since 1968. Others said Sid Dambrot, whose legacy has been fulfilled 70 years after he wore a Duquesne uniform and two years after his death. Another rallying point was Keith’s wife Donna, who has been battling breast cancer all season but found herself in Brooklyn embracing her husband in a downpour of confetti. People also said Tre Williams, the joint-longest-tenured player on the team who may have seen his college career end with a shoulder injury versus Dayton on Thursday night.

In truth, Duquesne won for Williams. They won for Goss and Sid and Donna Dambrot, too. They won for every member of the Duquesne community – the students who gathered for a watch party in Cooper Fieldhouse, and the alums who descended on Brooklyn with class rings on their fingers and hope in their hearts. They won for everyone who experienced all 47 years of disappointment as well as the new fans who will pass down stories of Duquesne glory the same way that Sid did for Keith.

Finally, they won it for each other. Their sacrifice and investments immortalized on the court in Brooklyn with the trophy they carried off it.

“It’s something that you can never get taken away from you,” Dambrot said.