Pat Higgins | Sports Editor
Innovative journalist Dejan Kovacevic, of DKonPittsburghSports.com, attended Duquesne’s matchup with Davidson on Saturday night. From our perspective, Dejan has not been as regular an attendee of the Dukes’ home games this season as we have at The Duke.
Regardless, he was there when Davidson, the best team in the Atlantic 10 this season, routed the Dukes from the midpoint of the first half all the way to the final buzzer. Apparently, he had seen enough to stake the boldest claim anyone’s made about Duquesne hoops this year.
“Duquesne rots from the head down.” That’s right: Duquesne rots.
That was the headline he ran on his subscription-based site. At the postgame press conference, where only coach Jim Ferry spoke, Kovacevic asked Ferry a question he’s been asked no less than 10 times this season: Is your team progressing?
Ferry, who was noticeably steamed about answering the same question he’s been asked after every home game, gave the same answer he gave to us in mid-January. He said the Dukes are improving, and if you don’t think so then you don’t know basketball.
At this point in his rant full of mostly factless claims, Kovacevic wrote that the “rotting” that is supposedly happening down at the Palumbo Center “is on Ferry and his staff.”
“Defense can be taught. Middling defense can be taught,” he said, proving his point most likely by pulling up the men’s basketball team’s schedule on GoDuquesne.com and noticing that the Dukes have given up large amounts of points in a number of games this season. Ninety-two and 100 to St. Bonaventure, 87 to La Salle, 86 to Richmond, 81 to Dayton and 95 in the first meeting with Davidson are the games he picked.
Five those six games were on the road, where the Dukes have struggled mightily this season. That’s not a trend unique to Duquesne. The road team is a combined 66-110 in all A-10 action this season. At home, the Dukes have been significantly better. In fact, they had won four straight at Palumbo prior to Saturday’s loss to Davidson, a streak that includes victories over George Washington and Dayton.
But with that being said, I’d really like to see Dejan’s approach to it. I should call upon him personally to shut down his site or just pull back to part-time, head on down to the Palumbo Center and try teaching something better than “middling” defense.
Better yet, just two graphs later, Dejan retracts his claim that the blame related to the Dukes’ shortcomings this season are on Ferry. “Ferry can do better, but this broader scene isn’t on him, either.”
A big reason why the Dukes are susceptible to allowing a lot of points to opponents in spurts is because they try to bring the ball up on the court on offense as quickly as possible. They play at a frenetic pace, and actually finished the regular season tied for second place in the A-10 with VCU by scoring 72.3 points per game. They also finished second in the conference in 3-point field goal percentage (36.7 percent) and fifth in field goal percentage (45.3 percent).
Next, he put together a pretty graphic that depicted former Coach Ron Everhart’s rise to success and plateau around 2008. In his first season at Duquesne in 2005, Everhart finished in 10th place. The next season, nothing changed: 10th place. In the three years following that, the Dukes began to compete at the top of the conference, and basketball was the talk of campus. But Everhart couldn’t sustain his success, finished ninth in the Atlantic 10 in his final season on the Bluff (2011-12) and was fired by Athletic Director Greg Amodio. La Salle’s men’s team, which finished ninth in the conference this season, reached the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament just two years ago.
Dayton, VCU and Davidson have all reached the Big Dance in recent years. The Dukes compete with these teams on a nightly basis. Competition is the best catalyst for success, and so it’s only a matter of time before it is Duquesne’s chance to make the A-10 proud in the postseason.
He said he could have “ditched this entire column and just run the graphic,” as if Everhart was bringing home titles, awards and accolades to the Bluff. After that, he continues to point his finger at anything and everyone who has anything to do with the basketball program.
Somehow he’s shocked Ferry’s job isn’t in jeopardy. This is literally the first season in his tenure that Ferry had a rotation complete with players he recruited. And just 28 games later, Ferry should be on the hot seat? That is space-killing, content-filling bush league, my good sir. What is Amodio to do now then? Fire Ferry, watch all the players he recruited here transfer by May, and start again from square one.
What do you expect, Dejan? For the Dukes to wake up one day and suddenly start playing like the best team in the Atlantic 10 when there’s 13 other teams loaded with comparable talent? Every one of these Dukes will be back next year with the exception of Dominique McKoy, who set the standard for what it means to play hard on both ends of the floor.
And on the subject of the Rev. Sean Hogan and President Charles Dougherty, they don’t have anything to do with whether the Dukes play man-to-man defense or a 2-3 zone. Blaming them for a roster that hasn’t featured all scholarship players in about three years is simply ludicrous.
To top off his laundry list of factless claims, Dejan writes that “while city neighbors Pitt, CMU and Point Park have progressed and innovated, Duquesne has lost its identity.”
No support after that to back up the claim that Duquesne and its constituents are rotting away up here on the Bluff. Here’s some news for you Dejan: your opinion on the place you briefly called home is the one that rots. And maybe Towers dorm, but they’re working on that.
Duquesne basketball does not define the University. It would certainly help with admissions if they won a few more games and made some noise at the conference championship this weekend, but in each of the last four years, the number of students who have enrolled at the University has risen steadily. And in regards to the driving a stake through the program and the school by publishing that it is somehow rotting is one of the most short-sighted takes I have seen in quite some time.