Keith Dambrot Announces Retirement

Brentaro Yamane | Multimedia Editor | Keith Dambrot cut down the nets for the first time since he won the MAC at Akron in 2013.

Spencer Thomas | Sports Editor

Updated 1:33 a.m. on March 21, 2024

Duquesne Men’s Basketball Head Coach Keith Dambrot is retiring at the end of this season, he announced at a news conference on Monday. A successor was not immediately announced.

He said he was 80% sure he’d be retiring last summer, but the decision was sealed over the course of this season, as his wife, Donna, battled health issues. His retirement comes despite his wife’s insistence that he stay on.

“My mom was a psychologist, and she kind of made me aware as to what kind of person I am, and how I operate,” he said. “I could see myself losing that edge at some point, and I don’t want it to end that way.”

Dambrot, 65, was hired in 2017 as the 17th men’s basketball coach in school history. At the time, Duquesne had not had a winning record in five seasons and were coming off a 10-22 season where they had finished last place in the Atlantic-10. On Sunday afternoon, he accomplished his “shining goal” of bringing Duquesne back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1977.

Dambrot said that he hopes he not only made the program better while he was here, but in the future as well.

“Hopefully now people realize that it has capabilities to be a good job. And, I think it’ll be a good job from here on in as long as the people that are here are here,” he said. “It can be right up there as a top-25 program every single year.”

Vice President of Athletics Dave Harper agreed with that statement, and expressed gratitude to Dambrot for committing to the revitalization of Duquesne basketball.

“There’s only two words I can think of,” he said. “Thank you.”

Associate Head Coach Dru Joyce III said that Dambrot was unique in that he made winning a personal business.

“You just wanted to fight for him. He gave us everything he had,” Joyce said. “I just want to remember him for the love that he’s given to not only his job, but his players, his staff., relationships that he values because they mean a lot.”

“He’s an older guy,” said senior guard Jimmy Clark III. “He can give a lot of advice to a younger guy that’s coming up in this life and the world in general.”

In Dambrot’s first season, the Dukes went 16-16, and improved to 10th in the Atlantic-10 Conference. The following year, Duquesne won its most games since 2009, and finished with a winning record in the A-10 for the first time in eight seasons.

For the next three years, Duquesne fluctuated in the middle tier of mid-major programs, finishing as high as fifth out of 14 A-10 teams in 2020. After a nightmare 2021-22 season, Dambrot revived the program and won 20 games the following season. He became the first Duquesne coach to win 20 games on multiple occasions since Red Manning’s tenure from 1958-1974.

Prior to Duquesne, Dambrot spent 13 seasons coaching at the University of Akron, his alma mater. Dambrot became the most successful coach in school history, winning the Mid-American Conference and reaching the NCAA Tournament on three separate occasions.

After rising through the coaching ranks throughout the Midwest, Dambrot made his name at the high-school level. He spent three seasons at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. He went 69-10, winning a pair of state championships and gaining national attention by coaching Lebron James for his freshman and sophomore year. The pair remain in touch, and Dambrot said that James called him on Sunday to offer congratulations on the A-10 title.

Dambrot has been praised for his evolution that allowed him to have success at several different schools over several different decades.

“He claims he’s getting a little bit softer as he ages,” Joyce said with a laugh. “He’s never been stuck in his ways. Always continuing to grow and continue to learn.”

“You have to be relatively secure in order to take varying opinions,” Dambrot said. “Sometimes my wife will tell me things that I really don’t want to hear and then probably two hours later, I see maybe she’s right. It’s the same thing with these guys.”

Nobody is quite sure what retirement will look like for Dambrot, including the coach himself.

“I don’t know what the hell I’m going to do because I really don’t have any hobbies,” he joked. “I might be coming to all y’alls games all the time.”

Coaching was always a personal business for Dambrot. His assistant coaches at Duquesne almost exclusively consisted of his former players, many of whom followed him from Akron to Duquesne.

“The game is important, that’s the fun part, but it’s really the relationships and the journeys that you get to go on with people,” Joyce said. “I’ve been a part of his family as much as he’s been a part of mine.”

Joyce played alongside James for Dambrot at SVSM. In an emotional news conference, Dambrot thanked Joyce for trusting him and enrolling at SVSM. He was adamant that he would not have made it to where he is today without Joyce.

“I’m happy for him, that he’s been able to live out his dream, his journey and everything that he’s accomplished,” Joyce said. “I’m a little bit sad as well because I know how much the game means to him, and also the work that he’s put into it and what he means to my family.”

Dambrot currently has a career record of 594-293 which puts him in a tie for 123rd in the all-time college coaching ranks. He will look to climb that list on Thursday, when Duquesne takes on BYU in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

“He gets to finish out being an A-10 Champion,” Clark said. “It’s a beautiful story in the end, and I feel like we’re not done yet. There’s more history to add.”