Keith Dambrot ready to revive Duquesne hoops
PITTSBURGH (AP) Sid Dambrot spent four years as a player at Duquesne in the 1950s turning the Dukes into a regional and national power.
Over 60 years later, his son Keith is ready to do the same for the Dukes in the Atlantic 10.
Keith Dambrot, the longtime Akron coach, was officially introduced at his father's alma mater on Thursday, pledging to revive a program that hasn't reached the NCAA Tournament since 1977 and spent the better part of the last 30 years struggling for relevance.
''It took a long time to make this decision and it took a long time for me,'' Dambrot said. ''I had to know we were really committed to winning, committed to playing at a championship level, not a middle of the Atlantic 10 level.''
Duquesne's perennial spot near the bottom of the A-10 hardly deterred Dambrot, who took over a similar rebuilding job at Akron and led the Zips to 305 wins and three NCAA appearances in 13 seasons.
While admitting he left some in Akron stunned by his decision to leave a program he'd turned into one of the most consistent winners in the Mid-American Conference, Dambrot could not resist the chance to do the same at a place so near to his family's heart.
His father, who helped the Dukes reach No. 1 in the AP poll during his senior year in 1954, told Dambrot 15 years ago that he when he passed, he wanted to be buried in his blue Duquesne letterman's sweater with the red D on it.
''If he wants to wear his letter sweater into his casket, then I have to resurrect Duquesne basketball before I die,'' Dambrot said with a laugh while noting that at 86, his father remains very much alive. ''Or I'm going to die trying and wear my letter jacket in that thing.''
Dambrot plans to bring his entire coaching staff with him to Duquesne and pledged to bring the kind of grit that was the hallmark of his father's teams six decades ago.
''When my dad played here in 1951, if you didn't play great defense at Duquesne, you didn't play,'' Dambrot said.
Dambrot replaces Jim Ferry, who was fired earlier this month after posting a 60-97 record over five seasons and never finishing better than 10th in the 14-team A-10. Dambrot's teams at Akron consistently contended for the MAC title, finishing in the top three in the conference 12 times in 13 seasons. The Zips averaged 23.5 wins during Dambrot's tenure. Duquesne hasn't won 23 games in a season since 1954 when Sid Dambrot helped the Dukes to a 26-3 mark.
''Keith has deeply rooted historical connections to Duquesne and the men's basketball program,'' Duquesne president Ken Gormley said. ''You could say Keith was born to be a Duke.''
Gormley joked he will leave a seat at every home game next season for NBA star LeBron James, who Dambrot coached at St. Vincent-St. Mary's. Dambrot praised James for helping revive his career. Now he wants to help restore some of the luster to Duquesne.
''If we can do it at Akron,'' Dambrot said, ''we can do it here.''
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