Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Keith Dambrot Brings the Midas Touch to Duquesne

Duquesne University is betting on a new men's basketball coach with a proven track record and a superstar supporter.




PHOTOS by dave denoma

 

Fresh off a red-eye from Los Angeles, Keith Dambrot moves with great urgency. The new head coach of the Duquesne University men’s basketball team has meetings to attend, practices to conduct and recruits to pursue.

“An absolute whirlwind,” says Dambrot, as he settles into his office hours after meeting with a film crew to discuss LeBron James — who Dambrot coached at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary High School.
 


 

​Dambrot, whose mother grew up in Squirrel Hill, squeezes in family time when his schedule allows (he regularly races down Forbes Avenue to watch his son, Rob, play soccer at Pitt; Rob transferred from Akron before his father took the gig), yet there is little room for much else. He has a program to resuscitate.

“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think we could win,” says Dambrot, who turned down the Duquesne job five years earlier to continue coaching at his alma mater, the University of Akron.

As he speaks, the charismatic coach sweeps off a line of sweat trickling from his hair, the result of a frenetically paced practice during which he ran the court like a college freshman. “You have to get out of your comfort zone and communicate,” the hard-charging Dambrot said repeatedly during the workout. “That’s how they do it at NBA practices.”


 

Dambrot’s players, desperate to become winners, listen intently as their coach pushes for perfection. They believe in his approach and, most importantly, in his credentials.

“He coached LeBron James — LeBron James — and LeBron did what he asked him to do,” says sophomore Mike Lewis II, the leading scorer for a Dukes team that went 10-22 last season. “So you know we’re going to do everything he asks us to do. How couldn’t we? He’s won everywhere he’s been.”

At Akron, James was an invaluable commodity during Dambrot’s 13 seasons. The superstar’s occasional visits to practices and his public endorsements of Dambrot — “He’s one of the Masters at getting the most out of a kid,” James once tweeted — put the spotlight squarely on the Mid-American Conference school.

“LeBron and I remain close,” says Dambrot, whose Akron teams averaged 23½ victories. “That hasn’t changed now that I’m at a new address.”

Each time James tweets about Dambrot these days (which is fairly regularly), it can be viewed by 38.8 million followers. James also outfits Duquesne with his Nike-LeBron gear. (The only other program with such a deal is Ohio State’s).
 


 

These perks can serve as recruiting gold for Dambrot, who used his affiliation with James to lure some of the top mid-major talent in the country to Akron. He hopes for similar results on the Bluff.

“If anyone can help us here, it’s LeBron,” Dambrot says. “He has that Midas touch. And I’ll be realistic: Without him, we probably wouldn’t have had the success we had at Akron. We want that to carry over here at Duquesne.”

It won’t be easy. Duquesne has fired nine coaches and endured 28 losing seasons since last making it to the NCAA Tournament in 1977 under John Cinicola. Mike Rice, Jim Satalin, John Carroll, Scott Edgar, Darelle Porter, Danny Nee, Ron Everhart and Jim Ferry have come and gone.  

During those excruciating 40 years, local schools Pitt (21), West Virginia (18) and Robert Morris (8) have been to the Big Dance a combined 47 times. Every member of the Atlantic 10 Conference, the league in which Duquesne plays, has been there at least once.

March Sadness, anyone?

“Agony,” says Fred Hrynkiw, a Duquesne season-ticket holder since 1966.

​Dambrot, 58, believes he can duplicate the success he had at Akron. There, his teams played in three NCAA Tournaments and nine MAC tournament finals. Pre-Dambrot, the Zips played in one NCAA Tournament and won one conference tournament game.
 


 

Duquesne coveted him enough that they signed Dambrot to a record seven-year, $7 million contract in March.

“Keith has a plan to accelerate this appropriately,” says director of athletics Dave Harper, who’s leading a $40 million-plus fundraising campaign to renovate the 29-year-old Palumbo Center. “He’s the right man for our program.”

The Dambrot Plan begins with defense and ball control. It is a style similar to what the Dukes used in the 1950s, when teams that featured Dambrot’s father, Sid (now 87), finished in the top 10 three times.

Dambrot also secured the services of renowned sports psychologist Dr. Joe Carr. Carr’s mental training, Dambrot insists, fueled his winning teams at Akron.

“The kids have to understand how to win, and that’s done psychologically,” says Dambrot. “People don’t think these kids can win, so they start to believe it. But it’s not true. These kids are winners. And we’re here to show them that they are.”  
 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Trade Now, Sign Later Approach Could Work Again for Penguins

With the NHL trade deadline looming, the Penguins are increasingly employing more forward-thinking approaches to the acquisition of future stars.

Add Some Culture to Your Life with Swan Lake

If you play your cards right, the beautiful production from Pittsburgh Ballet Theater will dazzle even novices.

The 5 Best Places to People Watch in Pittsburgh

A coffee shop, an iconic landmark, an airport and beyond — these are the best places to practice the art of people watching.

Our Dream Penthouse Used to be a Carpet Warehouse

The building that now houses a $1.05 million dollar penthouse was first used for a much less exciting purpose.

HGTV Renews ‘Restored by the Fords’ Starring Pittsburgh Siblings

The finale showcasing Leanne and Steve Ford airs Tuesday, and the duo already are looking for more local houses to restore for the show’s second season.

Five Fun Facts about Pittsburgh Bridges

With more than 440 bridges in the city to choose from, VisitPITTSBURGH shows off the most interesting bridges within the city in its new Official Visitors Guide.

WQED Event to Celebrate Mister Rogers Forever Stamp

USPS will dedicate a new forever stamp to Fred Rogers and celebrate with a party in March.

Mothers Know Best for This Pittsburgh Couple

For Cady Walter and Jared Henigin, happily ever after may never have happened if their mothers hadn’t acted as matchmakers.

Peters Township Native Wins Silver Medal in Speed Skating

After swine flu kept him from competing in Sochi in 2014, short track speed skater John-Henry Krueger finally won a spot on the podium at the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang.

Perspectives: A Better Life

A former Pittsburgh television reporter recounts the lessons taught to him by his grandfather who spent more than four decades as a Pullman Porter.

Pittsburgh MultiStories: Phipps Legacy – The Fulton Building

With its distinctive seven-story archway, the Fulton Building (now the Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel) remains a beloved Pittsburgh landmark.

Kick Back and Relax with a Baby Sloth

For $150 you can book an up-close hang out session with Vivien the two-toed sloth.

Jack Kerouac: Manager of the Pittsburgh Plymouths

In a league of his own making, the famous writer cast himself as the skipper of a (fantasy) Pittsburgh ball club.

Bucking the Trend: Gallagher’s Groovy Growing

Megan Gallagher is part of a small cadre of young farmers bucking demographic trends.

Meet the Woman bringing Dignity and Diversity to Twitter

As Twitter's vice president of intersectionality, culture and diversity, Candi Castleberry Singleton, who splits her time between Pittsburgh and San Francisco, works tirelessly to bring inclusion and respect to companies.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags


Five Fun Facts about Pittsburgh Bridges

Five Fun Facts about Pittsburgh Bridges

With more than 440 bridges in the city to choose from, VisitPITTSBURGH shows off the most interesting bridges within the city in its new Official Visitors Guide.

Comments

WQED Event to Celebrate Mister Rogers Forever Stamp

WQED Event to Celebrate Mister Rogers Forever Stamp

USPS will dedicate a new forever stamp to Fred Rogers and celebrate with a party in March.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
First Look: Poulet Bleu in Lawrenceville

First Look: Poulet Bleu in Lawrenceville

PM dining critic Hal B. Klein takes a look at the new Richard DeShantz restaurant ... and he has the scoop on what's next from the energetic restaurateur.

Comments

Avenue B is Closing

Avenue B is Closing

The Shadyside restaurant ends its 8-plus year run in a few weeks.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The 5 Best Places to People Watch in Pittsburgh

The 5 Best Places to People Watch in Pittsburgh

A coffee shop, an iconic landmark, an airport and beyond — these are the best places to practice the art of people watching.

Comments

Sweet Ideas: Our Favorites for Valentine's Day

Sweet Ideas: Our Favorites for Valentine's Day

Where to eat, where to go, what to buy –– some of our favorites to make your Valentine's celebration memorable.

Comments


Add Some Culture to Your Life with Swan Lake

Add Some Culture to Your Life with Swan Lake

If you play your cards right, the beautiful production from Pittsburgh Ballet Theater will dazzle even novices.

Comments

After Dark Hall of Fame: Stage AE

After Dark Hall of Fame: Stage AE

The North Shore concert hotspot is the latest inductee in the After Dark Hall of Fame.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Trade Now, Sign Later Approach Could Work Again for Penguins

Trade Now, Sign Later Approach Could Work Again for Penguins

With the NHL trade deadline looming, the Penguins are increasingly employing more forward-thinking approaches to the acquisition of future stars.

Comments

The Quest is No Less Recognizable Even if Team USA Is Not

The Quest is No Less Recognizable Even if Team USA Is Not

They’re still playing hockey at the Winter Olympics, but without NHL players. Which means the guys doing the playing are relative nobodies. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Black Panther is Marvel's Best Film

Black Panther is Marvel's Best Film

Reviews of "Black Panther" and "Early Man," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments

At Last, We're Freed from Fifty Shades

At Last, We're Freed from Fifty Shades

Reviews of "Fifty Shades Freed" and "The Cloverfield Paradox," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Mothers Know Best for This Pittsburgh Couple

Mothers Know Best for This Pittsburgh Couple

For Cady Walter and Jared Henigin, happily ever after may never have happened if their mothers hadn’t acted as matchmakers.

Comments

Cookie Table Contest: And the Winner Is ...

Cookie Table Contest: And the Winner Is ...

We introduce the winner and the runners up for our biannual cookie table contest.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Our Dream Penthouse Used to be a Carpet Warehouse

Our Dream Penthouse Used to be a Carpet Warehouse

The building that now houses a $1.05 million dollar penthouse was first used for a much less exciting purpose.

Comments

HGTV Renews ‘Restored by the Fords’ Starring Pittsburgh Siblings

HGTV Renews ‘Restored by the Fords’ Starring Pittsburgh Siblings

The finale showcasing Leanne and Steve Ford airs Tuesday, and the duo already are looking for more local houses to restore for the show’s second season.

Comments