March 30, 2017
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TRANSCRIPT FROM Keith Dambrot INTRODUCTORY PRESS CONFERENCE
Thurdsay, March 30, 2017 at the Lexus Club in PPG Paints Arena
Dave Harper, Director of Athletics
Marie Milie Jones, Chairperson of the Board of Directors
Ken Gormley, University President
Keith Dambrot, Head Men's Basketball Coach
DAVE HARPER: Good evening. I'm Dave Harper, Director of Athletics at Duquesne University. This is a great day for a great institution. We're blessed to be here tonight to celebrate looking forward and certainly are blessed to have so many of the Duquesne community, Duquesne family here and looking forward to sharing a vision with you tonight and telling you everything that we've got planned ahead for success.
To start tonight's festivities though, I'd like to introduce the chair of the board at Duquesne University, Marie Milie Jones.
MARIE MILIE JONES: Thank you. Thank you, everyone. What a great day for Duquesne University. I am so pleased to be here and to represent the University Board of Directors to celebrate this day. We welcome you, Coach. We are so thrilled to have you. Welcome back to you, to Donna, your family, and thrilled to have you back at Duquesne.
It's really a terrific day, a terrific accomplishment for our University, and we are so pleased to see so many in this room. Thank you all for being here. All our athletes, student-athletes, our coaches from other teams, our supporters, really thrilled.
A few folks really deserve some recognition though for this effort bringing us to today's announcements and events. A heartfelt thanks to Dave Harper, our athletic director. The dedication that Dave has shown to this task is really remarkable. Let's ask his wife, she's here, and his family who are here (laughing).
This was not an easy process, but Dave knew it was important to make the right choice for the right reasons for Duquesne University. Before today's announcement, I think our first giant step in the commitment to athletics at the university was hiring Dave.
And Dave, your work on this issue, your work on every issue has been geared towards what's best for the student-athletes as well as the entire Duquesne community, and we are really appreciative of that, and I commend you on a job well done.
I also want to specifically thank Tom Grealish, a board member who is here today. He's the chair for our athletics committee for the board. For his leadership in this area, and his active support on this recent process, which has been strong and, as all of us who know Tom would say, in a very entertaining way.
My appreciation to all of you, the many supporters I see in the room, very notable group. Among them some of our board members, and I'm appreciative of their support. I know they've been behind this effort and behind our new president and our athletic director. I see Jack McGinley, Sam Costanzo, Tom, as I mentioned, our good friend and emeritus member, Bill Lyons, I hope I'm not missing others. But there is a great crowd here, and thanks to all of you for what you've done.
Today's not just about athletics and men's basketball, but it's about building our campus, community, and its spirit, engaging our alums, and gathering together to promote Duquesne's brand on a national level. It's just one more way for us to showcase what is so fabulous about our Spiritan Catholic university.
We achieve excellence in so many arenas through academic accomplishments at the highest levels, through service work all over the region, and through the special young men and women who graduate and learn the Duquesne way and go on to become dedicated servant leaders in our world.
So athletics and men's basketball is really the tip of the iceberg in terms of a broader, strategic plan for the university to move forward, and to continue to thrive as a top, national Catholic institution.
Energetic and strong leadership will allow Duquesne to sustain that great momentum in the years to come, and I'm pleased to introduce just that leader.
With gratitude for his commitment to continuing the storied history of Duquesne in all aspects, and for his never-ending enthusiasm to put Duquesne and its students first, including, Coach, storming the court after a big win, please join me, ladies and gentlemen, in welcoming the president of Duquesne University, Ken Gormley.
KEN GORMLEY: Thank you, Marie, and thanks to Marie for her extraordinary leadership. Can we hear it, ladies and gentlemen, for Marie Milie Jones [ Applause ].
I would like to welcome all of you to what is truly a great day for Duquesne's men's basketball program, and for the entire Duquesne University community. The man we are here to introduce today, Keith Dambrot is not only an excellent coach and molder of young men, he also has deeply-rooted historical connections to Duquesne and to the men's basketball program. In many ways you can say that Keith was born to be a Duke.
This day was bound to come, Keith. Keith's father, some of you know, Sid played a major role in the establishment of Duquesne as a national power in the 1950s. He was a 6-foot guard, and Sid played for Duquesne teams that finished in the Top 10 in 1952, '53, and '54. In 1954 during Sid's senior year, the Dukes reached the pinnacle of college basketball in the United States, rising to the top of both the Associated Press and UPI polls in February of that season.
So as a man with basketball in his blood, Keith has worked tirelessly at his craft. The wins, the championships, the postseason appearances are evidence of that unflagging commitment. But as I learned more about Keith in the weeks leading up to this day, it also became evident that he is a person who cares deeply about the young men whose lives he influences. He's committed to their development as players but more importantly as individual people with dreams, with untapped potential, and he makes sure that they enter the world after college shaped forever by their rigorous yet positive athletic experiences. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the Duquesne way.
In his years as a coach, Keith has cultivated broad and deep relationships with thousands of coaches, staff members and players whose lives he's touched.
One example, I'll mention tonight, while conducting $1 clinics at the local Jewish Community Center in Ohio, Keith befriended a 13-year-old who displayed it seemed like considerable talent. He later coached that young man to two high school state titles that young man, some of you in the room may have heard of him, is LeBron James. To this day, LeBron credits Keith for helping him to develop a work ethic that has made him one of the greatest players in professional basketball history.
And I told Keith we hope to see LeBron at plenty of games in the Palumbo Center cheering for his former coach. We're even going to reserve a seat for him, and I'm paying for it, Keith, so no worries at all.
Keith has thousands of admirers based upon his lifetime of caring about the success of others. His commitment to forging life-long relationships, a sense of pride and hard work in developing young players to be talented leaders in their Fields, again, even after they play ball and graduate is a perfect fit for Duquesne's tradition of academic excellence combined with, as Marie said, its mission of service to others.
I am very pleased to have Keith and his family join the Duquesne family. I look forward to, along with everyone in this room, to celebrate a long series of big wins for the Dukes, and we know this is destined to be a part of the Dambrot legacy at Duquesne.
It may not happen instantly, Keith. We'll give you a little time, don't worry. But this type of success is inevitable when you combine a man of this character with a community, a campus, a student body and a city that are United behind a program like ours with such a rich legacy.
So, ladies and gentlemen, Duquesne pride is coming back on the Bluff big time starting tonight. I look forward to Keith Dambrot leading us to the same levels of excellence that we achieved when his dad, Sid, led the Dukes to national prominence in the early 1950s.
Keith, I know that this is a proud day for your dad too. Incidentally, he's 96, but we look forward to getting him to the first game at the Palumbo Center right behind the coaches bench. But his son is now coming home to bring glory to the basketball program that his dad helped to build over a half century ago. So it's your turn, Keith, to shine a national spotlight on this very special program, your dad's alma mater. We're glad that we can now call you and your family part of our Duquesne family. We know that great things are ahead.
DAVE HARPER: Marie and Ken, thank you very much. I apologize if I'm going to be a little long on thank yous, but it's all about the people that you're surrounded by. Teammates, friends, family, so I have some people I definitely want to make sure I thank.
First I'd like to thank Marie Jones and the entire board. The support you've shown has been amazing. Tom Grealish, chair of our athletics committee to be able to envision what lies ahead, to be able to talk about that in detail, and to really be able to chase dreams. You've been a great partner, I appreciate it.
Team Harper, where are you? They're probably glad I was gone. But dad's back. It's getting real now. I just love you guys, and really appreciate all the suggestions. I appreciate all the social media feedback you've sent me. So I was informed, because I have no social media skills nor do I pay attention to it, really so.
Bob Beaudine, Bob, you made me a better professional and person during this search. I'm looking forward to a friendship with you, and look forward to really tapping your brain and helping you as much as I can and as much as you helped us in this situation.
Kevin Gall with Eastman Beaudine, my planes, trains and automobile partner, just thankful you weren't there when I got sideswiped in a car, so worked out well.
Matt Frist, from Duquesne, our administration with finance and administration, Matt, I know I pulled you from family activities and a number of different things, so I greatly appreciate that. Madelyn Reilly, our legal counsel. All of my teammates in athletics that are probably gone and glad that I was gone for two weeks as well, like my family, but there are some that played a really vital role during this process.
John Henderson, Kevin Deitrick, Megan Jahrling, Dave DeNardo, Rick Christensen, Dave Saba, Bryan Colonna, Phil Racicot, and Eric Kaminski for pulling together a mass amount of media stuff in a short amount of time.
Really want to thank the PPG Paints Arena, the Penguins for our partnership, it's special. And thanks for arranging this with promptness tonight. Ted Kissel, I'm forever indebted to you as a mentor. Sam Costanzo your words throughout the process, I really appreciate it, and I appreciate our relationship.
Numerous coaches and athletic directors and so many Duquesne alum, fans and supporters. I promise you I'm going to finish my emails one day. I'll get to them, but my inbox was a little full.
So as I mentioned, today is about looking forward. We are continuing to execute a strategic plan with a premise of being a highly valued member of the Atlantic 10 Conference. What does that mean? Well, it means a robust athletics department. It means national academic achievements. It also means success in men's basketball. Many times I've mentioned the three Cs to our staff, and everything we have to do. The first one is our conference, and Jay DeFruscio, where are you? I lost you. But thanks for being here tonight. I really appreciate it.
Our conference is a platform for multiple bids to the NCAA Tournament. The conference strategic plan is focusing on making sure we continuously plan all the different objectives to continue to secure more and more bids in that tournament. But it is a top, national basketball conference, and we're blessed to be in it.
Secondly is commitment. The commitment that Duquesne has displayed during this is amazing. Duquesne University is finalizing a new comprehensive strategic plan under the leadership of Ken Gormley and provost Tim Austin. This plan will focus on academic and campus objectives to ensure Duquesne's position as a top, national Catholic private institution.
Athletics has been thoughtfully and appropriately included in the process to support a successful platform for our coaches and student-athletes to strive.
And lastly is Coach. I think when Keith and I talked, and I'm going to give a little up on Keith here. He did as much research as we did on him, and as we talked through the process, I was afraid, I think you knew my high school coach, so I hope you didn't talk to him. (Indiscernible) oh, okay. So I'm in trouble then. All right.
But when we looked and we said about the coach, what were the characteristics that we were not going to compromise? We wanted a person who could build deep relationships with players, understand how to develop them as students, people, leaders, basketball players. A coach that clearly understands what's necessary to compete in the Atlantic 10 Conference. Proven recruiting and player development, defensive emphasis, mental and physical toughness, offensive efficiency, and most importantly, a winning culture.
Keith is a coach that has a pretty amazing accomplishment in my book. In the last 12 years there have been four programs to win 21-plus games, those programs are Duke, Kansas, Gonzaga, and oh, by the way, Akron. Pretty elite company. Keith has built a winning culture.
The partnership that we will form, Keith, I'm looking so forward to working through. The one thing that was clear throughout this, we had a common bond. Let's do something that people say we can't do. Let's compete and battle and be partners in this and have teammates in this. The emerging theme that I keep hearing is it's time to unite. It's a time for all of us.
The Duquesne University community, alums, students, fans, this five rant and passionate Pittsburgh sports fan base, let's all unite together to build a winner. So we welcome Donna, Alysse, and Robbie to our family, and I would like at this time for Ken and Marie to come up to the stage, please.
It gives me great pleasure to introduce as your head men's basketball coach at Duquesne University, Keith Dambrot.
[ Applause ]
Keith Dambrot: I don't know why I have a paper, I can't see it anymore. Wow, what a turn out. You know, it's really humbling. I can't thank you enough for the opportunity. I really never thought that I would be standing up here and leaving Akron, really, but I felt like it was an opportunity that I just couldn't pass up.
Special thanks to Dave, the president, thank you so much. Marie, thank you. I can't tell you how much I appreciate the opportunity. I don't know, I must be getting old or sentimental, but I just kind of view this as a fairy tale.
So I'm very fortunate to coach in the first place. I ran into this guy LeBron James who kind of resurrected my career. Akron gave me the opportunity. I got to coach in my hometown where my mother was a professor. My kids went to school, I went to school. I never thought I'd leave, really.
So I was approached by a few people, and I've turned down a couple jobs along the way, but I thought always about Duquesne. My mother's from Pittsburgh, passed away, but grew up in Squirrel Hill. My dad obviously played here. I grew up with two basketball teams my whole life, and that was Akron and Duquesne. So I've been to the Steel Bowl. I saw UCLA play in the Steel Bowl. I saw Mr. Nelson over there play.
I know the history of Duquesne basketball. I've seen scrap books with Sihugo Green and Fletcher Johnson and Jim Tucker and Dave Ricketts and Billy Zopf. I've seen them all. So I know more about Duquesne basketball than probably most Pittsburghers.
I always had a sweet spot in my heart for Duquesne. I always felt like Duquesne could be a special place. I've got to tell you, the tipping point for me, this is kind of a funny, corny story.
But my dad has this, and he's 86 by the way, I don't want my dad to yell at you. You know when you're 86 you have no filter anymore, right? So if he knew you called him 96, his defibrillator probably went off. But, that's funny.
But my dad has this old letter sweater, and I'm sure -- do you have one of those? You do, right. And it's a blue sweater with the red D on it. About 15 years ago he said to me, you know when I die, I'm going into -- I want to wear that in my casket. And it sounds kind of stupid, but it's really kind of a way people feel about Duquesne. It's like that at the Catholic institutions.
I coached at St. Vincent-St. Mary, and it's the same thing. They have tremendous love and regard for their institutions.
So I figured, if he wants to wear his letter sweater into his casket, then I have to resurrect Duquesne basketball before I die. Or I'm going to die trying and wear my letter jacket into that thing.
So, listen, I'm really honored to be here. We have kind of a unique situation. I'm bringing all my guys from Akron with me, and every one of those guys played for me at one point or another. I don't want to introduce them yet because they're still being paid by Akron, so we don't want to get them too mad at me. There are already a lot of stunned people in the Akron, Ohio area.
But I have to thank my wife as well. It took a long time to make this decision, and it took a long time for me because, one, I had to know that we were really committed to winning. That we were committed to playing at a championship level, not a middle of the Atlantic 10 level because I'm not a guy that's ever going to settle for being in the middle of the pack. So that was the first thing.
I had to make sure that the staff that I have that have been with me, some of them over 30 years, and have all played for them, that it was the right thing for their families as well. Then most importantly I had to make sure it was the right thing for my wife, Donna, so special thanks to her for allowing me to do the things that I want to do. Want to stand up really quick [ Applause ].
Keith Dambrot: So ironically my son -- and by the way, just so you know, I'm the worst male member athletically in my family. Obviously my dad was a high-level player. My uncle was a number one draft pick of the Knicks and played at City College of New York. Was the MVP of the NCAA Tournament, and I kind of got all my mom's genes. No, they're pretty good genes. She's a really intelligent woman. They're good genes, but they're not great for athletics.
I had to go play baseball, and I was a walk-on at Akron and ended up being a pretty good player. But I let 18 balls hit me one season just so I could play. I got into coaching, I have an MBA, I'm pretty well educated, and I think I got into coaching because a couple of them hit me in the head.
But my son also is a high-level soccer player. He played at Akron that has one of the top three or four teams in the country. Ironically he left in January and transferred to Pitt now. So it's the one time of the year I'm going to root for Pitt. So please forgive me for that. So we're going to have some of our family in Pittsburgh, so I'm excited about that.
I really feel like I am coming home. When I coached at Akron, I always felt like I was coaching at the school where I belonged, where I had a lot of support. I feel the same way. This is mind-boggling how many people are here.
So the bottom line is for every one of you that are here right now, you need to get four of your friends to buy four season tickets, and our goal should be to have three times as many season tickets as last year, three times. I looked at the numbers, so I know that's a possibility, right, Dave? So look, if you're going to put pressure on me to win, right, I'm going to put pressure on you to come to the games. That's the way I see that.
So if we're going to have a great program, we're going to have to do this thing together. So what's the plan? Well, the plan's simple. When my dad played here in 1950, '51, if you didn't play great defense at Duquesne, you didn't play. Simple as that. It didn't matter how good a player you were. If you didn't play good defense, you weren't going to play. So we're going to play great defense. And we're going to build it at the defensive end, and we're going to keep it simple on offense. On offense, that is, we're going to share the ball, we're going to take good shots, and we're not going to turn the ball over. I think all good basketball teams do that.
Then we have to quit thinking that a lot of guys had come to Duquesne in the past because it was their highest offer. That's not the right way to approach this. We have to get guys that want to come to Duquesne because we have a great program and a great institution, right? Not just because it's their highest offer.
So we're going to change the whole mindset and culture that we're going to be Pittsburghians or whatever they're called. She's a Michigander, we're going to be Pittsburghians, all right. And that is blue-collar, tough, rust-belt tough, hard-nosed, tougher than the other teams we play.
There is no magical formula for this. We have to sell the institution. We have to sell the coaching staff. We have to sell the winningness, and we have to make sure that we rally behind this at this point. So is it going to be easy? Listen, before I took Akron, Akron had won one MAC tournament game the entire time they'd been in the MAC. Now think about that. One MAC tournament game.
I think we played in seven straight championship games. We played in 11 out of 14 championship games. If we can do it at Akron, we certainly can do it here. But we need all of you. We need all of you. We'll be good teammates, I promise you that. We care more about us. We care more than about us. We care about everybody in the department. I don't know any other way to be.
So I've been kind of rude since I've gotten here. I've sat in my office and tried to make sure that I recruit the players that we have already, because I think they're winning players. I really do. They don't know they're winning players yet, but I think they're winning players. I believe in them. I watched enough tape. They're good guys. I think we are winning guys. Then I spent the rest of the time recruiting other guys. So yesterday I had been there three days and I hadn't seen the practice gym yet.
So that's how we're going to build this thing. With regard work, determination, and just old-school Pittsburghians all right? We're going to do that.
So are we going to think big enough? You have to think big. We can't just think small. Then I'm going to make assessments as to what I think we need in order to be great. So we have to build it on the little things.
The infrastructure, the infrastructure is key, right? And we're going to need the donors, the business people, the academic people, everybody to be on board with this. This is something that could be great for our institution. Unfortunately, a lot of times people equate great athletics with great academics. That's why Notre Dame plays football, right?
We all know we have a great academic institution, but we need to use men's basketball to really show that we can really become something special. So with that, I'm kind of short winded as I get older, my dad's the other way. I would like to open it up to any questions that anybody may have.
Q. Dave, first of all, you obviously have been constantly reminding us about being purposeful with the coaching search and the length of the coaching search. What were you doing about being mindful of the coaching search, meeting the demands that a lot of the people behind us have, and trying to ultimately build a winner for you guys?
DAVE HARPER: During a process, you have to block everything out and be solely focused on the right person and the right coach. There is no time line. The most important thing you do, whether you run a business or whether you're hiring a coach, you find the right person with the right skills, talents, competitiveness, sense of excellence.
It may sound simple, but it was always about finding the right coach and the right person, and that's what we've got.
Q. Dave, when did you first think of Keith for the job, and what was the process of pursuing him as a candidate?
DAVE HARPER: I'll go back to what I said during my remarks, it was all the attributes that Keith had that made him our primary target from the beginning. But I also knew that Keith had strong ties at Akron, had a lot of decisions to make. He's a very successful coach and we had an opportunity. But when we came together, it was about the ability to look forward. So just stayed the path.
We had a number of conversations. I apologize from the big room we talked in. It was a little bit too big. I wanted more intimate conversation. But it was always about those unwavering characteristics in a coach and a person, and that's why we targeted Keith throughout the process.
Q. Keith you mentioned about your fairy tale in your remarks. What made this fairy tale occur now versus five years ago or maybe earlier with temptations before that?
Keith Dambrot: That's a good question, young man. I think commitment to being great. I think from my assessment right now I felt like the commitment Duquesne was making to be great, interest me.
Look, we won 26 games last year, 27 games this year, and I wasn't really happy. At that point you have to analyze whether you need to make a change. And it wasn't just me. It was my coaching staff as well. We just felt like the one-bid league was bothering us. We had a 300-pound center that had to play three games in a row, so we kind of felt like the best team didn't go to the tournament. We just couldn't play three games.
So at that point the commitment Duquesne made, I felt like a lot of people were underestimating my dad's school, and I don't like the fact that there are no banners in that gym from a long time ago until now.
I did my homework. I had terrific faith in Dave. Coming from Dayton really understood what high-level basketball was. I did my homework on the president and the board of trustees, I asked a lot of people a lot of questions and people that I trusted, and I just felt like we could win big. And if we win big, we're going to show everybody that they were wrong.
I can't understand why Duquesne can't be a big winner. Maybe five years from now I'll feel differently. But I'm going to be surprised if we don't win. I'll be very disappointed if we don't win.
Q. I was wondering about your meetings with the basketball team this past week since you took the job, and especially your meetings with the players who had expressed a desire to transfer?
Keith Dambrot: Listen, these young men they get recruited by a different coach, right, and they have an experience when they don't win, it's not a great experience. They come for the education, but they also come to play basketball.
I have a son that's 22 that's a good student. He cares about winning and playing. So when they don't win and they don't play, then they have a right to be disappointed. Then their coach isn't here anymore so their loyalty waivers a little bit.
So my thing is, look, I'd love to keep every single one of those guys, and I'm going to do my very best to try to keep them because I believe they're better players than people think. I believe they're guys that if they're put in the right position they can be successful. That's a quick assessment of mine. I think they're good guys. I've met with them. I think they're good people, good character guys. I think it just didn't work out for them.
So the question becomes will they stay? Well, we want them to stay, but they have to do what's right for them. Ultimately everybody in life has to do what's right for them. I'm going to support them whether they stay or don't stay. That's kind of how it's always been. I'm going to have my players back through good and bad.
So if some of them leave, I'm still going to be their friends and try to support them. That's why I've had success. That's one of the things you'll notice about me. One of the things I stress is spending time with the players. Spending time with the players is the key to all of us.
Shaka Smart worked with me, and I don't know if anybody has ever heard him talk. But he's a guy that uses that same philosophy. He kind of got it from me, and I got it from a guy named Ben Braun who was a coach at Eastern Michigan and California. That is the most important thing in coaching.
So I promise the guys I'm going to spend time with them. We're going to make them better. We're good at developing players. We've taken guys and made them players of the year. We've got 15 guys playing from Akron. We have four pros, including Charles.
Stand up Charles. Charles Thomas from Eastern Michigan who is one of my assistant coaches. So Charles is a classic example of what we've done with players. He had a twin brother that played in the NBA as well. So there have been about eight twins that played in the NBA. Charles and his brother Carl played in the NBA.
Charles scored four points his freshman year. He didn't average four, ladies, he scored four. But he thought he was a good player and developed into an NBA player. Never scored more than 11 points a game in college. But that's what we do. I've never been in a place where we've gotten top 100 players, so I'm good at developing players.
So my appeal to our guys right now is if you stay at Duquesne, we're going to develop you. That's what we do. That's what you have to do in places like Duquesne and Akron. And unless you're at North Carolina, that's what you have to do to be successful. I didn't answer your question? I skirted that one. That's Jim Tressel-like right there. You answer questions anyway you want, too.
Q. Earlier in the year some rumors of renovations to Palumbo have circulated. Have you guys discussed that at all, and is that something that factored into you taking the job? And basically, where are you in that process?
DAVE HARPER: We're in the early stages of looking at a lot of possibilities to transform our facility into a high-level Atlantic 10 men's basketball facility, but it's much broader than that. We want to touch every student-athlete, and create opportunities for all of campus. There are significant projects that will occur uptown in Pittsburgh that we can be a part of, potentially.
So we're deep into the thought process there. We have very favorable returns from a fundraising standpoint, in terms of conceptually and people being on board. So we're just going to continue to plug away. Once we get everything put into place, and how it's put into place can afford the university an opportunity to chase other projects they'll have as part of the strategic plan. Because the academic mission of this institution is primary, so we want to make sure we do this in a manner that's done very well, very purposefully, and you're thinking of another 20 years down the line.
So it's a very methodical process, but our goal is to transform the place.
Keith Dambrot: Can I comment on that?
DAVE HARPER: Why, did you find a donor?
Keith Dambrot: So, look, God bless the arena. I'll take the arena. But we'll win with or without the arena. That's my process. We're going to take all the excuses out, and we're going to win with or without the arena but we're going to work to get that arena, right, because I don't want to hurt your cause here. But we should be able to win.
This is a people business. Its pure people based. Its pure commitment based. We should be able to win with as good an academic institution as we have. We should be able to win with or without the arena with strong commitment everywhere else.
Q. Keith, a lot of people mentioned the LeBron connection. You mentioned how it revived you and your coaching career. What specifically did it to to revive your coaching career, and what lessons have you taken till today that have allowed you to find the success you've had?
Keith Dambrot: LeBron has this way about him where everything he touches turns to gold, really. He's got the Midas Touch. So St. Vincent-St. Mary's school was in trouble, he goes to St. V, and now it's thriving. He goes to Cleveland who is not very good, and all of a sudden, now they're winning championships.
So he takes guys that may have had issues in the past and now they don't have issues. He takes guys may have been selfish, and pretty soon they're team ballplayer. So everything he does turns to gold. He took an old college coach, won two state championships with him and (No Audio).
Q. Keith, you mentioned earlier that Duquesne showed you a commitment to winning and that factored into your conversations. How did Dave or anyone you had conversations with demonstrate that to you?
Keith Dambrot: I think everything that we've talked about where I felt there were weaknesses or I felt like the infrastructure wasn't in place or I didn't think there was commitment, we've discussed. I think that's what really impressed me about Dave. And obviously he has board approval and presidential approval in order to do that. These aren't decisions that are taken lightly. But everything we discussed, I thought he was fair with me.
I had no reason -- I had no reason to come here if I didn't think Duquesne could be championship-level committed. It wouldn't have made sense for my family or for me at my age to do that. So I felt like Dave was the perfect man for the job to collaborate our efforts to try to make the fairy tale come true.
So for me at that point, I told Dave, look, don't let me say no, and he made it so I couldn't say no. So I believe in Dave and the president and the board of trustees, and I just felt like when I went to Akron, I felt like it took a local guy to win. And I feel like to win at Duquesne, you need a Duquesne person. I really do. I believe that. You need to have something that goes back and ties into Duquesne.
While I wasn't good enough to play at Duquesne, my dad was good enough, and I love Duquesne. I have Pittsburgh ties, so I believe in what the city stands for, and I believe I can rally the troops.
You have to have somebody that can rally the troops. It's been a little dormant, rightfully so. So it's time now through thick, thin, good, bad, wins, losses, that we rally the troops and we fill the arena and we make it what it used to be, right?
You look at those teams, the Dave Ricketts, Dick Ricketts, Jim Tucker, the Nelsons, Lionel Billingy, Norm Nixon, Mike James, there's been a lot of good players that played here. There is no reason we shouldn't be what they used to be. I don't understand it. So we're going to rally the troops and come back to that level. I just feel it.
Q. Coach, you've built such a great legacy in Akron. I was told by my friends in Cleveland that you would be on the Mount Rushmore in Akron. How difficult was it for you to leave Akron and come to Duquesne?
Keith Dambrot: Well, I'm not on Mount Rushmore anymore (laughing).
It was the hardest decision I ever made because I played little league baseball with those people. I went to kindergarten with those people. I lived there the majority of my life. They helped me win at Akron. They gave me the opportunity. I live on a nice lake. My wife's happy. It was an unbelievably hard decision.
But I figure at some point in your life you've got to let your hair down, and I just wanted the chance at this. I just felt like I couldn't let Duquesne go 40 years and not go to the NCAA Tournament or at least give it a whirl. I just felt like I had those ties that could bring it all together.
Now, look, I need those players to believe just like I do. That's the hardest thing I'm going through right now is I need those guys to believe like I do. I need them to believe in me, which they don't know me. So that's hard.
This isn't going to be easy. But I'm going to give it everything I have, and I know my guys are going to give it everything they have. I believe in our guys. I think we can get good players here. I don't see why we can't get good players.
Q. Speaking on those ties, do you think there is a little more pressure on you at this job to succeed?
Keith Dambrot: Well, in some ways less pressure. I mean nobody has won here, right? In Akron if I didn't win an NCAA Tournament game they're ready to hang me, right? Listen, nobody can put any pressure on you -- if you're worth your salt as a competitor, right, nobody's going to put more pressure on me than me. I wasn't a very good player, so this is my forum to show that I can be great at something, so I'm going to give it everything I have.
I kind of put blinders on and just kind of go, right. Donna will tell you, the hard part is going to be -- we haven't lost a lot of games, but I don't come home until 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning after losses. So we better win some games or I'm going to get old quick.
Q. You mentioned getting some current players to stay that have pondered transfer. But you also said you think you can win with some of the guys that you have right here. What do you see out of some of Duquesne's current players that makes you think that?
Keith Dambrot: Again, I don't think I'm a better coach than Coach Ferry. I really don't. I think sometimes people need new starts and people need blank slates and to start over. I think just for them, just getting a fresh start and a new outlook, and a new slate, just like for me, getting a new slate. I'm going to be reinvigorated.
Sometimes a guy that wasn't very good for one guy can be really good for another, and vice versa. There's a lot of guys that have played for us that wouldn't be good at Central Michigan and there are some guys at Central Michigan that were good for them that couldn't play for us and vice versa.
So it's just mindset. The biggest thing for us is not skill or ability. It's going to be mindset. When the game's on the line, there is a point in the game where you either win or you lose. You either make a play or you don't make a play. And winning teams make the play, and losing teams don't make the play. So we have to teach our guys how to be big-time winners. Now, that's hard.
Listen, let's not fool ourselves. A lot of that is the team with the better players generally win, right? So we have to continue to get better players. That's what we have to do.
Q. How hard did Akron work to keep you?
Keith Dambrot: I mean, they worked hard. Every school has a cap. Duquesne has a cap -- well, not every school. I don't think Duke has a cap, do they? $9 million a year. Every school has a cap. You know, every school has to make a business decision, right? It really wasn't about -- it really wasn't about anything other than I didn't like the one-bid league, and I felt a little stale and a little stonewalled and I just thought it was time.
It really had nothing to do with Akron's commitment. Akron did a good job, not only Akron, but the community. The community was unbelievable to me. I'm one of theirs. So they took care of their brother. So that was the hard part about it. I had to leave people that were really good to me. Thank you so much for everything. I appreciate all you guys. Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
Rev #1 by #170 at 2017-03-31 00:24:00 GMT