PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Keith Dambrot spent more than a decade turning Akron into one of the most consistent winners in the Mid-American Conference.
Now he faces an even greater challenge: making Duquesne relevant in the Atlantic 10. The Dukes hired Dambrot on Tuesday to replace Jim Ferry and give a program that’s spent the better part of 30 years struggling to remain competitive a needed boost.
Dambrot spent 13 seasons with the Zips, compiling a 305-139 record. Akron won at least 20 games in 12 straight seasons and earned three NCAA Tournament bids under Dambrot, considered the best coach in the Mid-American Conference.
Akron set a school record for wins this season, but the top-seeded Zips were beaten in the MAC championship by rival Kent State and played in the NIT.
The hire is a homecoming of sorts for Dambrot. His father, Sid, starred for the Dukes in the 1950s.
“Today marks a new day for Duquesne basketball,” Dambrot said in a statement. “We are here to build a program that our campus and community will embrace. We need to unite together. Everyone from our administration, faculty and staff, alums, students, and the Pittsburgh community will play a role in our success. I look forward to all the great things ahead for Duquesne.”
The Dukes last reached the NCAA Tournament in 1977 and failed to gain any significant momentum under Ferry, who kept retooling throughout his five seasons with no real success.
The Dukes never finished better than 10th in the 14-team league during his tenure and managed just 10 wins total this season. Akron finished no worse than third in 12 of Dambrot’s 13 years on the sideline.
Enter Dambrot, who coached Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James in high school then turned the Zips into contenders in the MAC.
The league, however, hasn’t received multiple bids to the NCAA Tournament this millennium. That won’t be an issue in the A-10, which sent three teams to the NCAAs this season: Dayton, Rhode Island and VCU.