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Duquesne column: Mixed feelings about Burt’s suspension

Pittsburgh, PA— This past Thursday, the Atlantic 10 announced a one game postseason suspension for Duquesne women’s basketball coach Dan Burt.

Burt has accepted this suspension with little to no public comment and will in fact miss the team’s first round WNIT contest which will be played Thursday at Miami (OH).

The reason for the suspension was comments directed towards officials following Duquesne’s quarterfinal Atlantic 10 Championship loss to Saint Louis, specifically the 27-10 free throw descrepancy between the two teams, both of whom played in a similar, get the ball into the post, manner.

No public comment has been made by the Atlantic 10 Conference on the suspension.

Below is a post detailing the reasons why the suspension may or may not have been justified.

Why the suspension is justified

1. Burt has established a reputation with the officials and at times it may go against his team. Burt consistently is talking to the officials and at times it is too much for an official who has to observe play and correctly interpret rules to the best possibility they can. Burt was a former official, but his priority is to coach. The most important thing to consider is that the team takes its cues off its coach and when Burt is still arguing or disagreeing with calls during a timeout or an extra trip or two down the floor it is distracting. The fans also take their cues off Burt and it was enough that officials have several times sighed, rolled their eyes or just plain tried to ignore the situation in hopes that it just goes away.

The Atlantic 10 wants to maintain relationships between itself, the coaches and the referees to remain healthy and perhaps this suspension was viewed as a preventative measure to try and prohibit comments such as that moving forward. This season Burt has normally had a postgame presser conference with 1-2 outlets present but his criticism at the Saint Joseph’s press conference was in front of at least four outlets and Burt received plenty of email feedback on it.

2. This suspension almost feels like the lifetime achievement award. Burt has developed a reputation, even at the NCAA Tournament two years ago and officials are well aware of and sick of it. Against St. Bonaventure two seasons ago, a referee made a call Burt felt was incorrect and argued to where he received a technical foul. He took off his tie in disgust in what he called his “little stripper routine” in the postgame press conference after Duquesne at that point lost its chance to win the regular season conference title outright. Last year, Duquesne lost to Dayton in the conference tournament championship and he plainly stated he felt the game was officiated differently than any that entire season. This year he echoed those remarks in a game at Dayton and in a separate matter, Julijana Vojinovic was assessed two technical fouls with one similar referee assigned to both of those games. With the Saint Louis presser, Burt focused more on the foul differential than what his team could have done to try and bring the ball out and try to score using more of a midrange or outside game instead going with “I don’t know what to tell my team right now”. These and other incidents added up and may have caused the conference to blow the whistle.

Why the suspension is not justified

1. Postseason play is a privilege and a reward for your season and for your head coach not to be fulfilling that role seems a bit much. Burt’s comments on the Saint Louis game were rather mild and not as much of the finger wag that people perceive them to be. There were other actions for this that may have been more suffice but then again no one knows how or if at all the conference disciplined Burt with warnings or had conversations about his sideline conduct towards officials.

2. Burt does what he does to protect his players. Though he at times certainly exhibits tough love on his players, he makes sure he is clear in that. His players certainly appreciate it and he does a lot of the heavy lifting talking to fans and the media and being honest while his players do not have to opine as much. The most pressure on a coach is during conference championship week because each team has a chance at an automatic NCAA Tournament bid and Duquesne was seeded second in the championship, meaning it had a legitimate chance of winning the three games in three days so not getting those calls are even more frustrating in March as opposed to January.


The timetable was a bit weird. It was not announced at any point during the women’s basketball championship and Duquesne did not even publicly reveal the suspension until its WNIT press release Monday and even then it was at the very end of the email and a sentence long. The conference does issue press releases during its championships and I am wondering when this decision was made and why it was not made public by them since it was the ones who issued the suspensions and not Duquesne itself. Instead the university was kind of hung out to dry on it and it was leaked to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Sarah K. Spencer and then became public knowledge while Duquesne waited until Monday to report.

As much as I appreciate his candor, perhaps Burt should keep postgame remarks between himself and his team or even the postgame evaluation of officials or at the very least water his comments down a bit. If this suspension proves anything, it is that Burt has to take time and reflect, which seems to be something he has largely done since his team was eliminated. His conduct with officials has improved as a coach and clearly this suspension proves that in the conference’s eyes, there may still be work to be done. Ultimately Burt likely views this as defending his players, especially when Duquesne was only doing what it has been taught. Still these 50-50 calls may not go Duquesne’s way because of some animosity that may be built up with officials. That is a problem which cannot be fixed overnight but Burt needs to make an even larger effort in this area. The good news in the short term is that Burt lets his assistants coach and whomever gets the nod Thursday is more than capable of doing so. I can understand the suspension though the postseason may have been a bit extreme. If any suspension was deemed necessary it should have been for the season or conference opener. Ultimately I hope all sides can just move on from this, maintain professionalism and be better off from this decision. For other coaches, this suspension serves as a message sent.

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