Pittsburgh, PA — It was around this time a year ago that Duquesne was in the process of trying to find a men’s basketball coach, an ordeal the Pitt Panthers find itself in with the removal of Kevin Stallings from the head coaching position.
Friday morning it was broken by ESPN.com’s Jeff Goodman that eight players have asked and are expected to receive their transfer releases.
Dambrot is familiar with this situation in that a year ago, Mike Lewis II, Isiaha Mike and Nakye Sanders all did the same, but each was asked to wait by Duquesne Director of Athletics David Harper until a new coach was hired and a meeting could be had.
Ultimately, Lewis II was the lone player of the then-freshmen trio to stay, though Mike has entertained the question of what would have happened had he stayed, and Sanders was in the Palumbo Center stands on at least a couple of different occasions.
Given the above and his coaching experience, Dambrot has quite the understanding of the situation Pitt currently faces.
“Obviously those guys are going to ask for their release so they can cover themselves,” he said. “If they don’t like the new coach when they walk in or don’t really feel like Pitt is the best place for them they will go some place else. It’s really no different than what we have to do. Everybody is doing the same thing, re-recruiting their guys every year because people leave so much now. They don’t have a coach right now, but everyone has to re-recruit every year.”
This season, Duquesne returned eight players, six of which had scholarships, and one of which in sophomore forward Kellon Taylor was playing football at season’s beginning.
It was clear that this effect, tired Duquesne and resulted in some of the team’s starters having to play full games or very close to it.
If anyone understands the challenge Pitt faces in the first season of the new coach it is him, since Dambrot had to deal with the same hand, aggressively recruiting players for this season’s team, next season’s team and also trying to bring as many returners back to the team as possible.
“First and foremost, if you only have three guys, or four guys or five guys back, it’s very difficult to win games, so your mindset is ‘wow, we have to try to keep some guys or you have no chance’,” said Dambrot. “You just have to sell what you can do for them, why they should stay. Some guys shouldn’t stay but some guys should.”
Though Dambrot largely found success at Duquesne, it is always a challenge to keep potential returning players because there is no prior relationship there.
“You can tell them a lot of things and what you can do for them, but they don’t really know you, so that’s really hard,” he said. “The new coach coming in has to decided who they want and who they want to keep and try explain to them why they should stay.”
In some respects, Dambrot is still building some of the foundation as 10 new players, both redshirts and freshmen will all be in uniform next season.
This season, Duquesne’s end of non-conference and start of Atlantic 10 play showed that there are fans who very much want to see the program succeed and for years upon years the Petersen Events Center was sold out.
Dambrot has been tasked with trying to rebuild Duquesne’s program and whomever Pitt’s new coach is will have to do the same.
“You obviously have to win, that’s the first thing,” Dambrot said. “You have to be one of the people, you can’t be an elitist or someone that doesn’t understand the community they are in. You have to integrate yourself into the community, care about them and be a good person or they’re not coming.”
The other hard part about coaching in the current landscape is the fact that there generally is instant gratification and satisfaction with any position and if wins do not come then a change is made, often times quickly.
Dambrot cited longtime Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski’s first two seasons which resulted in a 27-30 overall record and 10-18 ACC record as an example of how if that occurred in the current environment, he may not have been given a third year.
Though his office is two miles away, Dambrot does seem to hold the Pitt job in high regard and believes it will find a good fit.
“It’s a good situation with a good city and a good school, they should be able to get a good coach,” said Dambrot.