I had the great pleasure of speaking with Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News recently. We discussed a myriad of topics relating to Duquesne hoops and other college basketball subjects. Let’s dig in!
The Bluff Blog: Coming off of the Jim Ferry Era and the first season with Coach Dambrot, from an outsiders perspective is there a feeling that the program is headed in the right direction?
Mike DeCourcy: I think Keith is a tremendous coach. I’ve known him for 10-15 years. When they hired Keith I didn’t realize that they could pull it off. I was very pleasantly surprised from the Duquesne perspective that they could get someone as capable as him so I think that was the first step in the right direction. The second step is the renovation of Palumbo and the investment they’re making in that is very impressive. In terms of on court performance they made a lot of great steps. Nobody at Duquesne would disagree that some of that was lost in February and March, but the year was step in the right direction and a good start.
TBB: A lot of fans would have been happy recently being a middle of the pack Atlantic 10 team. Can Keith possibly over the next few years move them into a top 4 spot and possibly winning the league?
MD: If he can’t what’s the point of being in the league? Under Ron Everhart they started to make some progress, but they lost that by making the change. With the renovation of the arena and a coach like Keith and the right effort you better be able to compete at the top end of the league, maybe not every year but at least on a fairly consistent basis.
TBB: Has your opinion changed partly because of Duquesne’s previous administration not being committed to basketball and the new administration seemingly focused on making the program a winner?
MD: It’s fairly clear that the administration has a better handle on what to do and what’s possible when you do those things. Ron’s success and against the odds he faced suggest that it’s not impossible to win at Duquesne. You still want to get to a point where it’s not an aberration. Duquesne is finally in a position where they can look forward and see daylight. For the longest time it just wasn’t there. Previously, there wasn’t any daylight at all and nothing suggesting that time was coming, but now I think there’s plenty of reason to believe Duquesne is ready to see the sunlight because you have an administration that has a handle on things, that was smart enough to make a move to hire Keith and find the money that was necessary to have him come. Also renovating the arena coming up which obviously needs it. That gives you a lot of positives.
TBB: Duquesne took some flack last year from people and fans around the Atlantic 10 for scheduling lightly and only leaving Allegheny County once. Is this a good year to strengthen the schedule?
MD: It’s dependent on what Keith feels the team will be like. Under no circumstances should any coach ever worry about what the rest of his league thinks about his schedule. The fallacy is that if you’re scheduling poor teams and winning than that’s somehow worse than scheduling good teams and losing. It doesn’t help you to lose games. The idea that it makes you a better program because you’re playing Kentucky and losing by 25 doesn’t mane anybody any better. When Pitt was building their program in the early 2000’s look at the schedule they played and tell me that they needed to protect themselves. They were not playing great opposition outside the Big East. They figured that they’ll get plenty of good opposition inside the Big East, but we need to learn how to win so I’m a big believer that winning breeds winning and losing breeds losing. If you’re goal is to go out and show how tough you can schedule, you’re going to get your tails kicked in.
TBB: It’s been 41 years since Duquesne has made the tournament. Do you see them getting there during Keith’s tenure?
MD: I think it’s very possible. Obviously the obstacle you have now is that the Atlantic 10 is trending towards a one-bid league status and it’s the worst thing to be in is to be in a great one-bid league. Ask anybody that’s been involved with Conference USA for the past 5 years. They’ve had these terrific teams from Middle Tennessee and Louisiana Tech and not getting, and in LA Tech’s case not getting it after winning 28 games. MTSU would get in and get an awful seed and have to beat somebody great. If it keeps going in that direction then you’re looking at having to win the league tournament to get you there so even if you build the best team in the league that may not be enough. The first step is to be good again. Get to that top 4 in the league so that you can at least say here’s where we are relative to at-large selection and relative to winning the league tournament. It’s been so long since Duquesne has been in either neighborhood that the first thing they need to do is get in that neighborhood and see where it takes you.
TBB: Are you in favor the proposed transfer rule where guys will not need to sit out a year?
MD: I think it’s bad for everybody. You’re inviting the athletes to get used and the people who are advocating for this are not thinking at all about the unintended consequences. They just think they’re riding for the freedom of the student-athlete. The reality is under the current transfer rules, if you take a transfer you’re making a massive investment in that player. You’re investing an entire year of 1/13th of your roster being on the bench and he can’t play for you. You’re investing a lot of money into that player and you better believe that player will really be able to help you. You’re much more cautious about taking a transfer now because you have to invest the full year until that player helps you. If you go to automatic eligibility on transfers the players will get used like a roll of paper towels. I need 8 points a game for one year, but I’ve got a big recruit coming in next year so I wont need them beyond this year. The coaches won’t have anything invested in them. There is no logic in that. People need to think about those things before they push for these rules. That would be the worst thing that would be the worst thing for the student- athlete.
Great stuff here and a good peek of what the neutral observer thinks of the current state of affairs with the Duquesne basketball program. It will be interesting to see where the renovation of Palumbo goes going forward and the newly proposed transfer rule.
Until next time, thanks for reading!