Harris: Who's next for Duquesne?

| Tuesday, April 3, 2012

If Duquesne wants sizzle, Orlando Antigua, the former Pitt player and assistant and current Kentucky assistant, is the popular choice.

Who's hotter than Antigua?

When your team plays in two consecutive Final Fours while producing enough lottery picks to field an NBA expansion team, you sit at the head of the table.

Antigua dominated talk among college basketball coaches and administrators meeting over the weekend in New Orleans about being the best candidate to replace Ron Everhart. Antigua is a familiar name from a big-time program who has paid his dues.

That said, Akron coach Keith Dambrot is no slouch. In eight seasons at Akron, Dambrot has authored seven 20-win campaigns (he went 19-10 in his first season). He recruits Western Pennsylvania as well as anyone in the country.

We know Antigua can recruit (see: Anthony Davis), but can he coach?

In Antigua's case, does being a good recruiter make you a good coach?

"If it comes down to (Dambrot) and Orlando, it's an intriguing choice," said John Giammarco, director of the Pittsburgh Basketball Club Summer Pro-Am League. "It's a difficult job, but both men would be great choices."

Dambrot told the Akron Beacon-Journal that Duquesne reached out to him, but no offer was made. Dambrot said he doesn't want to leave Akron.

However, Dambrot might feel differently if Duquesne offered the job.

Why should Dambrot commit to another school without a legitimate offer• If he were giving serious thought to leaving his alma mater, it would help if there were a concrete offer. At the Final Four, where he attended various meetings, Giammarco said Antigua was the favorite to be Duquesne's coach.

"This is Orlando's job to say no to. That's what I'm hearing," Giammarco said. "Orlando's worked under some good coaches John Calipari, Jamie Dixon. He was pretty heavily involved in recruiting Davis.

"I know Orlando all the way back to his playing days here (Antigua attended Pitt from 1991-95). I would love to see him come home."

You have to keep things in perspective, though. As a head coach, Dambrot, whose father, Sid, played basketball at Duquesne from 1952-54, knows what he's doing he's 184-87 at Akron with two trips to the NCAA Tournament and a pair of NIT appearances featuring players familiar to local hoops fans: McKeesport's Zeke Marshall, Moon's Brian Walsh, Shenango's Steve McNees and Elizabeth Forward's Steve Swiech.

"Dambrot would be a very good choice for Duquesne," Giammarco said. "The reports that I get back from the kids when they come home to play in the Pro-Am League, they tell me how strong of a program (Akron) is."

Said Hempfield coach Jim Nesser, who dealt with Dambrot when he coached Swiech at Elizabeth Forward, "I compare him a little bit to Dixon at Pitt. He never recruited the best blue-chip athletes, but he had kids who improved ... and was very successful."

That's what should ultimately shape athletic director Greg Amodio's decision. What exactly is Duquesne looking for?

Is it a feel-good hire who will excite the administration, alumni and media• That would be Antigua.

Dambrot, who grew up in Akron, played basketball for the Zips and coached LeBron James in high school, has said he has no interest in Duquesne. But that's without Duquesne making an offer.

Why wouldn't Dambrot be interested if the price is right?

Antigua could ease into Duquesne's vacancy like an old, comfortable pair of shoes. He's deserving of the promotion. Unless Dambrot has a change of heart, it's probably Antigua's job if he wants it.

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