ShareThis Page

First-year coach Keith Dambrot pushing Dukes with self-described 'Tasmanian devil' on-court personna

Rob Biertempfel
| Monday, Oct. 23, 2017, 5:33 p.m.
Keith Dambrot has begun his first season as Duquesne men's basketball coach.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Keith Dambrot has begun his first season as Duquesne men's basketball coach.

During a late-morning practice Monday at Palumbo Center, sophomore guard Mike Lewis got an earful from first-year Duquesne basketball coach Keith Dambrot.

“He gets on me every day about every little thing that I do,” Lewis said, grinning.

Lewis last season put up 14.1 points per game and became just the fourth freshman to lead the Dukes in scoring. He also topped the team in free-throw percentage (83.2), 3-pointers (63, a school freshman record) and minutes per game (32.0).

Yet, Lewis recognizes there are soft spots in his game: His cuts could be more precise. His defense could be more tenacious. His leadership style could be more vocal.

“I told (Dambrot) I wanted somebody to push me, no matter how I felt about it,” Lewis said.

That's a role that comes easy for Dambrot, who mentored LeBron James for two seasons in high school before crafting a successful 13-year run as Akron's coach.

“The biggest thing for anybody who's ever played for me is trying to figure me out,” Dambrot said. “I'm probably one of the most easy-going people off the court that they've ever dealt with, and I'm probably a Tasmanian devil on the court for them.

“If you ask LeBron, he'll tell you I was demanding. I was nit-picking. I was hard on him. But off the court, I try to spend a lot of time (with players) and give them a lot of love.”

A taskmaster could be just what the Dukes need after going 10-22 overall and 3-15 in the Atlantic 10 last season.

“I have to be hard on them, but at the same time, I have to make sure they have belief in themselves because they're better than what people think,” Dambrot said.

What people think isn't very flattering. The Atlantic 10's preseason poll of coaches and media picked Duquesne to finish last.

“It's definitely motivation and something to think about,” junior guard Tarin Smith said. “With the (record) we had last year, I can see why people don't have much belief in us. But the guys in the locker room, we believe in ourselves. They can pick us 14th. It doesn't matter. We know what we have to do to win.”

Even Lewis, who earned a spot on the league's all-rookie team last season, didn't get much preseason respect. He was named just third-team preseason All-Atlantic 10.

“That hurt a little bit,” Lewis admitted. “But, such is life. I'm not one to dwell on the past.”

Notes: Duquesne's depth already is being tested, as forwards Chas Brown (foot) and Marko Krivacevic (broken wrist) are nursing injuries. Brown (6-foot-8, 235 pounds), who was set to be re-examined by doctors Monday, isn't expected back until mid-November. Dambrot said Krivacevic (6-9, 215) will be out at least another six weeks.

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.