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Duquesne's 'angry' Keith Dambrot refuses to lower expectations

Jerry DiPaola
| Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018, 6:28 p.m.
Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot urges on his team against George Mason in the first half Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018, at A.J. Palumbo Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot urges on his team against George Mason in the first half Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018, at A.J. Palumbo Center.

Immediately after Duquesne wasted a 15-point lead against Rhode Island, losing on a buzzer beater on the road to the Atlantic 10's best team, Dukes coach Keith Dambrot walked away disappointed.

At the time, Rhode Island (17-3, 9-0) was 24th in the Associated Press poll (before climbing to No. 22 in the latest rankings released Monday), but the Dukes proved they can compete with the best.

Which isn't nearly good enough when you lose. Not this year. Not this team. Not this coach.

Rhode Island also stood No. 9 (through Monday's games) in the NCAA RPI rankings, but that was no consolation to Dambrot, who realizes disappointment is an emotion usually associated with losers.

“I told myself from now on, it's going to be angry,” he said about his reaction to the next loss. “Because that's what my job is: to have high expectations.

“Whether we're ready for it or not, that's irrelevant. If we want to take the next step, I have to have those high expectations.”

So, you can imagine how Dambrot reacted Tuesday morning at the final practice before Wednesday's game at George Washington when the team had a “sluggish start,” according to sophomore guard Mike Lewis II.

“He wasn't very happy,” Lewis said.

Dambrot, whose team has lost three of its past four after a 13-5 start to the season, wants to emphasize to his players that games aren't won or lost on game night.

“We win our games in here (at practice),” he said. “I'm just trying to teach them the mindset they need to have in order to win NCAA Tournament games.

“I re-motivated them, reset them and called them out.”

Whether it's triggered by lack of effort or mistakes, Lewis said his coach puts his foot down in some manner “at least once a day, pretty much.”“Just keeping us accountable at all times.

“He gets after me, but he does it to everybody. You could be the manager, and if the water bottle isn't full, you get yelled at. He holds everybody accountable.”

Dambrot said he likes his players, and he's been careful to avoid a confrontational, coach-vs.-player situation.

“When I tell you something, all I want is a response,” he said. “And, vice versa, when they tell me something, they have to know I'm going to be there for them.

“We're not separate entities, coaches and players. We're in this together. It's their team. I'm just trying to get them to get what they deserve.”

Dambrot talks openly about making an example of Lewis, the team's leading scorer (15.9 points per game) and 3-point shooter (66).

“I've taken Mike Lewis out on every defensive mistake he's made all year,” Dambrot said. “Now, I haven't done that with everybody, but I've done that with him and he hasn't said one word about it. That tells you what a quality person he is.”

Lewis said Dambrot “definitely” has made him a better defensive player.

“He told me this summer that was going to be the next step for me completing my game,” Lewis said. “That's something that I understood.

“He's pushing me to be great. Some days, I'm real good with it and some days I act my 19-year-old age.”

Lewis and Duquesne's program are growing up together.

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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