Duquesne men's basketball coach Ferry teaches history lesson
Duquesne coach Jim Ferry's time with the program covers just a few months, but this week he dug deeper into the Dukes' history.
The first-year coach shared with his players how the City Game was proof that Duquesne once was the best college basketball program in Pittsburgh, a status Pitt removed from the Dukes in recent decades.
League titles and tournament berths are Ferry's primary goals, but beating Pitt for the first time in more than a decade also holds a prominent place on his list.
“That's part of the plan,” he said. “It's not the end-all by any means; it's more important that we win our conference championship. But to all the people in Pittsburgh and all the alums here, it's very, very important. Our goal is to compete with these guys.”
Duquesne (4-3) carries an 11-game City Game losing streak into Wednesday night at Consol Energy Center, the 81st time these rivals have played since 1932. Pitt (7-1) has won 28 of the 31 matchups since the Panthers joined the Big East in 1982, including 80-69 a year ago.
But the City Game wasn't always one-sided in Pitt's favor, a point Ferry shared with his players this week. During the 1960s and '70s, Duquesne won 15 times in 26 games against Pitt, including nine of 11 in one stretch.
“Back in the day, Duquesne was the dominating school,” Ferry said, “and now it's changed a little bit over the past 20 years. We've got to grind this out and make this a better rivalry. We have to do our part again to compete. I hope we play this game every single year for as long as I'm here. We want to play this game, and we want to win this game.”
The Dukes' most recent win against Pitt was 71-70 in 2000. The game was close in 2009, when Pitt won, 67-58, in double overtime.
The Dukes have a winning record this season with a lineup heavy in freshmen and sophomores. Senior guard Sean Johnson leads in scoring (11.7 ppg), but freshmen Quevyn Winters (10.9) and Derrick Colter (10.4) are second and third.
They've already played one Big East opponent well this season, a 61-55 loss at Georgetown on Nov. 11. In their first City Game, those underclassmen want to start writing their own history.
“If we win this game,” Winters said, “this will really show what type of character and what type of team we're going to be.”
The Dukes could learn from Pitt's success, Ferry said, but the gap between the two is not insurmountable.
“Obviously, there are different conferences,” he said. “They're in the Big East heading to the ACC. We're the Atlantic 10. But the goal is to get this program to where we're competing for conference championships. And if we can compete for conference championships in the Atlantic 10 — which is a great conference — then we should be able to compete with Pitt.”
Ferry coached an annual series while at LIU Brooklyn against nearby St. John's.
“This game does mean something, as much as we always want to say: ‘It's only a (nonconference) game,' ” Ferry said. “But for the fans and the alumni, it means a little bit more, and (the players) need to know that.”
Chris Harlan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.