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With sights set on future, Ferry forges ahead at Duquesne

| Saturday, March 9, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Duquesne head coach Jim Ferry talks to his team in the first half of the NCAA college basketball game against Virginia Commonwealth on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013, in Pittsburgh. Virginia Commonwealth won 90-63. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Duquesne led Charlotte by 17 points at home midway through the second half Wednesday and lost in overtime. The next morning, first-year Dukes coach Jim Ferry described the outcome “devastating” but deferred on naming it the toughest loss of the season. He said he ranks neither defeats nor victories.

He also would have too many choices. The Dukes are 1-14 in the Atlantic 10, 8-21 overall. They have dropped 16 of 17 games as their season comes to a merciful end Saturday at Richmond.

But Ferry said he knew what he was getting into in April when he left LIU-Brooklyn after 10 years to replace the fired Ron Everhart. Several seniors had departed and two key players transferred.

“There's a reason the coaches picked us to finish last,” Ferry said. “The transfers were gone. The graduates were gone. We had no ball-handling in this program. I was the best ball-handler. And I'm a shooter.”

Ferry, who averaged 14 points a game between knee injuries while playing at Division III Keene State College, eventually found his point guard in Derrick Colter. The freshman has displayed considerable talent and promise, but better days are ahead, for him and, according to Ferry's plan, everything else.

He was hired to forge a new culture, a family environment, credibility and ultimately “a program, not a team,” as he likes to say. He did that at his last job and said it will be done at Duquesne the same way: diligently and correctly but not overnight. Starting Sunday, Ferry will be chewing up the recruiting trail. He might be gone awhile; the next game is in November.

But with one eye trained on the future, Ferry still had to confront the present. While laying his foundation, there were practices to run, tapes to break down, games to coach. The talent level was “at rock bottom” when he came in, he said. It didn't help that the A-10 added Butler and VCU, a pair of recent Final Four contenders.

“I knew it was gonna be very challenging,” said Ferry, 45, who was a rookie head coach at age 31 at D-III Plymouth State. “The challenging part is living through it. You can always talk about how difficult it's gonna be, the rebuilding and the fact that all the players left and yadda, yadda, yadda. But then when you're living through it, it's difficult, no question about it.

“When you lose, it's like everything stops. I don't sleep, I don't eat. ... Everything stops until you play again. And we've had a lot of losses this year.”

On the other hand, he said, “Everything has been positive, energetic. We could have just gone through the motions. And we didn't.”

Said athletic director Greg Amodio, “We have gone through as difficult a stretch as you could go through, but we have come out each night with the same intensity we came out with a month ago or two months ago. We're building the right framework, the right culture.”

Ferry has tried to squeeze out a few more wins while also establishing a tone for later. At midseason he put Colter and two other freshmen in the starting lineup. He benched senior center Andre Marhold and even called him out in public. Marhold got the message, and his play improved.

“Coach Ferry, he never got too low, and he never got too high,” Marhold said. “Even though we were losing a lot, we learned from our mistakes. Everybody starting looking at themselves, ‘What can I do to make this team better?'

“For me being a senior and about to leave, it's kind of bad timing. But I'm happy for the younger guys. Now they know what to expect. I think they'll be way better next year.”

Bob Cohn is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter@BCohn_Trib.

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