Duquesne welcomes new women's basketball coach
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Dan Burt made two promises when he was introduced as the coach of the Duquesne women's basketball team.
“This is the last place I will coach,” he said at a news conference Monday.
He also made a pledge that has defined his coaching career, and will continue to do so:
“I would never coach the men,” he said.
Women, he said, are looking beyond basketball.
“I really believe women appreciate the value of education more,” he said. “It's very important to them. They all don't feel like they are going to the NBA.”
Burt, 42, played at West Liberty (W.Va.) State, but he has been a women's assistant at UNC-Wilmington, Bucknell and Duquesne.
His bond with Duquesne's players was evident when he called them at midnight Friday to relay the news he was replacing former coach Suzie McConnell-Serio.
Guard Belma Nurkic thought it was merely a casual how-are-you-doing call, but Burt asked if she would put the call on the speaker so her roommate, center Jose-Ann Johnson, could hear.
“When he said, ‘I'm your new basketball coach,' Jose and I looked at each other and started screaming,” Nurkic said. “We all love him to death.”
Burt asked the girls to refrain from putting the news on social media until school officials could announce it.
“That's the first thing they didn't follow and probably won't be the last,” he said.
Nurkic said players have approached Burt about on-court and off-court problems.
“When I was frustrated when my shots weren't falling, I talked to him and he would tell me keep my confidence up and it would be all right.”
Burt was Duquesne's recruiting coordinator, and the 2013 class was ranked 39th in the nation by Blue Star Basketball before Dayton, Ohio, guard Chelsea Welch decided to follow McConnell-Serio to Pitt.
He spent the past two weeks at Pitt as one of McConnell-Serio's assistants before Duquesne stepped in and hired him.
He said the Dukes will continue to play Pitt. “Absolutely, 100 percent,” he said, indicating the games will be special to him.Burt also said Duquesne will upgrade its schedule, including “a very, very good” NCAA Tournament-tested opponent that will “raise eyebrows” when the game is announced.
He didn't reveal details because contracts haven't been finalized, but he said, “The assistant coach (Burt) who made this schedule didn't help the head coach who is standing here now.”
Duquesne never has played in the NCAA Tournament, but Burt has helped the team reach five WNITs. The Dukes tied a school record last season with 24 victories.
“We've been given the keys to a Corvette,” he said. “We have not been given the keys to a clunker.”
Burt, a Trinity High School graduate who said he learned the game in his grandfather's barn in Washington, spent much of his news conference thanking those close to him, including his wife Kata, a former member of the Hungarian national team who played at UNC-Wilmington when he was coaching there. They weren't married until several years later after they met in Atlanta while Burt was on a recruiting trip.
He also said he had a bottle of ketchup for his mother, who told him he never would make a living in basketball.
“I told her she would eat those words,” Burt said.
Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.
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