Welcome to Everhart's doghouse
Behind Ron Everhart's amenable personality, there's a bark and a bite.
Everhart's doghouse has included many tenants since he arrived as coach of the Duquesne basketball team four years ago.
None more famous, perhaps, than Robert Mitchell, who won Atlantic 10 Conference Rookie of the Year in 2007, then transferred to Seton Hall after a fiery relationship with his coach.
"I used to try to talk back to him," Duquesne sophomore Eric Evans said. "Now, I just don't really say much back to him. I just let him talk."
That's not to suggest the Dukes' point guard doesn't listen when his coach speaks. It doesn't mean the two don't connect.
Finally, it seems, they have.
"Guys are understanding a little bit more about accountability, shot-selection, being efficient, making the extra pass," Everhart said.
Duquesne (15-12, 6-7 Atlantic 10) is riding a three-game winning streak and is playing its best ball of the season with three games remaining before the start of the A-10 Tournament. The Dukes are at Saint Louis (18-9, 9-4) Saturday.
Evans, who was thrust into a leadership role following the graduation of first-team all-conference guard Aaron Jackson, has been in the center of the Dukes' surge.
In Duquesne's 73-71 victory over Dayton Sunday, Evans made a couple of no-look passes that led to baskets, ran the team's offense with precision and finished with 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting and four assists.
"I think he respects me on how I've responded. I respect myself for it, too," said Evans, averaging 10.1 points, 3.7 assists and 2.7 rebounds. "It's what I want. I want that leader's role."
Until recently, Evans spent a great deal of time in Everhart's doghouse. So much so that senior walk-on Lucas Newton had been inserted in his spot in the lineup in several games.
"It's about being accountable to your teammates and being responsible for doing your job," Everhart said. "This is a team game. All the individual accolades you achieved in high school don't mean anything.
"It's about coming to practice and being prepared. If that means doing things differently or making some adjustments from what you've done in the past, then you do that."
Evans isn't the only player who has felt Everhart's wrath. The list also includes B.J. Monteiro, Bill Clark and Morkinyo "Mike" Williams. And most recently, it was sophomore Melquan Bolding who has been the subject of Everhart's disdain.
"From a motivational standpoint," Everhart said, "my focus has been making guys understand that you need to give a great effort every day. If you're not willing to do that, there are a lot of other schools out there that you can go to. This isn't one of them."
Everhart greets visitors with a smile and a handshake. A television camera will catch him courteously nodding in agreement. A reporter may be welcomed to stay for practice.
But if you are a player of his, if you coach under him, if you are an intimate part of his program in any way, don't let that smiling face deceive.
"He's going to be on you every practice," Monteiro said. "I don't think it's such a bad thing. He's just trying to make us better, and we are getting better. We've become more confident in each other. All of us. The players and coaches."