A plea for help
If Duquesne University has an interest in its men's basketball program annually competing for an Atlantic 10 Conference championship and a postseason bid, coach Danny Nee says a stronger commitment from the school's administration is needed.
Nee, in his fourth season as coach of the Dukes, is tired of the program wallowing at the bottom of the A-10 standings and, while he's willing to accept his share of the blame, he's far from excusing others.
"Am I (upset) about things• Yes, I'm (upset), because we're in an uncompetitive situation here," he said. "No one's helping me. We're not getting any help from any other direction. You want to blame the coach• Blame him. But ... you go Carroll, Edgar, Porter, Nee -- nothing's changed since Carroll was here."
Nee was referring to a long losing period dating to the 1993-94 season, when the Dukes posted a 17-13 record. That year, they reached the second round of the National Invitation Tournament during the fifth season of former coach John Carroll's six-year run at the school.
Since then, Duquesne has not enjoyed a winning season under the leadership of two Pittsburgh-area natives -- Scott Edgar and Darelle Porter -- and Nee, the longtime Nebraska coach who earned his 400th career coaching victory earlier this season but whose record with the Dukes is a dismal 35-70 heading into today's game against St. Bonaventure at Palumbo Center.
Nee is upset mainly with the lack of progress on a proposed expansion of the Dukes' home arena. The project was to include a basketball recruitment center, new athletic offices and expanded weight-room facilities, but has yet to get under way nearly a year after the school made public its plans at a news conference.
"This is a very difficult situation to be in," said Nee, who is under contract through the 2007-08 season. "My job now is to focus on one thing: Get my team ready to have the best chance to win. Period."
Nee said it's unacceptable that "we're in the same building, the same offices. There's an arm's race going on. Go down through the schools in the league. In college basketball, it's about facilities. It's perception. We're not doing enough.
"It isn't an even keel when I go into Xavier and they have 10,000 people there and they're selling beer and their facilities are on campus," he said. "If that's an even keel ... We can't get 4,000 here. There's some things that are going to have to be changed. We're going to have to make a commitment or we should go to another league."
The Steelers, the snow and Nee's pleas aside for a moment, today at Palumbo Center, the A-10's two divisional cellar-dwellers will wage a less-than-titanic battle to avoid embarrassment.
Duquesne (4-14, 1-4) and St. Bonaventure (1-14, 0-4) have have combined for five victories and 28 losses heading into their regionally televised 12:05 p.m. tipoff.
Both teams have lost four consecutive games.
"We're going to shorten the bench, change the lineup, and try to get some chemistry going, some confidence, cohesiveness, stability," Nee said.
Junior guard Jack Higgins and freshman forward DeVario Hudson have regained their starting roles for the Dukes, who are coming off a 76-69 home loss Wednesday to Rhode Island. Higgins, in his second game since missing three contests with pneumonia, scored a season-high 20 points in 23 minutes off the bench against the Rams.
He and his teammates aren't allowing themselves to get caught up in anything off the floor. They say it's time to put aside the past and start a winning streak before it's too late.
"We've got to take pride in ourselves and the game of basketball," Higgins said. "It just takes heart and pride and commitment to the game and the love that you have for it. It's how you come into the game and how your mind-set is when you play the game that matters."
Nee said staying positive is key to stopping another poor season-in-the-making, and he has made numerous attempts to wake up the sluggish Dukes. In the loss to Rhode Island, he held starting point guard Martin Osimani out of the lineup for most of the second half for the second time this season.
"Four turnovers are unacceptable for him. It's too many," Nee said. "When we have 12 as a team and he has four -- it wasn't a high-pressure game. We have to take care of the ball."
Along with a lot of other things.
|Duquesne (4-14, 1-4) vs. St. Bonaventure (1-14, 0-4)|
When :12:05 p.m., today
Where: Palumbo Center