PITTSBURGH — Hello everyone. My name is Jonny Heller, a new contributor here at Pittsburgh Sports Castle. Allow me to give a short introduction before I dive into my feelings about the past, present and future of Duquesne University basketball.
My name is Jonny and I’m a 2011 graduate of Duquesne with a bachelor of arts degree. Prior to my time on the bluff, I grew up a Dukes fan as both my paternal grandfather, Bernie and my father, Steve graduated from the school. I started going to games around the age of six during the illustrious (not really) Scott Edgar years. This era didn’t produce much in the way of winning but did provide entertainment in the form of future 12-year NBA vet Mike James and Valley High’s Tom Pipkins.
Following the Edgar era, I was a ball boy for the Dukes from the ages of 8-13. This ignited my passionate love for the Dukes even more, and I looked at the players as larger than life even though there was nothing but losing and being in the basement of the Atlantic 10.
When it became time to make a college decision, Duquesne was a no-brainer for me as it had always been my dream school. I enrolled after the ultra lean years of the program under Danny Nee. The last year of this era produced a 3-24 record.
Duquesne basketball started to pick up steam when Ron Everhart was hired and new life was breathed into the program. Within three years of Coach Everhart’s hire, the Dukes were in the A-10 championship game led by senior Aaron Jackson who put Duquesne basketball back on the map.
The Dukes ultimately fell in the championship game to Temple and competed in a thrilling NIT game at Virginia Tech that went to triple overtime. Jackson had a historic night in his final game going off for 46 points and leaving the Blacksburg, Virginia crowd in awe.
At this point, I decided to apply for a student-manager position under coach Everhart and the men’s basketball team. What followed was one of the best years of my life, giving me lessons I still apply to my everyday life today. You won’t find a better coach or man than Ron Everhart.
A father-figure who would get on you to get better, but he would also give you the shirt off of his back at the end of the day. The Everhart-era produced winning seasons and memorable moments, and in my opinion, the plug shouldn’t have been pulled.
Ultimately, Jim Ferry was hired to lead the program into a new era, sending Duquesne back to the Edgar/Porter/Nee years. This move undid everything that Coach Everhart had done. The next five years would bring losing….and more losing. Through it all, the hardcore fans stuck with the program and made it to March of 2017.
March 27, 2017, Duquesne announced the hiring of longtime Akron Coach Keith Dambrot. With the hiring brought a renewed sense of hope. A coach who owns a track record of winning and coaching some notable players (LeBron James, anyone?).
Several transfer players and an outstanding five-man recruiting class for 2018 has made the future of Duquesne basketball bright. National and local college basketball pundits have lauded the Dambrot hire and subsequent recruiting class all off-season.
This brings us to Saturday, November 11. It’s the dawn of a new era for Dukes men’s basketball. This one is full of promise, but a promise that seems like it will eventually be fulfilled. Throughout the season I will be giving my thoughts on the pulse of the program.
I’m sure it will be a roller coaster, with some of the highest highs and the lowest of lows. It will be fun watching this team grow, bringing you news and info on them daily. If you see a guy sitting in the end zone on Saturdays with a retro Dukes shirt on, don’t hesitate to say hello.
All hands on deck as we get ready for Coach Dambrot to place his stamp on Duquesne basketball this Saturday.