March 28, 2012

Duquesne Is Still Duquesne

Filed under: Basketball — Chas @ 10:22 am

Been meaning to get to this since it went down last week, but the firing of Ron Everhart by Duquesne is an interesting occurrence. A defensible decision in my view, that Duquesne managed to make into a massive mess.

To review the history, Everhart was hired back in 2006. He was one of three targets by Duquesne: Everhart, Jim Christian and John Groce. Groce was an Ohio St. assistant and didn’t want the job. Groce later opted for the Ohio University gig and is on the verge of becoming the Illinois head coach. Christian was the Kent State coach after Stan Heath, and is now the TCU head coach. Christian — who had been a Pitt assistant in the Willard error —  “withdrew” his name the day before Everhart was hired.

There was no question that Everhart was hired as much for his ties in the mucky recruiting world as it was for his turnaround history at McNeese St. and Northeastern. And when you look at where Duquesne was when he took over to where it is now, he has done a very good job of making them a competitive team once more. But Duquesne apparently wants more. You know, after all the focus they have put basketball after slashing the rest of their athletic department. Axing baseball, swimming and other sports.

Duquesne, however, was not nearly as unified in this decision as they pretended. Almost as soon as Everhart was fired, someone leaked the letter from Duquesne’s President to the Board.

We are very grateful to Ron for bringing our program out of a long moribund period, a skill he demonstrated at two previous universities and the very reason we hired him. However, as was the case in his two previous posts, he has stalled at a modest plateau with our program. It is clear that we will not be capable of moving to the next level of excellence with Ron at the helm. By next level, I mean annual contention for the top of the A10 conference, regular appearances in the NIT and periodic appearances in the NCAA tournaments. We reached the conclusion that this kind of performance was impossible under his leadership due to uneven recruiting, large turnovers among his student athletes and coaching staff, an overall average win-loss record and a losing record in the A10, poor performance in close games, the predictable collapse of our teams late in the season, and a general disorganization and lack of communication that is clear to those close to the program. The recent loss of TJ McConnell and other players from the team is part of an unfortunate pattern and an indication of the current decline in our program.

The University has invested a great deal in our men’s program. Since Ron has been with us, the Palumbo Center has been nearly totally renovated at a cost of over $5m. We have increased the program’s operating budget by over 75%. On critical occasions, I have aided Ron directly by meeting personally with leading student prospects and their families to talk about Duquesne and our support of the basketball program. It is reasonable to expect a higher level of excellence for this kind of University commitment.

The immediate future will be a bit bumpy; difficult personnel decisions always are. Ron has his supporters and he is well-liked as a person. But long term success in our men’s basketball program is best served by acting decisively now and making clear that we are committed to greater excellence here—as we are throughout Duquesne University.

[Emphasis added.]

To be honest, I thought this was a remarkably upfront letter — which explains why it was not intended to be seen by the public. Perhaps a touch delusional in the overall expectations for Duquesne, but at the end of the day most coaches are hired and fired based on their wins and losses. Clearly Duquesne’s president knew that Everhart had supporters and the school would take a hit. He obviously didn’t realize that the support included at least one board member who leaked the letter.

As Ray Mernagh noted, that’s why you don’t put this stuff in a medium that can be leaked. Unsaid in the letter and elsewhere is the position of Duequesne basketball in Pittsburgh. A case could be made that Duquesne has managed to fall behind Robert Morris in the hierarchy of local college hoops. Robert Morris has made the NCAA Tournament. They are contending for their conference championship annually (albeit in the NEC), they have beaten Duquesne the past two seasons, and are 4-4 vs. Duquesne over the last 8 years. All this, even after another coaching change.

For those that cared, the hits did come. The strongest from columnist Dejan Kovacevic who took strong issue with the money and recruiting aspects claimed.

I went to school at Duquesne, and I’ve heard quite a bit over the weekend about what might have gone into Everhart’s firing. I know a lot of folks are angry. In the broader context, though, I’m inclined to take the word of Amodio that he was dissatisfied with the Dukes’ failure to reach the next level. Indeed, they were 3-6 in Atlantic 10 tournament games, with all three wins coming in that 2009 run to the final vs. Temple.

That’s fine. It’s the right of any university president or AD to fire based upon performance.

But isn’t it also fair to expect that the men making such calls have at least a cursory interest in the basketball program beyond whatever anger they manufactured Friday?

Would you expect that, if Dougherty rips Everhart for his “general disorganization” in a letter to the board of trustees that was sadly leaked to CBS Sports, they wouldn’t have taken away Everhart’s secretary three years ago and replaced the position with a ticket-taker?

No administrative help was hired again until last year.

Would you expect that, if Everhart and his players wanted to enter their 16-15 team in the College Basketball Invitational tournament this month — the one in which Pitt is competing — the school would step up and foot the bill?

Dougherty and Amodio didn’t. And it deeply disappointed the staff and players, including terrific sophomore guard T.J. McConnell just before he announced he was leaving the program.

Would you expect that, if the coaching staff had an exceptional recruiting class on the way for 2012-13, the administrators would at least be aware of the players on the way?

Dougherty and Amodio didn’t know those names, according to Alan Robinson, who served as Everhart’s basketball administrator the past year and previously was a respected reporter for the Associated Press for 35 years. Neither Dougherty nor Amodio ever asked Everhart about his recruits after the initial signing period last fall.

The most shocking thing to me in that article is finding out that Alan Robinson was no longer the Pittsburgh AP sportswriter. Potentially disturbing to think that the AP either didn’t pay well enough any longer, or he thought there was more stability working in Duquesne basketball.

Now with Everhart and the issues of the transfers and recruiting, there may be more going on behind the scenes than Duquesne is really saying. Either way, with the stated desire for Duequesne to win more, the pressure is on Duquesne to back up what they claim. That means a hire that doesn’t look like a reach or desperation. Given the way Duquesne hired the firing, I  wouldn’t bet strongly on that possibility.

That’s why you read, listen and get educated.

My off the cuff opinion last week, was, “ah, he was mediocre”, guess it was time.

Now, after reading about the recruiting class coming in, one has to wonder if they didn’t blow it again???

Allthough, the number of players transferring does seem a bit peculiar.

I also find it hard to believe, the latest players to transer, transferred because they didn’t go to the CBI???

Also, why transfer, with the recruting class coming in???

Ah, what the hell do I know.

I always liked Duquesne (except playing Pitt) and would like to see them get back to going to the tournament every once in awhile.

Comment by Dan 03.28.12 @ 10:45 am

I agree Chas, the most striking thing to me was that Alan Robinson was working there. WTF??

Comment by Jamie H 03.28.12 @ 11:16 am

My feeling (with no proof or evidence) is that Amodio was just looking for an opportunity to replace Everhart with his “Boy” Dion Gaudio. When those transfers hit, it was the perfect opportunity.
Of course, if Gaudio doesn’t get the job then that’s way off base.

Comment by JW 03.28.12 @ 11:23 am

Oops — “Dino” not Dion.

Comment by JW 03.28.12 @ 11:24 am

Duquesne basketball is and has been a train wreck for a long time. They will be hard pressed to find anyone that can pull the program out of the trash bin. The Duquesne job has been a carreer ender for a lot of basketball coaches. Regardless of what the university’s expectations are, Everhart did a good job under very tough circumstances. They were a joke before he took over and he up-graded the program making them competitive enough to occasionally beat the good Atlantic 10 teams like Dayton and Xaivier. There is no question that the basketball program improved during his time at Duquesne. Everhart by most accounts had potentially his best class coming in next year. I think there was a total over reaction to losing T.J. McConnell and I don’t they will find anyone to do any better.

Comment by Justinian 03.28.12 @ 11:27 am

Looks to me like Walt Harris II.

Comment by alcofan 03.28.12 @ 11:46 am

I don’t think Gaudio wants the job, Duquesne has gained a reputation of a career ending job position, but you never know.

Comment by Jim from Dallas 03.28.12 @ 11:55 am

Duquesne University is far less than the sum of its parts and the Athletic Department is no exception.
Now, with parts stripped (baseball, men’s swimming, wrestling) both the sum and the whole are further diminished.
One has nothing to fear from Duquesne University. As anyone who has met the President knows, a face to face meeting with him is more likley to produce raised eyebrows than praise.
If Duquesne gets this move done correctly, they will look “good”. If they screw it up, Amadio will lose his job and Darell Porter will once be the head coach at 35k per year.

Comment by SFPitt 03.28.12 @ 12:00 pm

It has to be hard for Duquesne. Even in Pitt’s worst season in a decade, Pitt still beat them by double digits. Bobby Mo is looking like a better program locally than Duquesne. To have to compete locally with two programs that regularly make the NCAA Tournament has to be difficult.

Comment by Greg 03.28.12 @ 12:21 pm

Duquesne might be the most disgusting school I have ever seen. Why would anyone go to the dump. If you walk 2 blocks of campus; you know where that leads you too. All students should transfer and then we don’t need to read about news pieces such as this.

Comment by Doug 03.28.12 @ 12:33 pm

wow my spelling is terrible

Comment by Doug 03.28.12 @ 12:34 pm

Interesting that part of the shady-recruiting world quoted in the 2006 post was his ties to Bill Barton.

Comment by Bryan 03.28.12 @ 1:10 pm

The school did not cut programs to focus on Mens BB as is being implied. It was forced to do so in order to balance out the number of men and women athletes as required by Title IX

Comment by Chuck Morris 03.28.12 @ 1:11 pm

I”m thinking a booster with close ties to McConnell family is involved. honestly, TJ McConnell was decent, but losing really isn’t a huge deal speaking purely in terms of the delta in talent. It is a huge deal that he is related to Duquesne most famous graduate.

Comment by PantherP 03.28.12 @ 1:19 pm

I was wondering why they hired him in the first place if they saw him as a failure at his last two positions.

Comment by nw pa pitt fan 03.28.12 @ 1:24 pm

@Doug, what’s up with all the hate?? The campus is in the middle of a city. That’s what it is. The campus, allthough not spectacular, is nice enough in of itself.

Academically, a top institution.

Not questioning you’re opinion, everyone is entitled, just wondering where all of your venom is coming from towards Duquesne??

Seriously, just curious.

Comment by Dan 03.28.12 @ 1:53 pm

Can’t be anything to do with “Pitt-Duquesne” in a hoops rivalry, as there hasn’t been a rivalry for 20 some years or more. (Being Pitt has won 20 out of the last 25 or something like that).

Kind of like the Steelers-Browns, just ain’t there when one side doesn’t win.

I almost think of them and Robert Morris as little brothers. I’m sure they don’t like that, but I cheer for both of them when not playing Pitt!!

Comment by Dan 03.28.12 @ 1:56 pm

I remember when Duesquene was a force in college basketball in the early 70’s selling out the civic arena. They were part of the elite basketball powers at the time; not the ACC, southwest, it was the northeast and UCLA.

St. Bonnaventure (Bob Lanier), Niagra (Calvin Murphy), Detroit, Providence (Ernie D. , Sonny Dove), and the best I saw aside from Lanier Rick Berry (Miami).

Duesquesne matched them with the Nelson Twins, two 6’11” natsties who I parciced with as a 10 th grader in high school, Jarrett Durham, and Bill Zoft. I saw some great basketball as I sat among the 10,000 enthusiastic fans.

For all the schools mentioned those days are gone never to return.

Comment by drw 03.28.12 @ 1:56 pm

p.s. I have no ties, nor family ties to either school. My ties are all Pitt, and a couple renegades that went to PSU, and I give them grief every chance I get!! LOL

Comment by Dan 03.28.12 @ 2:01 pm

I saw Spencer Haywood (Detroit U) score 30 with 20 rebounds vs the Nelson Twins circa ’69 at the Arena.

Comment by wbb 03.28.12 @ 2:01 pm

PantherP, who is Duquesne’s most famous garduate?

Comment by wbb 03.28.12 @ 2:08 pm

@WBB and DRW and others. I grew up in the 70’s and as a teen, I remember one of the best, for lack of a better word, “triangular” rivalries I’ve seen in sports.

Pitt, Duquesne and WVU!!! Sam Clancy, Bruce Atkins, Andy Cissini etc. etc.

Remember the incident when WVU hung B.B. Flenory in effigy???

Cissini always fighting and bloody. Actual fist a cuffs these guys had for years!!

I don’t think I had the romantic fondness for Duquesne as my above comments state back then.

I seem to remember, a game at the arena, when at half time, either Pitt or Duquesne were up by 20. I think Duquesne up on Pitt, Pitt fought back in the 2nd half to almost tie the game, but lost in the end.

I remember time ran out and a pass went to Clancy under the basket all alone, and him slamming the ball and almost pulling the whole thing down in disgust that their effort went for not.

I may be remembering that wrong??

Comment by Dan 03.28.12 @ 2:10 pm

Maybe Sissini with an “S”??

Comment by Dan 03.28.12 @ 2:16 pm

Duquesne was among the nations elite in the 1950’s, not the 1970’s. While they made the NCAA’s twice in the 1970’s they never made it past the 1rst or 2nd round. Pitt actually supplanted Duquesne as the city’s best team in the 1970’s with PITT reaching the Elite 8 in 1974.

The 1950’s were Duquesne’s salad days in basketball with 6 trips to the more prestigious NIT tournament and won the NIT and the National championship in 1955. For the kids, the NIT was THE postseason tournament back in the 1950’s. The NCAA tournament did not supplant the NIT until the 1960’s with UCLA’s amazing run of 6 championships in 10 years. And adding 4 more NC’s in the first 5 years of the 1970’s. The only year UCLA didn’t win the NC from 1967-1975 was in 1974 when NC State, who had defeated PITT in the Elite 8, won it. (note* Elite 8 game was played in Raleigh, NC)

Duquesne’s great teams of the 1950’s were led by Chuck Cooper (first black college player drafted by the NBA), Sihugo Green and Dick Ricketts. Those 3 along with Willie Somerset and Norm Nixon are considered DU’s best all-time players. Duquesne has never been the same since Coach Red Manning retired in 1974. He along with Dudey Moore and Chick Davies are considered DU’s best coaches ever.

Duquesne, like LaSalle, Holy Cross, Providence, San Francisco, Bradley, Dayton, DePaul and others who were national powers in the 1950’s and 1960’s have been unable to keep up financially to compete with the big money state supported schools, or they have lacked the commitment to compete. Oh, on the rare occasion a Providence can have a magical season as they did in 1987 and reach the Final 4 and a Bradley can rear up and beat someone in the NCAA’s (wonder who), but for the most part, time has marched on and left these school’s with mainly their memories to continue on.

Much it seems like Pitt football has left us with mostly memories of the past.

Comment by Emel 03.28.12 @ 2:59 pm

Hah, what memories. Sisinni was a pest of a guard, but the intriguing matchup that I remember from that time period was Clancy and Bruce Atkins. Both physical and skilled. I think Sisinni was a freshman when Clancy and Atkins were either juniors or seniors.

Comment by Pantherman13 03.28.12 @ 3:08 pm

David “Skywalker” Thompson!!!!

Comment by Dan 03.28.12 @ 4:56 pm

Best moment to me was playing the Dukes at the Arena in a tight game when Dave Roddy got knocked to the ground and looked dead. A hush grew over the heavily populated Duquesne crowd…then some lone voice screamed out “get up faggot!”

Funniest thing I have ever heard at a game.
Luckliy he was all rigth. Don’t even remember who won.

Comment by Dan 72 03.28.12 @ 8:36 pm

@Dan72, ha ha ha, good stuff!!!

Comment by Dan 03.28.12 @ 8:39 pm

These comments brought back some great memories. I used to attend the Eastern Eight tournament when it was held at the Arena. Huggins punching BB Flenory in the guy, Some great Pitt vs Duquesne games, Tiger Paul running up and down, Mossie Murphy doing that whoah, whoah, shooo, shoo cheer, Norm Nixon having a stellar career for the Dukes, Sam Clancy ripping off some monstrous dunks…

Comment by Ghost of Pete Gonzalez 03.29.12 @ 2:53 pm

Wasn’t Sam Clancy’s teammate from State Champion Fifth Ave. HS also a Duke. Bill Clarke seem to ring a bell. He was like 6’6″ but not anywhere as good as Sam who went to star in the NFL with Seattle Seahawks & Cleveland as a DE.

And yea we were sometimes outnumbered at the Civic Arena. But that made you only cheer louder.

I dated several girls from Duquesne so that made the games even more interesting. Especially the post-game activities. 🙂
They would even come looking for me at my Frat House. What can I say.

Comment by EMel 03.29.12 @ 3:08 pm

Skywalker came down with a thud against us in the Elite 8. Think they carried him off. He wasn’t used to playing against the Amoeba.

Comment by EMel 03.29.12 @ 3:11 pm

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