Northeast Ohio’s college basketball landscape is changing. After 13 seasons and more than 300 wins, University of Akron coach Keith Dambrot announced he’s leaving for Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.
Dambrot led his teams to the NCAA tournament four times. Despite being the favorites, the Zips lost to Kent State in the MAC tournament finals earlier this month.
WKSU’s Amanda Rabinowitz talked with our commentator Terry Pluto about Dambrot’s decision and what it means for Northeast Ohio college hoops:
Pluto says he was shocked when he learned that Keith Dambrot was leaving Akron. Earlier this month, there were rumors that he was offered, and turned down, a coaching job at South Florida University. Duquesne had courted Dambrot a few years ago, but he turned them down.
Pluto says Dambrot’s father played basketball at Duquesne. The Dukes have had had just six winning seasons in the last 36 years. They were 3-15 last year in the Atlantic 10 Conference.
Breaking point at Akron
Pluto says he believes Dambrot reached a breaking point at Akron.
“The last two years he won 26 and 27 games. The last two years, they lost in the MAC Tournament finals and didn’t get to the NCAA tournament.”
During Dambrot’s 13-year tenure, he’s 9-3 in the MAC Tournament finals.
“Fans were starting to say, ‘Well he can’t win the big game.’ I think he felt this is the best he can do in Akron.”
The community connection and the LeBron factor
Pluto emphasizes what a big loss this is for Akron’s program.
“Dambrot was entrenched in the community. He knew all the donors and all the movers and shakers in Northeast Ohio. He was Akron basketball. There wasn’t anyone else like this. Akron fans will find now that Dambrot was the quintessential Akron coach.”
“They no longer have to compete against Dambrot. Meanwhile, Senderoff had told me Akron was tough to recruit against, especially because of the LeBron James connection.” Dambrot coached James in high school at St. Vincent-St. Mary’s.
Kent State's opportunity
“This is Kent State’s chance to up their recruiting and for Senderoff to raise his profile locally because he was always in the shadow of Dambrot and LeBron James. This is Kent’s moment.”
Among the four Division I college basketball programs in Northeast Ohio, Senderoff is now the veteran. “Akron has one to be named later, Cleveland State hires Dennis Felton and Youngstown State just hired Jerrod Calhoun.”