“In my mind, Duquesne was still that same school that I grew up idolizing,” he said. “This was a big-time college basketball program that was producing NBA players. It was no joke here.”
They sank into a laughingstock, though, and suffered through years of embarrassing losses.
Under Danny Nee, before Everhart took over, the Dukes went 42-102 from 2001-06. Under Darelle Porter, from 1998-2001, they went 23-64.
In fact, the Dukes, who fielded their first team in 1913-14, have only five NCAA tournament appearances and none since 1977. But Everhart jolted the team to the brink of the tournament in 2009 with 21 wins and a berth in the A-10 championship game. He followed that last year with a spot in the CBI.
And this year, led by McConnell, and seniors Bill Clark and Damian Saunders, the Dukes started a school-best 8-0 in the A-10 and won 11 straight games by double-digits before losing 64-62 to St. Bonaventure last Saturday.
That’s led them to a showdown with the Musketeers, a program that has reached the Sweet 16 the last three years.
“Unfortunately, now, we’re a team with a target on our back,” Everhart said. “Now when people play Duquesne, they’re not playing Duquesne anymore. They’re playing a team that’s 8-1 in the Atlantic 10. There’s a huge difference between where we’ve been and where we want to go.”
One person intricately familiar with Xavier is Duquesne athletic director Greg Amodio. He spent 10 years in various positions at Xavier before moving to The Bluff in 2005.
He hired Everhart and led the idea of a $2 million renovation of the Palumbo Center outer concourse in the spring of 2006. He raised money for a facelift inside the gym, installing premium seating, chair backs, and new video boards. Up ahead is a $1.3 million project expected to start in April that will include the renovation of the men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball locker rooms. The team takes charter flights now to several road games.
Throw in the Dukes’ agreement to play marquee opponents like Pittsburgh and West Virginia at Consol, and the program has molded itself into an attractive one for recruits.
Heck, even the radio package was upgraded from a low-watt AM station to the FM dial.
The bells and whistles help because Everhart said teams still use the shooting against them in recruiting.
“It’s just a more fan-friendly, more recruiting-friendly environment,” Amodio said.
Maybe one that will help lure top recruits to campus and make the Dukes a regular contender for the NCAAs. Everhart has molded a solid program out of lightly regarded talent already. But fans would like to see what he could do with some A-listers.
And somewhere along the way, the boosters would like to see them beat Pitt sometime soon, too.