Duquesne, Jim Ferry agree to contract extension

Written by Craig Meyer on .

Duquesne men's basketball coach Jim Ferry has been granted a contract extension, university president Charles Dougherty announced Tuesday.

Terms of the extension were not disclosed. Though he declined to say how long his contract now runs, Ferry said “we’re going to be here for a while.”

Ferry has compiled a 33-58 record in his three years at the school. His 2014-15 team finished 12-19, but went 6-6 in its final 12 games.

The extension comes not even three weeks after Duquesne athletic director Greg Amodio accepted the same position at Quinnipiac. Two weeks ago, Ferry was named as a member of a nine-person search committee tasked with selecting Amodio’s replacement. Furthermore, the person who announced the new deal, Dougherty, will be retiring in June 2016.

“I’m appreciative of the president and administration and board of trustees to allow us the opportunity to finish the job,” Ferry said. “With Greg leaving, I think there might have been some uncertainty, but I think there’s a commitment here to do it the right way.”

Prior to arriving at Duquesne, Ferry led LIU Brooklyn to consecutive NCAA tournament appearances. Next season, the Dukes return four starters and a pair of transfers, Rene Castro (Butler) and Mar’Qywell Jackson (Texas-El Paso), who sat out last season because of NCAA rules.

When Ferry accepted the Duquesne job in 2012, he took over a program that had been rocked by a slew of transfers and, according to Amodio, was in danger of facing potential NCAA penalties because of a low academic progress rate.

“Now that we’ve stabilized the program and now that we have this extension, it’s going to allow us to really let the program take off from here,” Ferry said.


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Duquesne releases 2015 non-conference schedule

Written by Craig Meyer on .


(Photo: Matt Freed / Post-Gazette)

Duquesne released its 2015 non-conference schedule Monday, a slate of games that features three matchups against teams from Power Five conferences.

The most notable of those will come Dec. 4 at Consol Energy Center when the Dukes play Pitt in the City Game, a series in which the Panthers have won the past 14 games. Two weeks before that, Duquesne will host Penn State at Consol and its final major-conference opponent is Georgia Tech, who will host the Dukes on Dec. 29.

Below is the full non-conference slate. The Atlantic 10 will release its schedule of games on a date TBD. Home games are in CAPS.

Nov. 10 • URBANA (exhibition) --7:00 pm
Nov. 13 • SETON HILL -- 7:00 pm
Nov. 16 • NEW ORLEANS -- 7:00 pm
Nov. 20 • PENN STATE (CEC) -- 7:00 pm
Gulf Coast Showcase at Germain Arena, Estero, Fla.
Nov. 23 • Opponents to be determined from the field listed below
Nov. 24 • Central Michigan, Drake, Milwaukee, Murray State,
Nov. 25 • Pepperdine, Weber State, Western Kentucky
Dec. 4 • vs. Pitt (CEC) -- 7:00 pm
Dec. 8 • UMBC -- 7:00 pm
Dec. 12 • at Saint Francis U -- TBA
Dec. 16 • SOUTH CAROLINA STATE -- 7:00 pm
Dec. 19 • ROBERT MORRIS -- 2:00 pm
Dec. 29 • at Georgia Tech -- 7:00 pm

While it'd be a reach to give Duquesne a good chance of winning any of its three games against Power Five teams -- though I like its odds against Penn State -- the rest of this schedule is pretty favorable.

Seton Hill is a Division II team and, with a 7-19 record last season, not a very good one. Though Robert Morris has beaten the Dukes in their past five meetings, the Colonials lost two of their top players from last year (Lucky Jones and Marcquise Reed) and they typically don't get rolling until conference play gets started. Then there are the four teams -- New Orleans, Mississippi Valley State, UMBC and South Carolina State -- that finished last season ranked among the 50 worst teams in Division I by

Playing against what figures to be a competitive group of A-10 teams next season, Duquesne can't afford a repeat of what happened last year, when it went 5-6 against a slate KenPom ranked as the 18th-easiest in Division I. This schedule, at the very least, holds the potential for improvement in a season where progress is expected.


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Leftovers from Mike James story

Written by Craig Meyer on .

Mike James Duquesne

(Bob Donaldson/Post-Gazette file photo)

I had a story in today's Post-Gazette on former Duquesne star Mike James, who turned 40 today and is still playing professionally, making him the oldest person to be doing so in the United States (between the NBA and D League).

It's easy to dismiss James as someone who is holding on to what he once had at a much lower level, where he's clearly one of the best players any time he takes the court. That, of course, is painting with an extremely broad brush, one that overlooks just how remarkable it is that someone is playing professional basketball at age 40, way past the physical primes of most. And it's not like we're talking about someone like Kevin Garnett (age 39) or Vince Carter (38) whose longevity in the league could, perhaps, be explained by the appeal of what they were once able to do. James is someone who didn't enter the league until age 26, bounced around from team to team and, aside from the 2005-06 season with Toronto, never averaged more than 11.8 points per game in a season in the NBA.

As a writer, it was a fascinating story to piece together, but unfortunately, these pieces only contain a fraction of the information/commentary that was gathered. Below, I've shared some other informational nuggets and insights from my conversation with Mike.


One of the crazier things about James' story, at least to me, was that he was able to hang around the NBA for 13 years despite not starting his career there out of college. An American player breaking into the league after playing for several years abroad is pretty rare and turning that first chance into a prolonged career is even rarer.


So what kind of fight is it to get into the NBA after going undrafted?

“To not get drafted and be overseas playing basketball, it’s one of those things that’s out of sight, out of mind," James said. "To be able to break back into the game in the States is something you don’t see a lot of ballplayers have success doing. Why? Because if you’re not established with a name, it’s going to be hard for them to decide to sign you with a contract over someone that has a name.

"The game is not just about your heart and your skill level. It has a lot of other aspects that have to go along with it. Do you have a backing? Do you have a following? I didn’t have these things.”


For someone who has an NBA title ring and who once averaged 20 points per game on a team that also featured scoring options like Chris Bosh and Morris Peterson, playing in the D League is undoubtedly a not-so-glamorous way to make a living.

When I asked James about it, here's what he said, in two separate quotes:

“It shows you that you still love the game. It shows that you’re still willing to go out there and keep having fun and keep playing the game you have a genuine passion for.”

“The D-League is not one of those things where you’re playing for nothing other than the fact that you’re trying to get a call back to the NBA or you just genuinely still have a passion to play.”

The retirement question is a natural one given James' age, but he said that he's still "in the process of deciding right now" whether he wants to do so.


He doesn't feel any kind of a rush to quit playing if he still feels like he can, but when he is done, he has worked to give himself options. Through the NBA, he has participated in coaching camps and clinics the past three seasons and plans to get into coaching after he reties. His current team -- the Texas Legends -- even brought up the possibility of him returning next season as a player-coach.

He's not particular about whether he coaches at the pro or college level, but something about coaching college players holds an appeal to James, namely that he gets a chance to mold them at a more pliable stage, before they enter the real world. His time in the D League has allowed him to get experience as a leader with a much younger surrounding cast.

"It’s about teaching and showing these guys how to be a professional – not only acting like a professional, but training like a professional," James said. "I think the majority of them want to be pros, but they don’t know what it takes. My leadership and my understanding of the game has really been able to help these guys work at a higher level, but also develop, not just physically as a better ballplayer, but mentally."

A quick point of clarification: I mentioned in the story that James was one of several players who guarded Kobe Bryant when he went off for 81 points against the Raptors in 2006.

James is only 6-foot-2, compared to the 6-foot-6 Bryant, and he didn't spend much of the game guarding him, so I didn't want anyone to get confused and think that he spent the whole game trailing him. From watching highlights of the game, James provided some help defense, but it seemed like a bulk of guarding Kobe fell to Peterson and, to a lesser extent, Jalen Rose.

Even beyond coaching, James has other post-basketball ventures. He and his wife started a business called Third Quarter Coaching which, as he put it, helps athletes prepare themselves "not only for the third quarter of their career, but of their life" (something James presumably knows a lot about).

James, who lives in Houston, said he also has some royalties in oil and gas. 

Whenever you call a coach -- particularly an assistant -- who worked with a player almost 20 years ago, you're never sure what you'll get as a reporter, but Darelle Porter said he still keeps in fairly frequent contact with James.

When I asked Porter what he remembers the most about James, he said:

“He was quick, man. He was as quick as they come. Once he learned how to use his quickness on defense, he became one of the best players in the Atlantic 10.”


Since the local news hook for the story was that James played for Duquesne, I naturally asked him about his alma mater and his connection to it.


On whether he keeps track of Duquesne much:

“I haven’t. That’s an issue I’m disappointed in myself in. I was dealing with the teams every year and even when a new coach would come in, that didn’t influence me more or less to want to be around the guys. I think now I really want to start getting myself back involved with the team and organization and just really be more of a help in trying to help these guys get over that hump.”

On what it is going to take for the school's basketball program to get over the hump:

“At the end of the day, especially in college sports, it comes down to recruiting. When you don’t have the understanding of where the good basketball players are or you don’t have a voice in those areas where the new, up-and-coming great high school athletes are and if you don’t have anyone to be able to keep you connected to them, it’s hard to compete against these big-time schools, even in the Atlantic 10. It’s hard to compete against the top teams in the Atlantic 10. That’s the biggest issue.”


A major reason that James hasn't retired yet is that, for the level he's playing at, he's doing quite well. He averaged 17.2 points per game last year, played in a majority of his team's games and shot better than 40 percent from 3-point range.


He's going to play until he feels like he can't anymore and he has yet to reach that breaking point.

“Playing with these young guys this year, everyone I played against was trying their darndest to show me why I shouldn’t be playing anymore when the game first started," James said. "And every single player in the D League that I played against, I annihilated. I’ve never been double-teamed more than I career than I was last season.

"The one thing they all couldn’t understand was my energy level. They all used to wonder how I have so much energy, like ‘What are you doing?’ That’s a credit to myself and a credit to the work I put into my body in the offseason to prepare myself for the longevity of a season.”


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Jim Ferry discusses Ireland trip

Written by Craig Meyer on .

Duquesne announced on Monday that the men's basketball team will embark on a nine-day trip to Ireland in August that will be built around three exhibition games. Under NCAA rules, basketball programs are allowed to go on foreign tours once every four years. The Dukes' previous two trips -- in 2007 and 2011 -- were to Canada.

I caught up with Jim Ferry briefly on Tuesday to discuss a few aspects of the tour and what it could mean for his team heading into next season.

What are you and the team hoping to get out of this trip and out of this experience?

“I think the biggest thing is the guys that were freshmen have a little bit more experience and we’re putting them into playing situations -- especially at our forward positions -- integrating Rene Castro in the backcourt with DC [Derrick Colter] and Micah Mason, and actually working on improving defensively. These are things that will give us a jump start, basketball wise. We’ve got to see which one of our freshmen and sophomores are ready to play and help us out this year.”

Have you been on these kind of trips before? Like when you were at LIU?

“I booked a trip for my team to go to Italy when I was at LIU, but when my youngest son was born, he was born with some major complications right when we were getting ready to leave, so I actually did not make the trip. I sent my assistant over with the team. But we took advantage of the 10 days of practice and I thought it was a good experience for those guys.”

How did this whole trip come to be? I know you guys get to do one of these every four years, but how did things get moving on this one?

“We had the opportunity with the four years up, we have a team with a lot of guys back and I felt Ireland was a great opportunity because Duquesne opened up a university over there. Obviously, Mr. [Dan] Rooney was the ambassador to Ireland years ago. I thought it all just fit in right that Ireland would be the right place to go, for us to go over to the university, do a little clinic there and spread the word about Duquesne. Then there was the opportunity to go over there, play and get a little bit of a jump start on the season. It came together pretty well.”

Do you guys know what teams you’ll be playing?

“We’re playing the Irish national team one game, the Cork Demons Basketball Club, who was undefeated in their league in Ireland. We’re going to play three games while we’re over there. We’re getting one more. We might even get the Great Britain national team to come on over and play us, too. We’re working that out.”

Is there anything you’re hoping to see on this trip or are there any expectations you have for how your team will do against these opponents?

“For us as coaches, it’s more looking at combinations to play together and our defensive foundation. We want to see how that grows and change up how we’re guarding ball screens and little actions that we want to be able take a look at. Those are the biggest things we’re looking at with these games going in. We’re going to focus more on ourselves. We’re not going to go in there and scout the opponents or anything like that. It’s going to be all about ourselves, focusing on us and using these opportunities to help us get better and get ready for the season.”

Who benefits the most from these kind of trips? Is it older players who get this kind of a new experience? Is it younger guys who are still learning and developing?

“I think everyone gets something out of it. The opportunity to go abroad with your friends, your family and your team…that’s a neat experience to have. We’re going to take in the culture of Ireland and they get to bond as a group. Everybody gets valuable experience with this, more so than from the basketball side of it. For the young guys, especially the freshmen, they get a jump start on what practice is going to be like. I think that’s important for them. Putting together the combinations and seeing which pieces fit best together…it’s a positive for everybody. I wouldn’t say anybody is better than the other one.”


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John Plante to head search committee for new AD

Written by Craig Meyer on .

Duquesne vice president for advancement John Plante will head the university’s search committee for a new athletic director, a school spokeswoman confirmed Friday.

No other members of the committee have been determined yet, but the university’s Board of Directors will be involved in the search throughout. It is not yet known whether school president Charles Dougherty, who will be retiring in June 2016, will be involved in the search, the spokeswoman said.

There is no timetable yet as to when the university would like to make an official hire.

Plante, who has been at Duquesne for over eight years, oversees all university fundraising – including capital campaigns -- alumni relations, public affairs and government relations.

The school has said that it will conduct a national search to replace Greg Amodio, who announced Wednesday that he would become the new athletic director at Quinnipiac University after nearly 10 full years at Duquesne. Amodio’s last day will be July 2.

Associate athletic director Phil Racicot was named the interim athletic director Wednesday.


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