December 11, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Duquesne Dukes head coach Jim Ferry reacts on the sidelines against the West Virginia Mountaineers during the second half at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Duquesne Dukes won 60-56. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Jim Ferry's Firsts: LIU had success on paper, Duquesne University did behind the scenes.

by Dave Morus

The light of sounds return is soon
To charge the halls of sun and moon
And teach the lessons of the past
That man may reach the stars at last
- Unknown

Yes, the lessons of the past. Looking at the recent events through the lens of the past can be useful. In this case, we want to see what Jim Ferry’s first season at LIU was like in comparison to his first season on the bluff.

How were they before he arrived?

LIU was coming off of a 5-21 season where the Blackbirds didn’t see a win until January 26th.

Duquesne was coming off of an inconsistent season, losing 6 of their last 8, and then losing players to transfers.

What happened during year one?

The Blackbirds improved from their previous mark, going 9-19, including a stretch where they won 5 of 8 games – an accomplishment for a team so far down.

Duquesne went 8-22, their worst mark in years. This included going 1-17 from December 22nd forward.

Circumstances: Style

Long Island already liked to play a game that is similar to Ferry’s style – uptempo, lots of possessions, but structure – and led the NEC with 77.8 possessions per game. The team was not ideally structured, but there were usable parts there. Under Ferry, the team was 8th in the nation in possessions per game during his first season with 75.8.

Duquesne was also among the conference leaders in this statistic, but really didn’t get a lot of separation. In 2011-12, after UMass, the separation from 2-8 was two possessions. Duquesne had tried post players that, while tall, didn’t have the body type suited for the fast paced system of years past, nor did they have what was needed for Ferry’s system, which really wants to be above 72.

Duquesne’s biggest problem was finishing, falling from 5th in points per possession to 13th. That will happen with an inexperienced point guard and no real center.

Circumstances: Players

When Ferry took over for Long Island, it was a more traditional time for a coaching change. He was able to truly evaluate who he had and what they brought to the program. He could recruit his players effectively and there were still enough talented players available for the spring signing period that he was able to get started.

Duquesne’s change happened late in the game and the timetable was, depending on who you listen to, possibly impacted by assistants who were still coaching in the tourney. This meant that the hire was made rather late in the game. When Ferry arrived, he put together an excellent class considering the time he had, a class that met the needs of the Dukes. However, he was also unwilling to overdo it and make changes for the sake of changes. He could easily have over-recruited or taken a reach on a player who didn’t deserve it.

Where do we go from here?

Like at LIU, Ferry has brought in players that have the athleticism and skillset to play the game he wants them to play. Big men like Ovie Soko, McKoy, Lewis, Watkins, Robinson, these are players who have height but are suited to play a lot of north-south basketball. This is a big change, as Duquesne hasn’t had a legitimate center who could move since Achara and James (no slight on Saunders – a gifted forward – he’s just not a 5 despite the position that he played).

We went from having no guards to one of the more talented crops of guards – on paper, anyway – in quite some time. There is reason for optimism and last year, as far as visible progress is concerned, may indeed have been a wasted season as Steve considers in a recent post. But the important process of talent evaluation, filling the voids with the right players (PG), and then recruiting the right way was able to start. In that way, we must remember the successes that are perhaps hidden behind the 8-22 record.

Tags: Blackbirds Dukes Duquesne Basketball Duquesne University Jim Ferry Long Island

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