I’ve noticed weird paradox involving media response to the Duquesne men’s basketball program.The Pittsburgh media tends to bash it, but the renowned college basketball writers are at least forgiving. While they don’t love us, the national media seems hopeful about the future of the program under Jim Ferry. In general, they seem patient and believe that with the backing of the administration the new coach has the Dukes headed in the right direction. If you don’t believe me, have a look for yourself:
THE SKINNY: Jim Ferry is quietly building a capable Atlantic 10 program.
Jim Ferry is still putting the pieces in to place, but does have Derrick Colter coming back after a strong freshman season in the Dukes’ back court.
Second-year coach Jim Ferry, knows the rebuild at Duquesne is going to take time. (And it’s been a long time coming; Duquesne hasn’t made the NCAAs since 1977.) Most importantly, the university has put in a lot of money into improving facilities and making Duquesne a much more attractive destination for recruits than it was as recently as three years ago…Ideally, this program is two years out from competing for an NCAA bid. Ferry got Long Island back to the NCAAs after a long drought, and there’s supreme confidence that process will be mimicked here.
Ferry is an excellent coach, but the Dukes program will need some time for growth. It won’t be long until they’re competitive in the A-10.
Were there criticism and concerns amongst the positive? Absolutely, and more from some than others. However, the above represents a sizable proportion of the national basketball media that acknowledges the Atlantic 10′s continued existence and in general, their perception of the school and future at least flashes with a silver lining.
While there are a few exceptions, the local writers and talking heads vilify and chastise Duquesne ruthlessly and rarely give men’s basketball the benefit of the doubt. I don’t even need to mention the names of the pundits who bash the program. If you live in Pittsburgh, you know who I’m talking about and probably know the standard lines by heart. Here are some generalized examples:
The administration doesn’t care
The athletic director is clueless
They should have never fired their winning coach
The Dukes haven’t been any good in so long*
*(which is ironic because the same people who say this endlessly defend Everhart as a winner).
You get the picture.
So why is the national media’s attitude about Duquesne so much rosier than the local media?
New York Coach / New York Media
While Jim Ferry has an excellent reputation amongst the right basketball circles, the circles are geographically concentrated in the New York area. Conveniently for Ferry, the national sports media is concentrated in New York and they know him through proximity.
Though well regarded in the Big Apple, Ferry arrived in Pittsburgh as a non entity. He hadn’t done anything flashy at LIU nor did he make a big splash with signature national upset. Until Micah Mason, he never recruited a WPIAL player. Aside from following Robert Morris hoops in the pre – Kentucky win, no one in the locally would have any connection with him. Familiarity can create a doubled edged sword, but it feels more comfortable than the complete unknown. Had the Dukes hired Keith Dambrot from Akron or the Kentucky and former Pitt player Orlando Antigua, the media might have extended a little more patience and acceptance.
Fixated On Results Not Process
The bar is set pretty high for sports franchises in Pittsburgh. The Steelers. The Penguins. Even Pitt basketball over the last 13 years. The Pittsburgh fans and media aren’t content with losing even if it comes as part of the greater good unless, of course, you lose on purpose to get better draft picks.
Generally speaking the local media doesn’t bother looking at what losing teams have done to get better until they actually start to win. Last year, the same people who insult Duquesne at every opportunity sniped the Pirates for the same perceived weaknesses that media praised as strengths following their trip to the NLDS. The evidence of the Pirates’ organizational improvement presented itself clear as day to anyone who had an interest in actually seeing it by the end of last season. Process was ignored and until the results came, the media overlooked the improvements in almost every area including wins and losses. They treat the Pirates like an overnight success. Of course, overnight success seems to happen all the time in sports when you don’t pay attention during the daytime.
Real, sustainable change takes time and with rare exception, programs don’t build off Cinderella runs and continue to play at a high level. For every Gonzaga, I could name ten Sienas, but for every Wichita St, I could name five Xaviers. Successful mid majors spend years laying the groundwork and the ones without the proper infrastructure fade back into oblivion when the buzz wears off. Folks with a national perspective specialize in college basketball. They know the process and recognize it because they’ve watched many schools similar to Duquesne go through it.
National Media Puts in the Time
I know at least two of the above national media types have watched a Duquesne practice so far this fall. Besides our beat writers, how many local talking heads do you think have bothered to drive across downtown or in from the suburbs to develop their own first hand opinions? CBS’ Jon Rothstein tweeted his early guess at a Duquesne lineup over the summer which included two players just added in the spring class. I doubt if most local types could tell you five players on the team, but they sure have a firm opinion on what Greg Amodio’s doing to the athletic department.
Truth told, the local media has no economic incentive to pay any attention to us. We don’t sell papers, generate much internet traffic or draw ratings on the radio and while healthier than perceived, local media doesn’t have the resources to dedicate time to something that doesn’t sell. However, if you don’t have enough economic incentive to do the research beyond looking at the standings have the courtesy to keep your mouth shut on the subject. The locals writers who like the program tend to put the time in to actually get to know it.
Eventually, Duquesne needs to get over the hump and the local media will change their tune if it does. Till then, we’ll continue to hear the same old story from the same old folks. I won’t tell you who not to read, but some are worse than others. We do have great coverage from our beat writers so at least the desert still has some water left. Aside from them, we’ll need to go national if we hope to get any more insight on the team.
Tags: Pittsburgh Media