Hell has frozen over. Pigs have flown. Monkey’s have flown out of Mike Myer’s butt. After all, Dejan Kovasevic gave a fair and mostly positive assessment of Duquesne basketball.
I don’t normally respond to Dejan’s pieces as I often think they portray the program from a myopic and biased perspective rather than an objective, informed one. I wrote about how he and others in the local media treat the program in a piece in October.
In Dejan’s weekend column, I see a shift in his approach and understanding of the program. The main theme of the piece revolves around how leading with a snapshot from the middle is normally bad, but necessary to truly understand the current state of Duquesne’s rebuild. He notes that the Dukes have already improved under Ferry and takes a look at the pieces in place for the future. I think he finally has begun to take process into account in spite of results with the Dukes and he deserves kudos for it.
In general, Dejan comes across as more plugged into the current state of the program and to Jim Ferry than he has in the past. To his credit, we also saw him put the time in as he prepped for and attended the City Game. He interviewed the new coach midweek on his Triblive program and the column reflects a comfort level with Ferry I haven’t seen from Dejan to this point . He sees the positives in the new system and players that he may have previously overlooked or simply didn’t know because of the Duquesne coaches newness.
I did have two real issues with the piece and I’m not sure I’m ready to suggest all of Dejan’s foibles have melted away. First, he reverts back to a standard line and completely dismissed those who may disagree. Second, he leaves a question he poses mid piece unanswered.
While trying to dispel myths about the program, Dejan writes under a subheading about poor administrative support that “Actually I believe <they don’t support the program.> There has been additional funding, most of it into upgrading the multipurpose Palumbo Center, but the university has taken the cheap route for so long that it’s naive not to doubt.” I have no problem with someone claiming the administration doesn’t care enough or that over the years they’ve taken the cheap route. Google search 1304 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh and street view will show you a great example of their miserly and incompetent past. However, I have a problem with discounting the other side of the argument off hand and I believe his argument draws from lasting preconceived notions beyond all other reason. One could argue that the additional funding and upgrades he cites are a sign of additional commitment. Truth told, Duquesne has invested more over the last few years than quite a few A-10 programs and has slowly and steadily climbed the rankings of yearly expenses from seventh in 2010-11 to at worst fifth this year. We still haven’t heard from St Louis for 12-13, but the Dukes will end up fourth if the Billikens didn’t increase their hoops budget from the previous year by about 15%. With only a relatively low cost practice gym upgrade included in last year’s figures, over a million dollars went directly into operations as Ferry suggest and Dejan seems to dismiss. Dejan has fallen again into the “Won’t Get Fooled Again” fallacy in that he presumes the new boss is the same as the old boss. You have to overlook a lot of changes made in athletics since Charles Dougherty took the reigns to question the complete validity of an argument suggesting the administration has done their part or that they care.
My second concern relates to a question that goes unanswered. Before mythbusting, Dejan asks what the goal for Duquesne basketball should be. He talks a little history and looks to dispel some false assumptions but never makes his way back the the question. For me, I hope the Dukes get to the level of Xavier or, more realistically, build a program on par with Dayton. Being Pitt shouldn’t be the end game, but beating them twice in five years seems reasonable. Forcing our way into the conversation locally should happen and getting enough fans where seven thousand pay for and show up to a key game at Consol feels attainable. The Dukes will likely live in the shadow of that quasi – state university down the road, but they can certainly carve out their own niche of success.
Dejan’s still not all the way there on his Duquesne coverage and I still see some subjective notions leaking into his evaluation of the school and their athletic program. However, I think one could safely upgrade him from “paid troll” to “slightly biased onlooker.” I would love it if one of the local talking heads latched onto Dukes basketball. Not suggesting it should or will be Dejan, but the fact that he truly engaged them feels like a step in the right direction for the local media.