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New Duquesne coach Dru Joyce III excited to continue the program's success

Dru Joyce III has been acquainted with Keith Dambrot since before he went to middle school, which spans over twenty-five years. This period included valuable experiences both on and off the basketball court, memories that will be cherished for a

Dru Joyce III has been acquainted with Keith Dambrot since before he went to middle school, a period of 25 years that involved learning experiences both on and off the basketball court, memories that will last a lifetime, maybe a few reprimands, and, of course, many victories.

So when Dambrot reached out to Joyce in 2022 following Duquesne’s tough 6-24 season, Joyce knew it was crucial to answer the call and take it seriously.

“He hardly ever asks for help. That’s not his style,” Joyce said Monday when he was officially introduced as the new head coach at Duquesne, taking over for Dambrot. “He was going through a tough time. He talked a lot about his culture and how he wanted to improve it.”

Dambrot wanted Joyce to join his staff as associate head coach to help improve the Duquesne program. However, there was some conflict in Joyce’s mind.

“I could have avoided the situation. He was coming off the worst year of his career. I didn’t know what that meant for my family,” he said. “It was a risk.”

In the end, it was a risk worth taking, and Joyce accepted the job over at least one other opportunity “to not only help him, but to learn from him and to be by his side,” he said.

“I know who he is and what he represents. I just wanted to bring whatever value I thought I had, all the energy that I could, to make him successful, shine light on his program. Doing so, we accomplished something pretty good, right?”

Two years after that phone call, Duquesne reached the NCAA Tournament this season for the first time in 47 years, recorded its first victory there since 1969 and claimed 25 victories — one short of a 70-year-old school record.

And there Joyce was Monday afternoon inside the Duquesne Student Union, armed with a five-year contract to continue the retired Dambrot’s work. Plus, he had the documented and visible support from president Ken Gormley and athletic director Dave Harper.

During the hiring process two years ago, Harper closely observed and gained a good understanding of what Joyce would bring to Duquesne.

“When he showed his loyalty to help coach Dambrot, that was an initial sign,” Harper said.

After getting to know him over the past two years, Harper now sees him as “a quiet person, but he’s so purposeful and so relentless that way.”

This is a special time for Duquesne basketball, with Harper not hesitant to mention Monday, “We’re just going to keep pushing for postseason. That’s why we’re here. Once you get a little taste of it, unfortunately, you get a little greedy. Getting there is one thing. Getting there again is even more difficult.

“I said to him the most important things for the next 90 days are recruiting and recruiting.”

Gormley said there was considerable interest in the job from coaches throughout the nation. Harper declined to quantify that statement, but he said Joyce was fully vetted. That includes an endorsement from Dambrot, who warned of transfer portal chaos if someone else was hired. Actually, there was little doubt that Joyce was the front-runner for the job, probably going back to before Dambrot announced his retirement two weeks ago.

Harper said that as they started, it was clear that the person was prepared to accept the challenge. He added that the choice was certain and not in doubt.

During the interview process, they discussed the game at Rhode Island this season where Duquesne's lead was reduced by the hosts from 18 points.

Harper mentioned that someone somehow convinced coach Dambrot to use a different strategy than man-to-man, which he considers a miracle in itself.

After Duquesne won 85-71, Harper found out that it was Joyce's decision.

These are the basic strategies of basketball, but Joyce stated that his coaching style cannot be fully captured on a computer's hard drive.

Joyce assured the players at the news conference that he will always support them. He emphasized that the relationship they have is not just about business but about making a significant and positive impact on each of their lives, encouraging, motivating, and being there to listen to them when needed.

He added that he will be there to tell them when they need a breath mint and also to give them a hug.

One of the players offering support to Joyce was walk-on guard Jake DiMichele, who said that the players were glad and relaxed when they heard that Joyce got the job.

DiMichele stated that if Joyce wasn't his coach, he would still want to spend time with him, as he finds him very easy to relate to. He mentioned that many of the things Joyce has been through in life are things they are going through now.

According to reports, loyalty is important to Joyce, who grew up in Akron with LeBron James, meeting the NBA star for the first time at one of Dambrot’s basketball clinics before middle school.

On Monday, Joyce openly spoke about his relationship with James.

He described it as a bond between two young guys who had a lot in common and decided to be honest with each other, motivate and push each other, continuing to do so to this day.

He emphasized that their loyalty to each other has been a significant part of their lives, which is not easy to find.

Present in the audience on Monday were Joyce’s wife, Lanae, and their three children, his parents, and in-laws. Joyce’s father, James Joyce II — Dru Joyce is actually James Joyce III — began coaching Joyce and LeBron James when they were 9 years old.

The elder Joyce commented that from the age of 12, he knew that his son was going to be a coach, citing his attention to detail, passion, and understanding of what was needed and wanted.

He remarked that his son is well-suited for the role and that the Duquesne officials recognized what they have seen for a long time. He believes his son will be even better at coaching than him.

Joyce III mentioned that he was taking notes from a young age and has been told repeatedly that he would be a head coach someday.

Joyce mentioned that during his drive from Akron to Pittsburgh on Monday, he initially drove in silence before turning on the radio and hearing Whitney Houston's song 'Step by Step.'

He commented that the song felt appropriate for that day and reminded him of the gradual progress they are making, emphasizing the idea of moving forward bit by bit every day and how they will continue to develop.

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