Fordham Assistant David Duke Tabbed to Lead Adelphi

Charles Costello@@CFCostelloContributor IMay 1, 2014

David Duke may not have been the face of Fordham basketball, but in some ways he was the voice of the Rams.

On the recruiting trail, Duke was responsible for convincing young men to choose Rose Hill over other programs. On the radio, he was the one fans would hear on WFUV's postgame show.

Earlier this week, Fordham lost its voice.

Duke, a Rams' assistant since 2010, was named head coach of the Adelphi Panthers on Tuesday.

He takes over the Division II program after spending four years at Fordham, the last two as associate head coach.

"We are thrilled to welcome David Duke as the new Head Coach of Adelphi University men's basketball,” Danny McCabe, Adelphi’s Director of Athletics and Recreation, said in a statement released by the school on Tuesday:

David is a person of high integrity and character and he fits into the values and culture here at Adelphi. ...

His extensive experience in being part of building two college programs in the metropolitan area separated him from the rest of the candidate pool. David is known as a tireless worker and recruiter as well as a teacher of the game. He and his staff will assist our student-athletes in reaching their potential both on and off the court.

Adelphi, which plays in the Northeast-10 Conference, went 5-21 last season and 14-15 in 2012-13, but prior to that it had won 20 or more games in eight straight seasons.

This will be Duke's first head coaching job in college.

"I had been an assistant coach for the last 16 years," Duke said in a phone interview on Wednesday. "The one experience that I felt I clearly hadn't captured yet was becoming a head coach. I felt that was really important after all the time I had put in."

Duke grew up about 20 minutes from Adelphi's campus, located in Garden City, New York. After visiting the school and interviewing there, he was convinced it would be a good place for him to go.

"I know the area very well. I know the school well. I know what an incredible institution it is academically and athletically. They've had a great tradition there," he said. 

Duke's coaching career began at Hofstra, where he served as a graduate assistant for two years before being elevated to assistant coach in Jay Wright's final season with the Pride.

He joined Tom Pecora's staff when Pecora was named the head coach at Hofstra in 2001, then followed Pecora from Hofstra to Fordham in 2010.

Duke said that for the past 13 years he's spent every day with Pecora, making the decision to move on a difficult one.

"It was extremely difficult to go," he said. "Tom and I have been together for so long. You get so close with the players.

"At the end of the day, the biggest thing for me was that I had put so much time in as an assistant always trying to help everybody else in so many ways. I thought this was a great time for me to get out there and [put] my own name on something."

At Fordham, Duke developed a reputation as a strong recruiter. It's an area where the Rams, despite their struggles on the court, have found some success. 

A little over a year ago, the school landed Jon Severe, Mr. New York Basketball in 2013. Last November, Eric Paschall, the New England Prep Player of the Year this past season, announced he would be coming to Fordham. Two weeks ago, Nemanja Zarkovic signed a National Letter of Intent. Yesterday, Christian Sengfedler signed.

Duke knows what it takes to build a program, something he'll now try to do at Adelphi.

"I was a part of two turnarounds at Hofstra," he said. "I feel Fordham's in great shoes right now with the players that they have. I think this will be a nice opportunity for me to have that all under my watch and do it with my stamp on it."

As a head coach, Duke understands that he'll have even more responsibilities than he did as an assistant.

"I'm looking forward to the challenge of the X's and O's," he said. "As much as I've worked on it on my own you don't really get that opportunity until you're a head coach."

Of course, you can't really talk about Duke's promotion without mentioning what he's leaving behind.

So much of what Fordham will put on the court in 2014-15 will be a result of what he accomplished during his tenure at the school. After spending four years in the Bronx, Duke is confident that Fordham is ready to turn the corner.

He expects big things from senior Bryan Smith; he talks about the potential of Ryan Canty, Ryan Rhoomes and Travion Leonard; he points to Severe and Zarkovic; and he mentions how Antwoine Anderson and Manny Suarez, who were ineligible last season, will be in the mix.

Then there's Paschall, Fordham's prize recruit.

"Eric Paschall is a phenomenal basketball player and a phenomenal young man," Duke said. "I don't know what he can't do. He shoots the ball, he handles the ball, he's so unselfish passing the ball and he rebounds and blocks shots. He's an incredible basketball player."

One of the reasons, perhaps the biggest reason, why Fordham was able to land Paschall when so many other schools were after him, was because of the impression the coaching staff made on him and his family.

Paschall's father, Juan, told the New York Post's Zach Braziller and ESPN New York's Ian O'Connor that he believes the coaching staff will take care of his son. Zarkovic and his coach, Mike Chmielewski, said the same thing.

Duke takes great pride in forming that trust.

"That's incredibly special," he said. "I look forward to bringing that with me to Adelphi.

"In every relationship the foundation is trust. That's just being honest with people. It's a great thing to hear from the recruits and their parents."

In fact, anyone you talk to has only kind things to say about Duke. That, too, makes him proud.

"It's extremely humbling and flattering, just really nice to hear," he said. "I do my best to be the best person I can be and work as hard as I can. For people to say those things about me, it's really appreciated."

Now, the adjustment begins. After so many years as an assistant, Duke will be in charge of his own program. He said he's looking forward to the opportunity but knows it will be a challenge. For starters, he'll have to do it without having Pecora at his side. 

Duke said Pecora has been instrumental in his growth as a coach, teaching him about the game, about coaching and dealing with people. 

"He does a great job on so many different levels," Duke said about Pecora. "I've been able to see how great he is with the administration, with the alumni, just how he is dealing with people. I've been able to step back and watch.

"There are a lot of different levels in coaching. I've tried to really watch all these years as much as I could to pick up everything just to be well-rounded in this profession."

As for any advice Pecora may have given Duke during this process, the rookie head coach said he told him to be himself and to "do what comes naturally."

After he got the job Duke said that Pecora told him he deserved it and that he was "glad we spent this time together and that this opportunity came up for you."

Adelphi is a short drive from the Bronx. Though he'll have plenty to do in Garden City, Duke said he won't forget about Fordham any time soon. He plans on visiting Rose Hill when he can, and when he can't catch a game in person he'll watch on television or listen on the radio.

When asked what his greatest memories were at Fordham, he talked about the home wins against St. John's in 2010 and against Georgia Tech and Harvard in 2011.

"Those wins showed us what a special place Fordham has the ability to be," he said. 

"Fordham is an amazing place. The campus is absolutely spectacular. The academics are top-notch."

"I met so many wonderful people. I'll really miss them."

But Duke is also convinced that this was the right move to make and that Adelphi is the right place for him to be.

"Adelphi's given me a great opportunity," he said. "I'm just looking forward to doing the best job I can and hopefully getting this program up and running in the shortest amount of time possible, and having consistent success."


Quotations in this article were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Charles Costello covers the Fordham Rams for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @CFCostello.


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