Before taking the head coaching job at Duquesne, Jim Ferry would see two guards who could have been cornerstones of the program leave in T.J. McConnell and Mike Talley.
But despite the fact that the Dukes would go into the 2012-13 season having to replace their top four scorers the former LIU Brooklyn head coach wasn’t deterred.
And based on what his former athletic director and best player had to say in a story by Jenn Menendez of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Ferry is more than capable of eventually getting Duquesne to their first NCAA tournament since 1977.
Duquesne has better resources than the ones that Ferry encountered upon his arrival at LIU in 2002, and while there were heavy personnel losses Duquesne is more capable of winning than LIU was in 2002-03.
Some of his players hated basketball. Others hated each other. Several disliked the school. It all showed in a 5-22 record in 2001-02, the year before Ferry was hired.
Ferry came in and laid down his law at the Northeast Conference school. He worked slowly and meticulously over the course of 10 years to lead LIU to back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances.
“I started all freshmen that year. I said this is how we’re going to do it. We put our blinders on,” said Ferry, a mild New York accent punctuating his words. “I had great support to really do it right.”
Duquesne will certainly take their lumps this year, as four newcomers will be called upon to contribute in a league that gets tougher with the arrival of Butler and VCU.
But the key word for Duquesne fans will be “patience,” as this first season under Ferry could be a tough one. But Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a successful basketball program.
Ferry’s work took LIU from a team that struggled to qualify for the NEC tournament and turned it into a program that’s reached the last two NCAA tournaments.
“I think if they have the patience to let him do what he needs to do they’ll be fine,” LIU Brooklyn athletic director John Suarez said. “I think he can be a major Division I coach. I think he’s got all the tools to do it. It still comes down to recruiting the horses.
“He was able to do it in Brooklyn, I’m sure he’ll do it in Pittsburgh.”
What was also apparent was how invested Ferry was in his players, and one of the greatest examples of this was the way in which he handled Julian Boyd’s having to sit out the 2009-10 season due to a heart ailment.
Ferry and Suarez insisted he get checked out by New York doctors. He was diagnosed with non-compaction cardiomyopathy, a heart defect where the left ventricle doesn’t pump at a normal rate.
“I don’t have any family here in New York,” said Boyd, who will be a senior for the Blackbirds next year. “He played a big role during that year. That whole time, he’d talk to me, try to cheer me up. I wasn’t allowed to play run, shoot. Every day when we came to practice he told me to keep my head up, that we’re going to get through it.”
That LIU team, which ultimately featured senior guard Jaytornah Wisseh and two young front court players in Jamal Olasewere and Kenny Onyechi, found a way to reach the NEC semis.
That set the table for Ferry’s last two teams at LIU. So while this season may be a lean one for Duquesne fans, Ferry has shown that he’s more than capable of building a contender. Just give him time.