CLEVELAND -- The University of Akron men’s basketball team has advanced to the Mid-American Conference Tournament Championship Game in nine of the last 11 years under the direction of head coach Keith Dambrot.
And that kind of consistency comes with playing well on the defensive end of the floor and sharing the ball when going toward the basket.
“I think the unifying thing for me is not much different than most good coaches around the country, and that is you have to play at the defensive end,” Dambrot said.
“I think if you’re going to have a good program, it has to be based at the defensive end, and then, it has to be based on sharing the ball. Dysfunctional, selfish, self fulfilling teams lose. Teams that have the enough ability that play together and care about every play win. There’s no secret to it really.”
Akron battles Ball State in the MAC Tournament Semifinals
Dambrot enters the MAC Tournament with a 304-137 record at Akron, including a 157-65 mark in conference action. The Zips carried a 30-game home winning streak through much of the last two seasons, and that set a new mark for consecutive wins at The James A. Rhodes Arena.
“We’ve had better players than most people,” Dambrot said. “I’m not a better coach than anybody else. We’ve had better players than the other people have had. When I say better players, it might not be pure talent, but it’s great character, care about winning, come from good programs, and then, they get in the culture. We’ve provided the culture for them that winning is the only thing.
“Now, we deviate at times, and we have to hit our guys in the mouth and make them understand that 20 years from now, nobody cares how many points you scored, or maybe one year from now, or five minutes from now, nobody cares how many points you scored, but they’ll say, ‘Hey, did Akron go to the NCAA tournament that year and did they beat so and so?’
During the regular season, Akron posted a 24-7 record, including a 14-4 slate in MAC play, which marked the 12th straight season the Zips have won at least 21 games. Along with Akron, only Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas and Ohio State had similar streaks.
Dambrot has guided the Zips to a 21-5 record in their last 26 MAC Tournament games.
“You have to teach people that,” Dambrot said. “It’s no different than what I was at Saint V. Everybody talks about LeBron, and I love LeBron, so I’m going to bring him up. The difference between LeBron and everybody else is he cares about winning. It’s no different. Our team cares about winning, and that’s why we’ve had success.”