Adversity teaches Zips how to fight

CLEVELAND -- In the grand scheme, losing a basketball game is not the worst thing in the world, and no one could explain that any more pointedly than University of Akron men's basketball coach Keith Dambrot.

Although the Zips lost to the Western Michigan Broncos, 64-60, in the Mid-American Conference Tournament semifinals on Friday after winning 21 games for the ninth straight year, the 2013-2014 season will be remembered for the adversity that needed to be overcome.

"You lose a game, that's kind of the least of our worries at this point," Dambrot said. "We've still got to play in this tournament, whatever tournament it is. It's not the one we want, but we'll play in the CBI or CIT. We'll have to rally the troops. We'll use that to get our young guys more minutes, really, and try to get them ready for next year."

One of the Zips' biggest concerns for most of the year has been the health of Dan Peters, Akron's director of basketball operations.

Early in the season, Peters went in for surgery to remove a cancerous tumor on his pancreas, but only after the doctors started the procedure did they realize the growth could not be removed. Given a grim prognosis after the setback, Peters took a medical leave of absence, but was on the sidelines to watch Akron defeat its archrival, and his alma mater, Kent State, 58-54, in the regular-season finale at The James A. Rhodes Arena on March 7.

"It was a challenging year, not only the basketball side, but the other side," Dambrot said. "We've got some tragic situations. It's been a hard year. Dan, and then, we have Terry Weigand's son. My son's been injured. It's just been tough. Dan's situation is heartbreaking to me."

But through the heartbreaking moments, the Zips were able to fight through a three-game losing streak in mid-February and end the regular season with three straight victories heading into the MAC Tournament.

Now, as they get ready for more postseason basketball, Dambrot looks to the future knowing his program needs to continue to grow from the adversity and rise to all of the challenges bound to come its way, both on and off the floor.

"We've got some changes to make," Dambrot said. "You have to evaluate every season, starting at the top and make changes. We've got to go back to the beginning a little bit with our group. That old Akron toughness, the Akron smartness.

"We've got some things we've got to look ourselves in the mirror and get better at. Overall, these guys did a good job of rallying themselves through some adversity this year."


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