Fairmont native Ron Everhart realizes the only way the Duquesne basketball program can go is “up.”

That’s why he is excited about the challenge offered him of building Duquesne University basketball back to a position of prominence on the Pittsburgh sports scene.

Duquesne’s record of consecutive losing seasons rivals that of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Dukes have had 12 losing seasons in a row and 19 in the past 20 years.

The team record last year was an abysmal 3-24. That’s three wins and 24 losses.

Everhart is ready to right the Dukes’ sinking ship.

“I thought we had some real good success at Northeastern,” the 44-year-old coach said. “I’m really grateful to Northeastern for the opportunity they gave me. And I’m real excited about the challenge I have now and the opportunity to build a program and to compete on a higher level.

“Obviously it’s great to be back in the area and have the opportunity to play against Pitt and West Virginia on a regular basis. Growing up I always followed these schools. Now from a coaching standpoint, it’s nice to be able to play them on regular basis.”

The Fairmont native will be residing on the outskirts of Pittsburgh near Wexford with his wife Mirchana, who is from Grafton, and their twins, Ronnie and Gianna, who are 7 years of age.

Everhart says that Duquesne will have only three or four kids back from last year’s team that couldn’t win for losing. He says the small current roster is a combination of graduation, several electing to leave, the coaching transition and some not paying enough attention to their academics.

He admits that getting such a late start in recruiting makes his job that much tougher, but he has signed a junior college All-American from Miami and a combo guard (one who can play the point as well as being a shooting guard). The Miami-Dade Junior College recruit is 6-7, 225-pound power forward Stuard Baldonado, who averaged 18.8 points and 9.9 rebounds last season.

The guard, Destin Damachoua, averaged 18.5 points and 4.5 steals at The Masters School in West Simsbury, Conn., this past season.

“It’s been real busy,” he says. “It’s one of those things that happens each time you take a new position. Recruiting is a top priority, and there are only a limited number of guys (prospects) still out there.”

Everhart brought his entire coaching staff with him from Northeastern. This includes Kim Lewis (who played for him at Tulane), Darrin Freedman (a student manager under John Calipari at the University of Massachusetts who coached under him with the New Jersey Nets and at Memphis) and Richard Petino (the son of Louisville coach Rick Petino).

“He was the basketball operations guy at Providence and at the College of Charleston before I hired him,” Everhart says.

Duquesne has a nice basketball facility for its home games — the A.J. Palumbo Center.

“They recently completed a $3 million renovation with the South Wing. That’s the section we are in,” he says.

What’s been the matter with Duquesne basketball in recent years?

“I really don’t know,” he says. “A lot of people told me it was a job I shouldn’t take. They said it’s a death sentence career wise.

“From a competitive standpoint, I’ve always felt this is a situation where they have had great tradition. There’s a good academic tradition and a great league (Atlantic 10) to play in.

“I feel if we can turn some of the things people perceived as negative things into positive things, we’ve gotten through at least half of the battle,” he said.

“Before we can get going, we’ve got to get some guys in here who can help us. Guys who might be viable options that we can get in here. I’m very pleased with the kind of kids we have recruited so far.”

Everhart says he has always tried to build a program “on getting character first in a kid and then talent. You always want to look at the character part first — the type of young men you would like to have around your family.”

He says in the midst of the recruiting battles, Duquesne must keep its scheduling in order.

“We have to keep the players we have working to become more skilled at what they do as well as keeping in top condition,” he said.

Everhart said that West Virginia’s great run through the Big East and NCAA Tournament last season and a Sweet 16 appearance in the NCAA back in March “was mighty fun to watch.”

“If you asked me the top five coaches in the country, John Beilein would be on that list,” he says. “It really didn’t surprise me they won that way because his style was so tough to coach against. I felt they might have gone all the way, and I felt they had a chance to go this year also. Their success didn’t surprise me.”

Everhart’s team lost two close games to NCAA “darling” George Mason this past season — by three points at home and “by nine at their place.”

Northeastern had averaged less than nine wins a season prior to Everhart taking over. Since then the Huskies have won 19, 21 and 19 the last three season after, as Everhart calls it, “a seven and something” record his first year at the Boston school.

In 12 seasons as a head coach at McNeese State and Northeastern, his teams compiled a combined record of 174-172.

One of those 174 victories was a cherished victory over the Mountaineers, 91-84 at the Coliseum three seasons ago — in Beilein’s second year at the helm, and when Kevin Pittsnogle, Johannes Herber, J.D. Collins and Pat Beilein were sophomores.

He said his Duquesne team would be meeting West Virginia at the Palumbo Center on Saturday, Dec. 9. Or at least that’s the way his schedule reads now.

Everhart is the son of Ron and Ida Everhart, now of Morgantown. He played for basketball for the West Fairmont Polar Bears and then DeMatha High School in Hyattsville, Md. He is a graduate of Virginia Tech, where he was a regular on the basketball team.

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