For Jim Ferry, the decision to leave his roots in New York for a job in the Atlantic-10 wasn’t easy. Ferry left a good situation as head coach at LIU-Brooklyn last April for a job coaching Duquesne.
Ferry guided LIU to the last two NCAA Tournaments and was on the verge of transforming the Blackbirds into an upper echelon mid-major program.
“It was difficult. I’m a New York guy. My family’s here, my mom and dad, my friends,” Ferry said about leaving LIU after 10 years. “It was a bond.”
There was something about Duquesne that piqued Ferry’s interest. Was it the roster? Not really, because the Dukes only return one starter from last season in senior guard Sean Johnson. Was it the lure of more exposure? Yes. That was part of it.
In the end, it was really the entire situation that attracted Elmont native.
“It became simple,” said Ferry. “It was the right place at the right time.”
In addition to being a member of one of country’s top conferences, the Dukes will play several home games at the CONSOL Energy Center, including contests versus Pittsburgh and West Virginia. There is also less competition to fight for media exposure.
“What’s different in New York is you have the Knicks and you have the Nets. You have St. John’s. All these teams and everybody is fighting for exposure,” said Ferry. “[In Pittsburgh] it’s Duquesne, Pitt and Robert Morris. There are no pro teams…Once football season ends everyone focuses on those three schools”
There is also less pressure at conference tournament time. LIU had to win the NEC conference tournament to earn an NCAA bid. The Atlantic-10 has been a multi-bid league for over three decades. The addition of VCU and Butler to the league should give the Atlantic-10 an RPI boost.
“You don’t have to win that last game,” Ferry said of the Atlantic-10 tournament.
The first couple of seasons will be a challenge for Ferry, who must overhaul the roster. But it wasn’t something unexpected for Ferry, who has become accustomed to building up programs. Ferry’s LIU teams finished .500 or better in four of his last five seasons.
Duquesne went 16-15 (7-9, A-10) last season and were picked to finish last in the preseason Atlantic-10 poll. Ferry said he knew what he was getting in to.
“When I took over LIU, people told me don’t take that job, you can’t win there,” he said. “In my third year we’re in the conference semifinal.”