He is as sharp-tongued as they come, and it was that particular characteristic that captured his audience.
Danny Nee is a no-nonsense Vietnam veteran who has spent two years in the U.S. Marine Corps. He is used to all the barking.
But is Duquesne University ready for Nee’s biteâ¢
‘I can tell there’s apprehension. I can just sense in the room the negativity. There’s questions on what’s going to happen,’ Nee said Wednesday at the Palumbo Center after being introduced as the 14th men’s basketball coach at Duquesne.
‘It’s very simple. When you try something and you have been successful at it, you know you can do it.’
Nee, who resigned as coach of Robert Morris after just one season and a 7-22 record, succeeds Darelle Porter, the former Pitt star who stepped down March 15. He was chosen from a pool of four candidates, including former Massachusetts coach Bruiser Flint, who wound up taking the vacant job at Drexel.
Nee signed a five-year contract at Duquesne reportedly worth $250,000 a year. He owns an overall record of 368-278 during a 21-year career, including 14 at Nebraska, where he is the school’s all-time winningest coach.
Before his long and successful run with the Cornhuskers, Nee coached Ohio University for six seasons, claiming coach of the year honors in the Mid-American Conference twice. Nee’s teams have made seven trips to the NCAA tournament and six to the National Invitation Tournament, winning the NIT title in 1996.
‘After you do it once and then you do it again, you’re pretty sure,’ Nee said of producing a winning program. ‘My job, what I do for a living, is coach basketball. I rebuild basketball programs. I know I can do it. I’ve done it before and if you’ve done it before, you can do it again. I look at Duquesne and I just don’t see any reason why we can’t be successful.’
It is quite a mouthful, considering Duquesne’s program has been one of the worst in the Atlantic 10 Conference. The Dukes have lost 20 games in each of the past three seasons under Porter, and they have not had a winning record since 1994.
Duquesne’s ongoing futilty can be further illustrated by its absence from the NCAA Tournament for the past 24 years.
‘I look at Duquesne and just say, ‘Why not?’ ‘ Nee said. ‘It’s one of the top Catholic universities in the country, it’s in a great conference, and I just see it as, basically through the years, they’ve just underachieved.
‘I just feel with some leadership, some hard work, a commitment, which has been made by the administration, that I think it can be done.’
Nee said his reason for leaving Robert Morris to take over at Duquesne is simple.
‘It was a better situation for me financially – significantly,’ Nee said. ‘Anyone who says it wasn’t money, they’re wrong.’
But Nee, who came to Robert Morris after he was fired at Nebraska following an 11-19 record in 1999-2000, also is enthusiastic about coaching at a higher level of NCAA Division I.
‘I coached 14 years at the best level you could ever coach at,’ Nee said. ‘My dreams are to coach at that level, so when the opportunity came to coach at Duquesne, that doesn’t make Robert Morris any less of a job. I chose Robert Morris simply because I wanted to live in Pittsburgh. That’s where my family’s from. I chose this for my family for the same reasons.’
Nee’s wife, Janet, is a native of Churchill, and there are three children.
‘If Duquesne was in Philadelphia, I would not be the coach,’ Nee said.
Duquesne athletic director Brian Colleary, who was joined at the news conference by the Rev. Sean Hogan, executive vice president for student life, praised Nee for his long, successful coaching career. Colleary expressed confidence in Nee’s ability to resurrect Duquesne’s foundering program.
‘I’m very proud to bring someone here today who has won a lot of games in his career, been to a lot of tournaments, has a great deal of experience and certainly is a proven winner,’ Colleary said. ‘Danny Nee is somebody we think is going to take our basketball program back to prominence.’
With Duquesne’s current players and coaches looking on, Nee would not commit to naming his assistant coaching staff.
‘Everyone thinks this is something that I’ve known about for a long time,’ Nee said. ‘This has happened this morning, that I became the coach. We’re going to go one day at a time and we’ll see what happens.’
Duquesne’s current assistants include Jarrett Durham, James Stafford, David Adelman and Samba Johnson. Sources have said that Nee is considering retaining one of the men, possibly Durham – a former Robert Morris coach and Duquesne player – or Stafford.
In addition, Nee is said to be considering adding current Robert Morris assistant John Mahoney, a former head coach at NAIA Mt. Aloysius, and is endorsing another current Colonials assistant, Randy Roth, as his successor at Robert Morris.