Why LeBron James celebrated Duquesne making March Madness: Explaining NBA star’s connection to coach Keith Dambrot

The Duquesne Dukes men’s basketball team is going dancing, and LeBron James is excited.

By winning the Atlantic 10 conference tournament, Duquesne punched its ticket to the 2024 NCAA Tournament to return to the big dance for the first time since 1977. In the immediate aftermath, James took to X to express how he felt about the achievement.

“YESSIRRR!! Punch that (ticket) to the Big Dance @DuqMBB!!!” James wrote. “CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!! Love you Coach Dambrot (and Coach Dru Joyce III)”

While James bypassed college to enter the NBA in 2003, he has a strong allegiance to the Duquesne men’s basketball program.

Here is why James is so excited about the Dukes’ tournament run.

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Why LeBron James celebrated Duquesne making March Madness

James has a strong connection with Duquesne head coach Keith Dambrot and associate head coach Dru Joyce III.

The word strong might even be selling their connection short.

James, 39, has a relationship of over 25 years with Dambrot, an Akron, Ohio native and titan in the city’s basketball scene. At the age of 13, James began attending $1 basketball clinics put on by Dambrot, who was a coach at Akron’s Jewish Community Center at the time.

In 1998, Dambrot became the head coach at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio. One year into Dambrot’s tenure as the school’s head coach, James enrolled as a freshman, quickly leading the Irish to become a state — and national — powerhouse.

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Dambrot coached James for two seasons before moving on to the University of Akron in 2001. Dambrot was an assistant coach for the Zips from 2001 to 2004 before becoming their head coach, a position he held for 13 years.

Dambrot was hired as Duquesne’s head coach in 2017 and will lead the Dukes to the NCAA Tournament in his seventh season.

Once Dambrot moved on from St. Vincent-St. Mary, he was succeeded by Dru Joyce II, who coached James and his son, diminutive point guard Dru Joyce III. Joyce II is still the head coach at St. Vincent-St. Mary.

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At Akron, Dambrot recruited Joyce III, whose friendship with James dates back to their formative years. Joyce played four seasons under Dambrot at Akron before beginning a 12-year professional career overseas and retiring in 2019.

After three years as an assistant coach at Cleveland State University, Joyce was hired to become the associate head coach at Duquesne, playing a large role in the Dukes’ 2024 Atlantic 10 tournament title.

With Dambrot and Joyce at the helm, Duquesne has offered a scholarship to James’ youngest son, Bryce James, a 6-4 guard in the high school class of 2025.

Duquesne, a Nike school, also receives exclusive colorways of James’ signature sneaker because of the connection.

As the Dukes look to continue to make history, James will certainly be in their corner.

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