Keith Dambrot’s motivation for success is different than most head coaches at the Division I level. His commitment has seen the Akron basketball program grow into one of the top mid-majors in the nation. This drive doesn’t stem from thoughts of career stepping stones, but from his allegiance to his hometown and alma mater.
Dambrot became the 21st head coach of Akron men’s basketball on March 10, 2004. On Sept. 23, 2013, he signed a one-year contract extension to be head coach of the Zips through the 2022-23 season.
Dambrot wasted no time putting his stamp on the program and has led Akron to the postseason in six-straight and seven of the last eight seasons – participating in the NCAA Tournament in 2009, 2011 and 2013, the National Invitation Tournament in 2006, 2008 and 2012, and the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) in 2010.
His success ranks the Zips with some of the top programs in the nation. Akron is one of only six teams in the country to win at least 22 games in each of the past eight seasons, joining the likes of Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, Ohio State and Pittsburgh. UA leads the Mid-American Conference in overall wins since the start of the 2004-05 season (210) and is the only team in the league, and one of 15 nationally, to post at least 20 wins in each of the past eight seasons.
Dambrot’s streak of eight-straight 20-win seasons is tied for the ninth-longest stretch by an active coach to do so all with the same program and is tied for the 12th-longest run in the nation among active coaches overall.
Dambrot has led Akron to the MAC Tournament title game in each of the last seven years, the longest streak in league history and the second-longest active run in the nation.
In his nine seasons in charge of the program, Akron has amassed a 210-94 (.691) overall record, including a 107-41 mark in MAC play and a 119-18 tally in home games (64-10 in MAC play). Akron’s 210 victories are tied for the 27th-most nationally during the past nine seasons.
In 15 seasons as a collegiate head coach he owns a 318-164 (.660) overall record. Dambrot enters the season in fourth place in MAC history with a .642 win percentage while coaching in the league (230-128 overall; 210-94 Akron, 20-34 Central Michigan), fourth in overall wins (210), fifth in league games winning percentage (.643, 117-65) and seventh in conference wins (117).
In 2013, Dambrot was named the MAC Coach of the Year and the Red Auerbach Coach of the year, as well as a finalist for the Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year award (national COY) and the Hugh Durham Award, which recognizes the nation’s top mid-major coach.
Mentoring a total of 27 All-MAC honorees, 13 MAC All-Tournament team selections, three MAC Sixth Man of the Year honors, four MAC Defensive Players of the Year, three MAC tournament MVPs and one MAC player of the year award has highlighted his time at UA. Also during his watch, 10 players have been added to the school’s 1,000-point scorer’s list, he coached the all-time blocked shots leader for Akron and the MAC (Zeke Marshall, 368), Akron’s all-time assists leader (Dru Joyce, 503), all-time winningest player (Chris McKnight, 97 victories over a four-season span) and all-time games played leaders (Steve McNees and Nikola Cvetinovic, 141).
In 2010, Dambrot was inducted into the Summit County Sports Hall of Fame for his contributions at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, and at The University of Akron as both a student-athlete and head coach.
A former three-year starter, team captain and team MVP for the Zips’ baseball team (played third base), Dambrot graduated from the University with a bachelor’s of science degree in management in 1982.
Dambrot’s blood is rich with basketball tradition. His late uncle, Irwin Dambrot, played for the 1950 City College of New York (CCNY) squad, which is the only school to win both the NCAA Tournament and NIT in the same season. Irwin was the MVP of the NCAA Tournament that season and the No. 1 draft pick (selected seventh overall) by the New York Knicks that same year.
Dambrot’s father, Sid, starred at Duquesne during the 1952, ’53 and ’54 seasons. The Dukes competed in the NCAA Tournament and the NIT in ’52, and the NIT in the ’53 and ’54 campaigns.
Dambrot resides in Fairlawn with his wife, Donna, and two children, Alysse and Rob. Rob will follow in his father’s footsteps this fall when he begins his Akron career as a student-athlete after signing an NLI to play for the men’s soccer program. Alysse has also followed in her father’s footsteps and is pursuing an undergraduate degree at UA.