Brotherly connection for Dambrot, Smart
by Carlos Monarrez, USA TODAY Sports
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Brothers from another mother? Or maybe another father?
It’s hard to say. The genealogy gets confusing when Akron coach Keith Dambrot says he and Virginia Commonwealth coach Shaka Smart are related.
“We go way back,” Dambrot said Wednesday. “I think first and foremost, we come from the same DNA, the same genetics, the same mother, really, as VCU.
“So the foundation in the two programs is exactly the same. We’re kind of like the ugly big brother. You know, like I’m Danny DeVito and he’s Arnold Schwarzenegger (from the 1988 movie “Twins”). And we’re kind of like the Chevette and he’s a Ferrari, but that’s my guy.
“I love Shaka like a brother, and they’ve done a lot of great things, but we have the same attributes that make us a great team, too.”
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Tonight’s meeting between No..5 seed VCU (26-8) and No..12 seed Akron (26-6) sounds like it’s going to be more of a family affair than a basketball game. Maybe a reunion. Or a picnic. Wait. Who’s bringing the potato salad?
Dambrot, 54, and Smart, 35, met when they were Akron assistants in 2003. On Smart’s first day of work, Dambrot arranged for him to meet his former protégé, LeBron James.
The meeting surprised Smart. But it was Dambrot’s random act of kindness that truly shocked him.
Over time, Dambrot and Smart became close. Smart began to understand Dambrot’s generosity and empathy.
In 1993, Dambrot was a coach on the rise at Central Michigan. But late in the season, he used a racial slur to motivate his players and it cost him his job.
“Because he’s been fired, because he’s been through tough times, he really reaches out and tries to treat people so well that are going through tough times and that there’s no way that they can benefit him or help him in any way,” Smart said. “But he just — that’s something that I always admired about Keith and that I try to emulate.”
Dambrot took Smart under his wing, and when Smart finally left the nest for his first head coaching job at … [For more on Brotherly connection for Akron's Dambrot and VCU's Smart, click here.]