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Storied history began with charismatic coaches

Duquesne coaching legend, Chick Davies. (Photo Courtesy of Duquesne Athletics).

One hundred years of Duquesne basketball tradition all started back on Jan. 9, 1914 when the Dukes defeated Bethany College 43-28, recording their first win in program history.

The score shows that a lot has changed since the Red & Blue’s first tipoff. Back before the City Game, before the existence of the Atlantic 10 Conference or the playing days of Duquesne greats like Chuck Cooper and Dick Ricketts, the Dukes played their hoops in a tiny gym underneath Old Main.

The Palumbo Center, where the Dukes play currently, is only a slight upgrade from that spectacle of a court where the Dukes of old played ball. Ok, maybe that was slightly understated. This old court had a slanted floor and was encompassed by a metal cage. Sounds like a pretty nice gym-- well if eager to break an ankle. 

The Red & Blue competed under the chapel and under the direction of Eugene McGuigan, better known as “Father Mac.” Three-sport athletes are a rarity beyond the high school level, but Father Mac took it to the extreme as a three-sport coach. As a Holy Ghost Father at Duquesne, Father Mac coached the football, basketball and baseball teams at Duquesne. He wasn’t just a basketball coach; he was a darn good basketball coach, leading the Dukes to a 66-35 record during in his reign.

Father Mac and his multi-sport coaching prowess made him a legend of the program, but coaching successor Chick Davies, Cumberland Posey and trainer, yes athletic-trainer, Bruce Jackson Jr., were some of the names that took the program to new heights.

Father Mac led his team to a 16-2 record in his final season on the Bluff and thanks to his efforts, Duquesne finally upgraded to a more traditional basketball gym in 1923, which seated 1,200 fans.

The renovated court certainly helped, but Chick Davies is the man credited with bringing Duquesne basketball to the national stage. Davies’ career record in his 21 seasons was a whopping 314-106. Not only did Davies boast a .748 winning percentage, he also had some postseason success taking the Dukes to the NCAA Final Four and the NIT Championship game.

One young man in 1917 changed history forever and that was Cumberland Posey. His name isn’t commonly in the conversation with Duquesne greats such as Cooper, Norm Nixon or Willie Somerset, but he is the young man who carved the path for all of these legends. According to the Duquesne athletic department, Posey was the very first recorded black athlete to compete for Duquesne University.

Cumberland Posey. (Photo Courtesy of Duquesne Athletics).

As much as he did for the African American community and Duquesne basketball as a whole, Posey is best remembered for his contributions to the Negro Baseball League. His tireless efforts led him to the National Baseball Hall of Fame where his legacy will live on forever.

Sometimes the heart and soul of an athletics program comes from an unexpected place, and that was the case for Bruce Jackson Jr. An athletic trainer for 23 years at Duquesne, Jackson Jr. found a way to leave a legacy.

A 1985 article written by Eddie Jefferies for the Pittsburgh Courier recounts the African American trailblazers in Duquesne Athletics history, Jackson Jr. being one of them.

“One of the most respected and loved persons in Duquesne sports history was not a player, but the athletic trainer Bruce Jackson Jr.”

During the middle of his time as athletic trainer, the Pittsburgh Press talked to Jackson Jr. and let him tell his story.

“I had [a] sore throat when the boys played Westminster and I wasn’t at my best,” Jackson Jr. told the Press. “But before every other game this year I’ve given the boys a song and dance just before they went out on the floor. They’ve won them all except that Westminster game.” Jr. was a man that found a way to win over the heart of Duquesne athletics and for that he will always be remembered.

Athletic trainer Bruce Jackson Jr. (Photo Courtesy of Duquesne Athletics).

Duquesne Basketball is a program with 100 years of history and one that is hoping to return to a winning culture. They found early success, were ahead of the rest as far as inclusion of black athletes, and emerged as a national contender. Fans remain hopeful that the Dukes will return to national prominence under Coach Jim Ferry just as they did under the helm of Chick Davies. 

*Article originally written for the basketball edition of the Duquesne Duke student newspaper.*