A Look at Joe Lombardi

by Dave Morus

It seems to be my lot in life these days to look at the backgrounds of the coaches that have some Dukes fans scratching their heads. Gaudio, Driscoll… and tonight, Joe Lombardi. 

If you really look at the numbers, Lombardi makes a great case, with the obvious drawback that he's currently coaching in Division II. 

Still, I think that he's overcome some things at IUP that any coach, regardless of level, would have a difficult time overcoming. And certainly, he's excelled there. IUP has been one of the most successful programs in Division II over the past four years. The affect that Lombardi has had there can't be denied. I don't think you can fault a guy for where he works, especially when the product has been so excellent.

So, without further ado: Joe Lombardi.

Lombardi, like many of the coaches that we've heard about during this search, is another Western Pennsylvania guy who went on to a degree of basketball distinction. He has served as an assistant to coaches like Jim Baron and Jamie Dixon. He was a part of success at various programs like St. Bonaventure, including their surge in the late 90s and early 2000s. The most successful seasons were when he was in the role of associate head coach.

Can he recruit? The answer is yes. Lombardi has been a part of the career of several future NBA players, including J. R. Bremer, Rasual Butler, Sam Young, and Mike Iuzzolino. This is no small feat when the most major university that he's been involved with is Pitt. 

Can he face adversity? Once again, the answer is yes. Early in Lombardi's tenure at IUP, the team was placed on probation for violations by his predecessor, limiting scholarships and recruiting days for his staff. It didn't seem to matter. He's posted an impressive 104-23 record over the past four years. Yes - this is in Division II. But you can only play the competition that's in front of you. He has had so much success that there has been talk of IUP moving to Division I. The only thing preventing that may be the NEC's refusal to take IUP as a member in an already crowded Western PA for that conference.

He's been involved in Division I level tournament play while an assistant at Saint Francis, Saint Bonaventure, and Pitt. Indiana Gazette journalist Tony Coccagna said in a recent article about this very subject:

"He knows how to a build a program and create a culture based on hard work, accountability, trust and unselfishness in a family atmosphere."

His recruiting is not in doubt. His Xs and Os have been lauded. He can develop players. He can overcome long odds. He can win in March. Could Duquesne do better? Sure, there are a lot of good names. But his is a pretty good one. He has been around success for his entire career. Maybe Duquesne can be a part of that success.