Team preview: Akron

Blue Ribbon Illustrated previews the 2004-05 college basketball season, exclusively on Insider.

Updated: October 20, 2004, 4:44 PM ET
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When Keith Dambrot was appointed head coach at his alma mater last spring, he missed a congratulatory phone call from Northeast Ohio's most beloved athlete. No, not Tim Couch.

The call was from Dambrot's one-time pupil, NBA Rookie of the Year LeBron James.

"LeBron was actually nice enough to call and I missed it," Dambrot told the Akron Beacon Journal. "But it meant a lot to me for him to call."

No stranger to the MAC, Dambrot takes over the Zips after three seasons as an assistant to Dan Hipsher and after having coached James to two Ohio high school state titles. Lost in Dambrot's promotion was the solid job done by Hipsher, who was unceremoniously fired after a first-round MAC tournament loss. Hipsher had taken over an absolute mess in 1995 (Akron was 9-45 in three previous MAC seasons) and over the last eight of his nine seasons fashioned a .500 league record.

Now it's Dambrot's team. And the situation is markedly better than when Hipsher took over.