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Temple just as strong under Dunphy
When Fran Dunphy took over for legendary Temple coach John Chaney four years ago, there were plenty of skeptics who whispered whether an Ivy League coach would be able to make the successful transition.
Sure, Dunphy had dominated the Ivy (with Princeton as a close second) in his 17 years at the helm with the Quakers.
Temple hasn't skipped a beat under Fran Dunphy.Doug Pensinger
But this wasn’t the land sans scholarships.
This was the Atlantic 10, where he’d go toe-to-toe with guys like Xavier and Dayton for conference supremacy.
And while Dunphy refuses to admit it or even discuss it, Chaney left the cupboard nearly barren.
“I heard it, but I didn’t worry about it that much,” Dunphy said of those who questioned whether he could effectively make the transition.
And now, after three consecutive NCAA tournament appearances — and a 29-win season a year ago — no one is concerned any longer.
Dunphy is just one of those guys who doesn’t yearn for the attention and isn’t a self-promoter. He just wins without much fanfare.
Simply put, Fran Dunphy is vanilla.
“I don’t think there’s a whole lot of sizzle,” Dunphy admitted. “I just hope there’s some substance.”
All you have to do is ask anyone in the business, and you get virtually the identical response.
“No matter who you talk to in Philly, whether it’s a Villanova, Saint Joe’s, Penn or La Salle guy, everyone will tell you the same thing,” Saint Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli said. “Fran Dunphy is a great guy.
“But what they leave out is that he’s a great coach. He’s such a great guy that it gets in the way of people appreciating him as a coach.”
Dunphy, who turns 62 in October, is a Philly guy. He is a La Salle grad, where he played for Tom Gola and later coached under Speedy Morris at the school before moving to Penn to become the head coach in 1989.
In 17 years with the Quakers, he won 310 games and went to the NCAA tournament on nine occasions during a stretch that included six Ivy League crowns in his final eight seasons at the school.
But Dunphy has no interest in talking about himself and his accomplishments. Try to get him headed in that direction, and it somehow turns to his efforts off the court with Coaches vs. Cancer and the Big Brother Big Sister programs.
“No one is luckier than me,” Dunphy said. “So if I can help someone, it’s great to be able to help. We try to help, but we’ve still got to be able to do more.”
“He’s truly special,” said Penn head coach Jerome Allen, a former star guard under Dunphy. “Everything I’ve learned in life about people, I’ve learned it from him. How to treat and respect people, how to have a sense of humility about you.”
After his success at Penn, it was off to yet another Philly school as he was given the unenviable task of having to follow in Chaney’s footsteps at Temple.
Better yet, a daunting task.
Chaney led Temple to 17 NCAA tournament appearances and went to the Elite Eight five times.
Dunphy’s first year was exactly what most expected — only a dozen total victories and a 10th-place finish in the A-10.
This was regarded as a major rebuilding job, one that could take three or four years just to bring back to respectability.
However, Dunphy won 21 games and tied for second in the A-10 in his second season, which was enough to earn a bid to the Big Dance. The Owls had nearly an identical season in terms of numbers in Year Three of the Dunphy regime and then followed it up with a 29-6 mark and a regular-season title this past season.
At the end of the regular-season, Dunphy’s program rose all the way up to No. 12 in the nation.
Juan Fernandez will take over the point this season for the Owls.Mitchell Layton
He’s done it without the school being able to “buy” games like so many other big-time programs. There’s no charter flights, no practice facility (the Owls will finally have one next year) and the team is obligated to play a handful of MAC schools each year because its football team is a member of the conference.
“It’s no big deal,” Dunphy said. “It’s just the way it is.”
This season, the non-conference slate is once again imposing with an appearance down in Orlando at the Old Spice Classic, road games at Duke, Villanova and Maryland as well as home contests against Georgetown and Seton Hall.
Dunphy should have a team that’s able to compete against the big boys. However, this one won’t be able to sneak up on people.
The Owls have one of the premiere big men in the country in underrated senior Lavoy Allen and Argentina native Juan Fernandez, who will slide over and play his natural position of point guard as a junior.
The losses of last year’s squad were guards Ryan Brooks, one of the best leaders Dunphy has had in his lengthy coaching career, and Luis Guzman.
“We might be better,” Dunphy admitted. “But I don’t know if we’ll win as many games. Everything went right for us last season.”
Martelli, for one, won’t ever discount the Owls’ chances. Not as long as his buddy is at the helm.
“Fran Dunphy can coach,” he said. “Forget about what kind of guy he is. He can really, really coach.”
But that somehow gets overshadowed.
“He’s not a self-promoter,” said Matt Langel, who played at Penn and has been on Dunphy’s staff for the past six years. “It’s just never about him.”
Actually, it is.
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