A look back at Temple University’s most successful coaches

The Sports Editors at The Temple News honor the paper’s 100th Anniversary of publishing by reflecting back on the coverage of coaches who found success in Temple’s sports programs.

From bowl games to qualifying for NCAA championships, The Temple News has been there to cover it all. 

To honor 100 years of publication at The Temple News, the Sports editors went through the archives and highlighted coaches, who made history in Temple University’s programs. Coaches Tina Sloan Green, women’s lacrosse and field hockey head coach, John Chaney, men’s basketball head coach, Dawn Staley, women’s basketball head coach, Matt Rhule, head football coach, and Nikki Franke, head fencing coach, all played a pivotal role in shaping the university’s athletic identity. 

Whether it was former Temple News Sports editors or writers watching Chaney having an outburst on the sidelines or Franke remaining humble even after her 800th win — let’s take a look back on who these coaches were through the lens of The Temple News coverage.   

Tina Sloan Green

As the only Temple coach to win three national championships, two NCAA and one Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women, Green remains Owls royalty.

Green joined the program in 1975 and became the first African American collegiate women’s lacrosse coach in the United States.

“It would be tough to argue that maybe she’s the greatest head coach in Temple athletics history for winning two NCAA championships and a third with the AIWA,” said Mark Morgan, a 1983 communications alumnus and 1981 Sports editor at The Temple News.

In her 18 seasons with the university, she compiled a .758 career winning percentage and a 207-62-4 record, including an undefeated 19-0 season in 1988.  

During the 1983-1985 seasons, Green led her team to a record-setting 29-game winning streak.

“Some people underestimated her and didn’t realize, but boy could she coach, did she know the ins and outs of lacrosse and she was a pioneer,” Morgan said. “There weren’t many African Americans playing lacrosse back then, let alone coaching.”

Green is a member of the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame, the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame and the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association Hall of Fame. She also received the Philadelphia Legacies Award in Sept. 2018.

Tina Sloan Green, former women’s lacrosse coach, celebrates with her team after they won the National Championship after an undefeated season (19-0) in 1988. Temple beat Penn State 15-7 in the title game. | TEMPLE ATHLETICS / COURTESY

John Chaney

After coaching at Cheyney University for 10 years and leading the team to eight national championship tournaments and the NCAA Division II title in 1978, Chaney started as Temple men’s basketball head coach in 1982.

“I had such a reverence for coach Chaney that being able to cover him, being able to listen to him,” said Rob Knox, a 1994-95 Temple news writer and 1996 Lincoln University graduate. “[Chaney] didn’t really know me and he asked me this after a game at the Palestra: ‘What do you want to do when you get your degree?’ and I said ‘I’m going to be a sports writer.’ And all I remember Chaney saying ‘why the hell would you want to do that for?’” 

The Owls earned five consecutive NCAA tournament berths between 1984 and 1988. Before Chaney’s arrival, the team never had back-to-back appearances at the NCAA tournament.

Out of his 24 seasons as coach, twenty-three of his teams played in postseason tournaments. He also led the Owls to 12 straight appearances in March Madness from 1990 through 2001, which included five trips to the Elite Eight. 

By the end of his career, Chaney led the Owls to 17 NCAA Tournament appearances.

Chaney’s coaching term came to an end when he retired in 2006. Between his time at Cheyney and Temple, he finished with 741 wins.

“He was larger than life,” said John DiCarlo, a 1997-98 Temple News Sports editor and 1998 journalism alumnus. “You would see [Chaney] on the sideline, who was very intimidating and he was fiery, and he would sometimes yell at the refs. But when you got to cover him, there was this healthy level of respect.”

For Chaney, basketball was more than just perfecting three-pointers, it was taking the game and comparing it back to life — to mature the young players into men.    

Chaney passed at age 89 due to a short illness on Jan. 29, 2021. His character and love for the game will forever be remembered in the Owls’ basketball program, DiCarlo said. 

Dawn Staley 

Staley joined Temple’s program as head coach in 2000. During that summer, she also continued to play professional basketball for the Charlotte Sting and played in the WNBA until 2006.  

“What was really cool about coach Staley being named a coach was that it brought a star to campus,” said Josh Cornfield, a 2000 Temple News Copy Editor and 2004 journalism alumnus. “She grew up in Philly and I grew up in Philly as well, and you’ll always remember the Dawn Staley mural that used to be on Market Street.”

In 2002, Staley helped the Owls capture the school’s first-ever Atlantic-10 Conference Tournament title and in 2004 she led Temple to the top of the A-10 East standings with a 14-2 record.

In that same season, Temple won their second A-10 Tournament title for Staley’s second trip to the NCAA Tournament as a coach.

In total, she led the Owls to five NCAA Tournaments in her seven years with the program and won a record of 172-80 games in eight seasons with the Owls.

Staley decided to leave the Owls program in 2008 and agreed to become coach of the University of South Carolina’s women’s basketball team.

Staley was a three-time Olympic gold medalist and helped young women develop in their player careers to advance at the professional level, Cornfield said.  

Matt Rhule 

Temple football saw greater success under Rhule than any prior football coach. Rhule, now the head coach of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, served as the coach of Temple football from December 2012 until December 2016. 

Under Rhule, Temple reached two bowl games and finished with back-to-back 10-win seasons for the first time in program history. 

“It had to be the best era of Temple football ever,” said Owen McCue, a 2017 Temple News Sports editor and 2018 journalism alumnus.

His four seasons at the helm was his second tenure at Temple, previously serving as an assistant coach from 2006 to 2011, spending a year as an assistant with the New York Giants before returning to the Owls. 

Rhule finished 2-10 his first year, but turned the program around, finishing his tenure with two 10-4 seasons. 

Temple football earned their first top-25 ranking in 36 years in 2015, reaching No. 22 in the Associated Press Top 25. 

“Rhule was more about ‘we’ll win games and that will speak for itself,’” said Evan Easterling, a 2017-18 Sports editor at The Temple News. 

While Rhule kept winning games his last two years, Temple football received national attention, leading to primetime games and had ESPN’s College Gameday come to Philadelphia. Temple’s largest crowd of 69,280 fans came on Oct. 31, 2015, as No. 9 Notre Dame came to play the Owls on Halloween night. 

“As a student journalist, the experience itself was about as big-time as it gets,” said McCue. “That was a moment where the whole city, even whole country were watching and we were right there covering it.”

The Owls lost to the Fighting Irish in a thriller, but it was a prime example of Rhule’s coaching bringing Temple football to new heights. 

Rhule also guided the Owls to a 2016 American Athletic Conference championship victory with a 34-10 win against Navy after reaching the title game and losing to Houston 24-13 the year prior. 

The consistency he brought to Temple’s program through four years landed him jobs in bigger programs on bigger stages, heading to Baylor University in Waco, Texas, before making his move to the Carolina Panthers.

Rhule coached 29 all-conference honorees during the four seasons, including 20 NFL draftees over his two tenures.

No football coach before or after Rhule has made the immediate impact he made at Temple. The day he left for Baylor, Temple’s student fan base was distraught, but everyone knew a coach that good wouldn’t stay for long, Easterling said. 

“Temple had lost coaches before, had kind of gotten used to that, but he was pretty beloved on campus,” said McCue. “ESPN Radio in Texas called me up to do an interview, [Easterling] got on TV down there. It was a big time to cover Temple athletics.”

Former football coach Matt Rhule stands on the sidelines during the Owls’ 14-6 loss to Cincinnati in December 2014. | Hua Zong / FILE

Nikki Franke 

Current Temple fencing coach Franke is entering her 50th year with the fencing program. 

For the first time in program history, the maximum number of 12 fencers qualified for the NCAA championships in 2020, finishing seventh among the 17 women’s teams present. 

During the Owls’ 2019-20 season, Franke led the team to its highest ranking in program history, putting Temple in the number five spot in the College Fencing 360 rankings. 

“She was an inspiring teacher and won some individual championships during her tenure,” Morgan said. “Regardless, she’s obviously one of the greatest coaches in fencing history and certainly should be in any fencing hall of fame.” 

During the 2017-2018 season, Franke reached her 800th win, a milestone achieved by few coaches. 

“I remember just calling her, I was thinking I’d maybe get a little bit of excitement out of her, a little extra something or a quote I wasn’t expecting,” said Mike Zingrone, a 2018-19 co-Sports editor. “But she was so gracious and so well-spoken and just so humble. After an 800th win, you’d expect a coach to be a little different. It just showed me who she was.”

The Owls’ had a record-setting season in 2016-17 under the direction of Franke, reaching a program-best 34 wins and only nine losses. 

Franke’s dedication to the team has led them to 22 straight team titles at the National Intercollegiate Women’s fencing Association and her career record of 863-259-1.

In the 2012-13 season, Franke coached Sabre second-team NCAA All-American Kamali Thompson, current team USA fencer and 2020 Olympic alternate.

Franke received the United States Fencing Coaches Association Women’s fencing coach of the year honors in 1983, 1987, 1988 and 1991, and was inducted into the International Sports Hall of Fame in Oct. 2002, the Temple University Athletics Hall of Fame in 1995 and the United States Fencing Association Hall of Fame in 1998.

“She was dedicated, the students loved her, and I’m not surprised she’s still there,” Morgan said. “She has an amazing career that she forged at Temple and is obviously one of the most well-known coaches in her sport.” 

Nikki Franke has led Temple’s fencing program since it began in 1972 and is one of six women who coach the Owls’ 11 women’s sports. | Hua Zong / FILE

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