Chris Clark’s reliability makes him crucial to Temple staff

Temple Men’s Basketball assistant head coach Chris Clark grew up in North Philadelphia and has seen the last four Temple head coaches first-hand.

Temple assistant men’s basketball coach Chris Clark standing with the team of coaches during a timeout. | ROBERT JOSEPH CRUZ / THE TEMPLE NEWS

For Temple Men’s Basketball assistant coach Chris Clark, last season’s dismissal of former head coach Aaron McKie was a challenging time. Clark found himself without a job after being a part of Temple’s staff for the last seven seasons. He decided to travel to the NCAA Final Four in Houston without knowing if he’d be coaching at all in 2023.

New Temple head coach Adam Fisher also flew to Houston just 12 hours after being hired to support his former coworker and current Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga. Fisher met with Clark during the trip with the hope of convincing Clark to stay on Temple’s staff.

“On the plane there, I said to my wife, ‘I’m going to meet with Chris and try and get him to stay,’” Fisher said. “We met out there, however many miles away from Philadelphia. He was our first transfer portal guy, we got to keep him. He just does such a great job.”

Clark viewed Temple as a beacon of hope while growing up in North Philadelphia. After a solid playing career, Clark became that beacon of hope on Fisher’s, McKie’s and former head coach Fran Dunphy’s staffs. He has become the lifeblood of the program, keeping the team’s Temple “TUFF” tradition alive across multiple staffing shuffles while striving to compete in the modern era.

Fisher’s meeting with Clark was not just about convincing him to stay; the two also sat down and talked about life. Fisher wanted to make a point to get to know Clark for who he was outside of basketball, what his family values were and to see how they would click.

“I really didn’t know what to expect, to be honest,” Clark said. “It was more of just getting to know each other. I think the most important thing for me and for him was that we aligned in what we believe in, not just from a basketball standpoint. I think that aligned more than anything, and I think that’s why I’m here working with Coach Fish.”

Clark attended St. Joe’s Preparatory School and considered other colleges coming out of high school. One of his top schools after wrapping up his senior season was the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. 

He was set to take an official visit at the end of his senior season and meet then-UNCG head coach Fran McCaffery, but he never ended up going. The idea of attending his dream school in North Philadelphia was an opportunity he didn’t have to think twice about.

Clark played at Temple from 2004-08 under both Hall of Fame head coach John Chaney and Dunphy. He learned a lot about life while playing for them and credits the coaches for the man he is today. 

“It was more than just basketball; they taught you about life,” Clark said. “They made you a better man, made you a better human being. Obviously, the basketball speaks for itself, but the life lessons that they taught truly stick with you.”

Not only does Clark credit Chaney and Dunphy for who he is today, but Clark feels he would not even be a coach if it wasn’t for Dunphy. 

Clark had aspirations to play professionally after graduating from Temple in 2008. He tried to play in Germany, but he decided to set his sights on professional leagues in England instead. Then he got a phone call from Dunphy about a possible coaching opportunity at St. Francis University in Loretto, Pennsylvania. 

“I didn’t even know where St. Francis was,” Clark said. “He told me, ‘I want you to take the phone call. I don’t know what you want to do, but just take the call.’ I did that and went up there for an interview, but I honestly didn’t think I was going to get the job. I didn’t know anything about coaching.”

Clark received an offer from St. Francis just a week after his interview. He coached the Red Flash for four years before leaving to coach at Campbell University for two years. 

Dunphy’s confidence that Clark would be a good coach comes from the player and person that he saw when he coached him during his senior season at Temple.

For the first time all season, Dunphy wanted to put Clark in the starting lineup for Temple’s final home game of the 2007-08 season against Duquesne. When Clark walked into the locker room and saw his name on a black chalkboard, he quickly disputed Dunphy’s decision to start him. 

“He said, ‘I don’t want to start,’” Dunphy said. “He said ‘I’m comfortable coming off the bench, don’t put me in there for my last game as a senior at home.’ I told him, ‘I’m gonna do it anyway, I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. I’m gonna do it because it’s the right thing to do.’ He said, ‘No, don’t do it. Not only do I not care, but the guy that I’ll be replacing will care, and we need him to play well.’”

Dunphy took Clark out of the starting lineup and brought Clark in for a hug. He knew at that moment Clark would be a coach at some point and if he had the opportunity, he wanted to bring him onto his staff and work with him.  

Clark left Campbell in 2015 to return to Temple as a video coordinator under Dunphy. After his first season back, a full-time assistant coach position opened up and Dunphy’s decision to hire Clark was ‘automatic.’ Clark has held that position ever since. 

“He came back, and we got him on the staff,” Dunphy said. “It was great to have him. He’s still on that staff and I’m not surprised by it. Whether it was Coach McKie or Coach Fisher. They’re gonna have a lot of confidence in him because he exudes that he’s a real student of the game. But I think he’s more a student of people’s personalities and ways.”   

Clark has grown as a coach throughout the years and he focuses on developing a style that works for him and the players.

“You take from all the people that you learn from, you work with or play for,” Clark said. “My coaching style is probably very demanding but with love. I challenge the guys as much as I can, but I am also able to put my arm around them and tell them that I love them.”

Dunphy got Clark involved in the recruiting circuit around the time Clark became an assistant coach. Clark being from Philadelphia was a big factor in convincing current point guard Hysier Miller to come to Temple.

Miller credits Clark for the progress he has made during the years. He and Clark have bonded during their long film sessions every day, working through what Miller can do better.

“He’s helped me a lot since my freshman year,” Miller said. “He’s worked with me to get better throughout my growth here. He’s just been a great mentor.”

Fisher knows Temple means everything to Clark, but it’s been his reliability and care that has gotten their relationship off to such a great start.

“I think he would run through a wall for Temple,” Fisher said. “But to be honest, he’d run through a wall for me. That’s the kind of guy you want on your staff. He’ll do whatever it takes, no matter what. If you ask him ‘Hey can you be at this game?’ He’s there. It’s been awesome with him.”

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