A copy of the men’s basketball team’s 2005-06 media guide sat on new coach Fran Dunphy’s desk last week. Its cover features pictures of various players and coaches from Temple’s storied history under a headline that reads, “A Tribute to Tradition.”
The strong play that built that tradition has wavered over the past half decade.
And Dunphy now has the task of fixing it.
Dunphy will try to turn around a program that was at one time a perennial NCAA Tournament team, but has failed to make the Big Dance over the last five seasons. Dunphy spent his first week laying the groundwork with his new players. He began with a team meeting a day after his introduction.
“The attitude he had in that meeting,” junior forward Dion Dacons said, “I loved it.
“He basically told us what type of coach he was. He said he’s going to demand a lot from us, like any coach would. He told us that he wants to win and on Selection Sunday he wants us to be sitting in front of the TV seeing Temple’s name called up.
“He told us what type of team we’ll be. He wants us to get up and down the court quickly.”
Dunphy wants the Owls hustling. He wants the defense to create offense.
“The things he was saying, everything sounded good,” junior guard Dustin Salisbery said. “If he utilizes what he talked about, we’re going to have a good season.”
Former coach John Chaney will not be the only Temple legend missing on the court next season. Temple’s infamous zone defense is now part of the past. Dunphy will implement a man defense. But this defense will feature zone principles.
Dacons said the Owls should be able to make a quick transition to man defense, based on their previous experiences. Most of the Owls, Dacons said, played man defense in high school. Dacons, Salisbery and center Wayne Marshall are the only Owls who are more than two years removed from high school.
“Everyone else is fresh off of man, from a defensive standpoint,” Dacons said. “I think the transition might be a little easier. … I think on the offensive end, the transition will be a lot tougher than from the defensive standpoint. But I don’t think it will take that long. We catch on quick.”
Dunphy spoke for an hour with each player to discuss several topics. The coach said they covered personal issues, academic expectations, offseason training and the players’ roles on the team.
“I’m here to help and be as much a part of their lives as I possibly can be,” he said.
Dunphy told Salisbery and Dacons that he is expecting them to be the team’s leaders. The two, along with Marshall, comprise the Owls’ 2006-07 senior class.
The Owls will have to replace their top two players from last year’s squad, point guard Mardy Collins and forward Antywane Robinson. Dunphy said he would let the situation work itself out, but that he would initially look to the seniors to step up.
“Leadership has an interesting way of coming to the front,” Dunphy said.
One of the next major tasks for Dunphy will be assembling a coaching staff. Dunphy said he will consider members of both Penn and Temple’s coaching staffs, but did not have anyone specifically targeted.
Dunphy will begin recruiting his first Temple class this summer. The coach said that he has built relationships with many local high school coaches and will begin his search within the Philadelphia area. But, Dunphy said, Temple is a nationally recognized program so the Philadelphia area will certainly not be the recruiting limit.
“So we’ll start here, and just branch out,” he said. “Wherever it takes us as long as people understand that this is a great education and a great opportunity basketball-wise, we’re not afraid to be told, ‘No.'”
LEIBOVITZ, CEGLES HIRED
Former Temple top assistant Dan Leibovitz was hired late last week as Hartford’s men’s basketball coach. Leibovitz, who had coached at Temple for 10 years, inherits a program that has achieved six winnings seasons in the last 22 years.
Associate Director of Athletics of External Affairs Vic Cegles is headed elsewhere, as well. Cegles, who has been at Temple for three years, will officially take the Director of Athletics position at California State at Long Beach in June.
“The opportunity at Long Beach was just a better opportunity for me and for my family than here at Temple,” he said in a phone interview last week. “This was the best decision for Vic Cegles.”
John Kopp can be reached at email@example.com.
Christopher A. Vito contributed to this report.