Piece of city’s basketball ‘fabric’ enters last year

Coach Fran Dunphy will begin his last season on Tuesday against La Salle.

Coach Fran Dunphy addresses the media before practice on Oct. 11 at Pearson Hall. Dunphy hopes to return to the NCAA Tournament in his final season. | LUKE SMITH / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Judging Fran Dunphy by on-court accomplishments would sell him short.

Dunphy is the winningest Big 5 coach of all-time, has won two coach of the year awards in both the Atlantic 10 Conference and American Athletic Conference and is a member of Penn’s Athletic Hall of Fame. On Nov. 1, Dunphy received the Dean Smith Award partly for his work off the court as the co-chair of the Coaches vs. Cancer Philly 6 chapter.

After 30 seasons as a Division I coach — 17 with Penn and 13 with Temple — the 2018-19 season will be Dunphy’s last. 

Fittingly, Dunphy will start his final season Tuesday night against city rival and his alma mater La Salle at the Liacouras Center.

The university announced associate head coach Aaron McKie will take over after this season following Temple’s 17-16 record last season. Regardless of Temple’s total wins in 2017-18, Dunphy said this year would have still been his last and added he was not pressured by Temple administration to make this decision.

“You think about it from time to time when you are in this thing for a long time, ‘When is the right time to make the move,’” Dunphy said. “At the end of this past season, I thought to myself, ‘I would love to do this one more year, but this might be the time to make this transition.’”

The Owls started last season with a 7-3 record, but they went 8-10 in the American Athletic Conference and lost four of their last five regular-season games to spoil their chances of making the NCAA Tournament. Dunphy hasn’t brought Temple to the tournament since the 2015-16 season.

The last time Temple ended a season ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll was 2009-10 when the Owls were in the midst of six straight NCAA Tournament appearances. Temple ended the season ranked No. 12, but lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Dunphy has a 2-7 NCAA Tournament record at Temple, and the team has never advanced past the first weekend of the tournament during his tenure. 

“I wish we could have won more games,” Dunphy said. “But I am proud of our staff, our program for what they have done here at Temple. …I wish we could have won a national championship, but we weren’t able to get over the hump.”


In 2006, Temple hired Dunphy to succeed the winningest coach in school history, John Chaney.

When Temple contacted Dunphy about the job, he told the administration he wanted to ask Chaney for his “blessing” first. The two talked over dinner at the now-closed Colleen’s Restaurant on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. 

“It was a very challenging opportunity, but one I was excited by,” Dunphy said. “I sat with him for two hours. …In that two hour span, I talked for about two minutes. And I listened…as I should have.”

“You never have to question if [Dunphy] cares,” Saint Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli said. “What other time besides getting married does one man ask another man permission to do something. …That speaks to his character.”

Replacing a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame coach is a role that is “impossible,” said Martelli, who has coached against both Chaney and Dunphy.

Under Chaney, Temple won 516 games, reached 17 NCAA Tournaments and made five Elite Eight appearances in 24 seasons. 

The Owls have totaled 247 wins, appeared in seven NCAA tournaments and won three conference tournaments and three regular-season conference titles under Dunphy. 

If Dunphy were to keep his current pace of wins per season and Chaney’s match 24 years, he’d finish with only 22 fewer wins.

Dunphy and Chaney have a different philosophy and demeanor. Chaney employed a signature zone defense, while Dunphy tends to favor man-to-man. Chaney was known for being outspoken, while Dunphy is known as a “quiet, unassuming man,” McKie said. 

But on the inside, they aren’t that different. “Genuine” and “passionate” are words Martelli used to describe Dunphy while drawing comparisons to Chaney.

“John Chaney was of the highest level in his time in coaching,” Martelli said. “And in his time of coaching, it could be very dictatorial, you know. Players did what coaches said. I think that Fran has taken that into an era now where we kind of, not negotiate, but we will listen and we’ll try to sense what a player needs. John Chaney decided what you needed. I think Fran Dunphy is the same, it’s just a different exterior. …It’s a different volume level on the dial.”


Temple still has 31 games to play before the postseason. Whether it is Dunphy’s final year or not, his goal is to earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament and the Owls’ players and coaches deserve his “undivided attention,” Dunphy said. 

Dunphy is looking forward to Tuesday and the start of the regular season, and the team sees Dunphy’s final year as an incentive to reach the tournament.

“We are trying to [play] as far as we possibly can,” senior guard and co-captain Shizz Alston Jr. said. “I know coach wants to get there too. Everybody wants to get there pretty bad.”

The experience the Owls’ underclassmen gained last year makes Dunphy confident he can achieve that goal in his final season.

“The goals will be the same as my past 12 seasons,” Dunphy said. “We want to make it to the tournament and make some noise if we do.”

The Owls’ four sophomores — guard Nate Pierre-Louis and forwards J.P. Moorman II, De’Vondre Perry and Justyn Hamilton — will play a significant role in achieving this year’s tournament aspirations and will be a big help for McKie for when he becomes the coach next season, Dunphy said.

The biggest help for McKie will be Dunphy. This will be McKie’s first head coaching position, while Dunphy enters his 30th season. Dunphy thinks McKie is “a great fit” for the job.

Dunphy said his assistant coaches have a lot of responsibility, and McKie has “some increased duties,” this season. Though McKie has taken charge of recruiting, Dunphy still helps. 

McKie’s experience playing and coaching basketball gives him an understanding of “exactly what is in store for him,” Dunphy said.

“This is not [McKie’s] first rodeo,” Dunphy added. “What he has accomplished as a college basketball player here was phenomenal.”

McKie learns from Dunphy every day about the daily responsibilities of running a college program, which include making the schedule, worrying about players’ grades and off-court behavior and recruiting, he said.

McKie will be the Owls’ fifth coach since 1952. McKie joined Temple’s coaching staff in 2014 as an assistant coach before receiving the promotion to associate head coach in April. He played for Temple from 1991-94 and is tied for 11th on the Owls’ all-time scoring list. 

“I’ve learned a great deal from him just being here at this program,” McKie said. “Just sitting and watching him work day to day. Everybody’s different as a coach and their approach is different.”

McKie played in the NBA from 1994-2007. He won the NBA Sixth Man of the Year in 2001 and played in the NBA Finals with the Philadelphia 76ers. McKie then spent six seasons as an assistant coach with the 76ers from 2007-13.

McKie said Dunphy will always be a “resource” for him after the season.

Dunphy plans to still be involved with Temple basketball and the university after stepping down. He hopes to keep co-teaching Management, Theory & Practice: From the Locker Room to the Board Room in the Fox School of Business and be available to help McKie. 


After more than 32 seasons of playing or coaching in the Big 5, the Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, native’s legacy as a “great Philadelphian” won’t be forgotten anytime soon, Martelli said.

 Dunphy played guard at La Salle from 1967-70 and coached in the Big 5 at Penn from 1989-2006 before going to Temple in 2006. With 557 wins, no coach has won more games in the Big 5 than Dunphy.

When Dunphy began coaching at Penn, the other local coaches — Chaney, Villanova’s Rollie Massimino, Saint Joseph’s Jim Boyle, La Salle’s Speedy Morris and Drexel’s Eddie Burke — taught Dunphy lessons about basketball and life. Dunphy said they taught him how to be both competitive and respectful of the opponent.

“That is one thing that happens when you become a head coach in the city of Philly, you instantaneously have great respect for all the other programs and all the other coaches and other people at these institutions,” Dunphy said. “Because basketball in Philly is very much a part of the fabric of this city, so you have all this opportunity to interact with great people.”

Now, a different group of coaches — Martelli, Villanova’s Jay Wright, La Salle’s Ashley Howard, Penn’s Steve Donahue and Drexel’s Zach Spiker — lead the local teams in Dunphy’s last year.

“Bottom line is you’re playing these other schools within the city and you want to win the game and beat the pants off whoever you are playing,” Dunphy said. “And yet at the end of the game you go back and let’s say we are all at an [Amateur Athletic Union] tourney in Vegas or Orlando or wherever, we are typically all sitting together.”

Dunphy recorded 310 of his wins at Penn, where he is enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

Being “one of the most respected guys in the city of Philadelphia” helped Dunphy transition to Temple from Penn, said Shawn Trice, the Owls’ assistant coach.

Trice, who played for Penn from 1991-95, said Dunphy was successful because players saw Dunphy as “a type of father figure.” Not only did Dunphy motivate players to be better on the court, but also he made them want to be better people.

“I learned how to be a team guy and not put my personal goals ahead of the team’s,” Trice said. “Back when he coached me, [the team] all sacrificed for the greater good, and it has become a great part of who we are. That was the major push he wanted to get us to buy into.”

Dunphy’s presence is more than his 10 Ivy League Championships with Penn or his run of six straight NCAA tournament appearances at Temple from 2007-13. 

For the past 23 years, Dunphy has been involved with the Coaches vs. Cancer initiative, which is a collaboration between the National Association of Basketball Coaches and the American Cancer Society to fundraise for cancer research. 

Dunphy spoke to legislators on Capitol Hill in 2008 to fight for more funding for cancer research.

The lessons and impact he has left on every player, opposing coach and friend encompass his career’s legacy, Martelli said.

“Fran Dunphy could fill the lower bowl of the Liacouras Center, and if the PA announcer said, ‘Will all of Fran Dunphy’s best friends stand up,’ that entire lower bowl would stand up,” Martelli said. “He has an outstanding ability to make a connection and to make a friendship and to make that friendship extraordinary.”

“When I get home every night, I step back and have dinner or watch a basketball game and ask myself, ‘Did I do the best job I can do today?’” Dunphy said. “And most days I would say that I did my very best to try and make my players better in every aspect of life.”

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