Someone you ‘want to play for’

Fran Dunphy speaks to a group of international students at a basketball seminar in October 2013. COURTESY TEMPLE ATHLETICS
Fran Dunphy speaks to a group of international students at a basketball seminar in October 2013. COURTESY TEMPLE ATHLETICS

Fran Dunphy’s roof hasn’t leaked in 15 years.

The coach of the men’s basketball team, who  earns nearly $1 million per year these days, once had a roof put over his head by a man he used to mentor in a community outreach organization.

Dunphy’s service to the community started for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America in the 1970s while coaching high school basketball. A current member of the Board of Trustees for the organization, Dunphy has shown that climbing the collegiate ranks of coaching hasn’t stopped him from giving back.

“It’s part of why you have your jobs,” Dunphy said. “I feel like I’m the most fortunate guy ever. Any time I can give back, I want to do it. I have a difficult time saying no. And when opportunities present themselves I want to be in. It’s easy to do and when you see the results of people coming together and making other people feel good, it’s a pretty nice thing to do.”

Dunphy and the team will take part in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic this year, an event in which the coaches don suits on the sideline, but complete their outfits with sneakers instead of dress shoes. The event is put on by a joint effort of the National Association of Basketball Coaches and the American Cancer Society. According to the Coaches vs. Cancer website, coaches have helped contribute more than $87 million since 1993.

Temple is one of four host schools for the tournament, and while the opportunity to face national-powerhouse Duke in the Barclays Center is attractive, the event eyes a bigger picture.

“The Coaches vs. Cancer program has meant a lot to all of us in particular in Philadelphia,” Dunphy said. “We are grateful to have the opportunity to be in it, and we are doing whatever we can to raise awareness and support for the Coaches vs. Cancer program.”

The opportunity to be placed on a national stage and draw attention to cancer research is why Dunphy said his job is so important. Beyond the element of coaching basketball teams, he said he knows that his position of status is one that he cannot take lightly, and he tries to impress the same image onto his players.

“We have to look at ourselves and say to ourselves that we are a lucky group of people,” Dunphy said. “We are very fortunate to do what it is that we do.”

“[Dunphy’s community service] means a lot,” senior guard Will Cummings said. “It shows us that there is more to life than what we do on the court.”

Even though Dunphy typically plays a proactive role in seeking out ways to better the community, he recently demonstrated his willingness to oblige being in the background as well. When junior forward Jaylen Bond said he was taking part in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk of Philadelphia, his coach was happy to just tag along.

Bond’s aunt passed away from breast cancer. As someone who has yet to play a minute in a game for Dunphy, Bond said it speaks volumes about the kind of coach he plays for.

“I knew he was a great character guy and that’s someone that I wanted to play for,” Bond said. “Even if things aren’t going well on the court I know he’s going to be there for me.”

With a maximum of five years to mentor and coach a player, community service isn’t the focal point of his job description. But it hasn’t stopped Dunphy from showing his players the right way to think about – and conduct – their business.

“He has shown us that we have it easy,” Cummings said. “Other people are going through much greater things than we are going through. When we complain, we think about people who are going through other things, and that there’s much more to life than just basketball.”

While Dunphy is coming off his worst season at Temple, the team has added significant pieces to help prevent it from happening again. But for Dunphy, his impact off the court is almost as crucial as his impact on it.

“Perspective is a good way of looking at this,” Dunphy said. “It gives you time to reflect on what really is important in life.

Ibrahim Jacobs can be reached at ibrahim.jacobs@temple.edu and on twitter @ibrahimjacobs

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