Temple University men’s basketball is filled with history and tradition.
Temple is the fifth-winningest program in college basketball history, has eight NCAA Tournament Elite Eight appearances to its name, and was coached by three Hall of Fame coaches in the past 67 years.
With all its tradition and history, Temple could’ve easily gone on a national search to find a successor for former coach Fran Dunphy after 13 seasons, but instead, decided to stay with the roots of Philadelphia basketball and hire Aaron McKie.
On Tuesday, McKie was introduced as the Owls’ coach at McGonigle Hall’s center court in front of, fans, media members, and former players and coaches.
In the last 67 seasons, only Dunphy, John Chaney, Don Casey and Harry Litwack have coached Temple basketball. All five coaches are either from the Philadelphia area or coached extensively within Philadelphia before leading the Owls.
“One of the things that I left with them on the day I retired was that I would love to see a line of coaches associated with Temple,” Chaney said. “Stay the course, and stay within the city when looking for coaches and don’t go hunting for people. You have brilliance right here. … That’s why this program has been so successful.”
McKie grew up in North Philadelphia and played at nearby Simon Gratz High School in Nicetown, where he was coached by Bill Ellerbee. In McKie’s senior year in 1990, he led Gratz to the Philadelphia Public League Championship. The next year, McKie was a guard with Temple under Chaney at McGonigle Hall.
“When I stand here in [McGonigle Hall], I think about the history that comes with it,” McKie said. “So much good has happened to me in this building. There’s just so many fond memories that I have and it’s emotional.”
Both McKie’s high school graduation and the Philadelphia Public League Championship were hosted at McGonigle Hall.
In his three years with the Owls, McKie scored 1,650 points, which ranks sixth on the school’s all-time scoring list, was named the Atlantic-10 Conference and Big 5 Player of the Year in 1993, and played in three NCAA tournaments. In 1993, he helped lead the Owls to the Elite 8.
McKie later played eight of his 13 NBA seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers. During the 2000-01 season, he won Sixth Man of the Year and helped lead the 76ers make an NBA Finals appearance. After his playing career, McKie was an assistant coach with the 76ers from 2008-2013 before joining Dunphy’s staff at Temple as an assistant coach in 2014.
“Aaron McKie is Philadelphia basketball,” Athletic Director Patrick Kraft said. “He fits in the mold of legends, like coach Chaney and coach Dunphy, and all those that came before him.”
Kraft and McKie expressed how “tough” and “disciplined” Temple’s most successful teams have been in the past. McKie said he hopes physicality can spark team success.
“In order to play in Philadelphia and on Broad Street you have to be tough,” McKie added. “If we can beat people from the neck up then we can beat them from the neck down with our physicality.”
After a season that concluded with an 81-70 loss to Belmont University in the first round of the NCAA tournament, expectations are high for McKie heading into his first season, and he knows it.
McKie realizes the pressure that comes when having to fill the shoes of Hall of Fame coaches.
But he’s ready, he said.
“Being a head coach of my alma mater is a tremendous honor,” McKie added. “To think about the history of coaches here, it’s a lot. But it’s something that I’m very proud to be a part of. Coach Chaney would always say to me, ‘How you start is how you finish’. I started in this place as a winner and my intentions are to finish as one.”
Congrats to you, Aaron. You’ve been a fixture in Philly and Temple. Temple made a great choice.