As Temple University men’s basketball coach Fran Dunphy continues coaching his final season, Saturday marked another last-time milestone.
Dunphy coached his final game at the Palestra, which hosts Penn and Big 5 games, in the Owls’ 82-64 win against Drexel (6-7). Dunphy has coached more than 200 games at the Palestra, many of which during his tenure as Penn’s coach from 1989-2006.
Before the game, Dunphy received a standing ovation from the announced crowd of 3,025. While the Palestra wasn’t packed to its full 8,722 person capacity, partly because both Temple and Drexel students are on winter break, Dunphy appreciated the gesture.
Dunphy, however, said he’d rather not be the center of attention.
“So many Temple fans were here too, which was really nice,” he said. “I wasn’t sure because of the students being gone on how many people would get to the Palestra, but it was great in so many ways. It’s uncomfortable to be honest with you. …I’d rather crawl underneath the stands, but I was grateful for it and I very much appreciate it.”
Dunphy also received ovations before the Owls’ Big 5 road games earlier this season against Saint Joseph’s and Villanova. The crowd serenaded Dunphy before Temple’s 77-70 win against the Hawks on Dec. 1 at Hagan Arena, and he received recognition before the Owls’ 69-59 loss to Villanova at the Finneran Pavilion.
Before he began his coaching career, Dunphy made his mark at the Palestra as a player. La Salle played its home games at the arena during his career from 1967-70.
Dunphy ranks as the winningest coach in the history of the Palestra, which opened in 1927. Temple’s win against Drexel improved him to 176-56 at the arena.
He earned 160 of those wins during his tenure as Penn’s coach. Because Temple is set to host Penn this season on Jan. 19 at the Liacouras Center, Dunphy won’t have the chance to face his former school at the Palestra.
“We know that we play Penn home, so we knew this was a good one for him, and we wanted to get this win for him,” senior guard Shizz Alston Jr. said. “He’s a legendary coach, and he deserves it, so we wanted to play hard for him so we could get the win.”
Alston had a key 3-pointer with eight minutes, 16 seconds left in the second half to stop Drexel’s 7-0 run that cut its deficit to six points. The Owls’ lead ballooned to 18 points 3:58 later when Alston hit a 3-pointer.
Four of Temple’s five starters scored in double figures. Senior center Ernest Aflakpui recorded his fourth career double-double, and sophomore guard Nate Pierre-Louis finished with 22 points, one shy of his career-high. Junior guard Quinton Rose scored 14 points and surpassed 1,000 career points.
Temple will begin American Athletic Conference play on the road on Jan. 2 against Central Florida (10-2), which was picked to win the league in the preseason coaches poll. Two games later, the Owls will face Houston, the No. 21 team in the Associated Press poll.
Temple still has “a long way to go,” Dunphy said, and must improve its defense and 3-point shooting.
“I’m proud of them for their efforts at this point,” Dunphy said. “We’ve found a way to win 10 of our first 12 games, but we need to play better as we move forward.”