Not surprisingly, Dunphy is successful at Temple

Temple's Fran Dunphy is a respected by peers.
Temple's Fran Dunphy is a respected by peers.
Posted: March 17, 2009

FRAN DUNPHY will talk to you about anything - except himself. In a profession that has jealousies like it has expensive suits, you can talk to people in it about the Temple coach. And, to a person, their praise is universal. "Dunph" is admired and respected. And, if some people did not understand it during all those wonderful seasons at Penn, they surely get it now after a second successive Atlantic 10 championship. Fran Dunphy can really coach basketball.

Sixers president and general manager Ed Stefanski is a scout who became an executive. He has not forgotten his roots.

"I still get out on the road," Stefanski said. "The scouts think he can really, really coach."

Dunphy did it at Penn. He is doing it at Temple.

Stefanski, a Penn grad, was on the search committee that helped select Dunphy to be the head coach at Penn. It was his first head job. There were questions. But none from Stefanski.

"I was a little prejudiced," Stefanski said. "I know they didn't know that when they selected me. I am friends with the other people that interviewed, but I was a 'Dunph' guy going in. The jury was tainted."

Stefanski and Dunphy grew up in the same area. Dunphy was a little older, but Stefanski knew him from the time he was 10 years old.

"I knew he knew his basketball because I had watched him and played with him, watched his career as an assistant coach," Stefanski said. "Now it's easy to say that he's an extremely good basketball coach, but, back then, you could tell. What I like about 'Dunph' is he's all about the players. He has no agendas about himself."

Before Dunphy took the Temple job, he spoke with Stefanski, who encouraged him.

"What he had done at Penn was remarkable," Stefanski said.

So is what he is doing at Temple.

"I can't win a game in a conference tournament," Drexel coach Bruiser Flint said before yesterday morning's Coaches vs. Cancer breakfast at the Palestra. "I got to find out how you do it. He gets those guys to play. He has made Dionte Christmas a really good player."

In fact, every Temple player has improved over the last few years because of the beautiful offense Dunphy teaches. It was no secret that John Chaney was defense first, last and always. Offense was something to be tolerated - don't turn it over and defend the rim.

"Everybody does what they are supposed to do," Flint said. "Nobody gets out of character. That has a lot to do with the coaching."

Flint had little doubt Dunphy would succeed at Temple.

"Coaching is coaching," he said. "I don't understand why they said he couldn't win with scholarships. I actually think he could be a little bit better. Which he's proven. 'Dunph' can coach. Anybody who questioned that is crazy.

"He was beating you without scholarships. Temple has had a great history of winning. So it wasn't like they hadn't done it in the past. They made a great choice."

Villanova's Jay Wright understands the modern player as well as anybody in coaching. He also understands why Dunphy is successful.

"I think he's very real," Wright said. "I think players respect the truth. There is genius in simplicity. I think he gets all that. The relationship he has with his players runs deep because it's true and it's real. When you get into a game situation, that's what it comes down to. You either get it done or you don't. And when a player can understand that and he understands that his coach understands that, you're going to get everything you can out of your player."

Beyond the basketball, people just like Dunphy. He is, Stefanski said, "good people."

"He's a great guy," Flint said. "Text you after big games, call you after big games. Things not going great, always gives you some inspiration. You can't help but like him. That goes for everybody, the way he treats you. Even when you lose to the guy, 'Dunph' will make you feel good."

While he was considering the Temple job, Dunphy asked for Chaney's blessing. And he got it. Without it, he does not make the move. Even with that, the new job came with no guarantees.

"It comes with the same trepidation of how you're going to do it," Dunphy said. "I don't think anybody does what I did and not have some misgivings and second thoughts: Am I doing the right thing here?

"I left a wonderful job at Penn to go to Temple for the great challenge that it was. There's a whole lot of hope that's going on in this whole process."

The hope has turned into the reality that Temple is back in the NCAA Tournament again, that anybody who wondered if Dunphy could win in another setting should be wondering no longer. Dunphy would never say that. He doesn't have to. His record speaks. *

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