For Cornell's Donahue, a tough win over mentor

Cornell coach Steve Donahue directs his team against Temple. Donahue was an assistant to Temple's Fran Dunphy at Penn.
Cornell coach Steve Donahue directs his team against Temple. Donahue was an assistant to Temple's Fran Dunphy at Penn.
Posted: March 20, 2010

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Before Temple and Cornell met yesterday in a first-round NCAA East Regional game at Veterans Memorial Arena, Big Red coach Steve Donahue had to walk past the Temple bench to reach his own.

Stationed on the Temple side were assistants Dave Duke, Shawn Trice, and Matt Langel. Donahue served alongside Duke as an assistant during the 17 years Owls coach Fran Dunphy spent guiding Penn. Trice and Langel were players Donahue helped recruit for the Quakers.

Donahue paused and exchanged greetings with the three assistants, then made his way to the Cornell end. There, he met up with Dunphy, who as usual was the last to come out of the Temple locker room. Dunphy had to go past the Cornell bench to reach his own.

They spoke briefly. Neither wanted the matchup.

Temple and Cornell had never met, and after the Big Red completed a 78-65 victory, it was Dunphy who began walking first to congratulate his longtime friend.

Dunphy, 61, did all the talking as the 47-year-old Donahue mostly nodded his head.

"I can't say enough about Fran Dunphy," Donahue said after the game. "I am torn right now with that feeling in my stomach. I just respect the heck out of him."

It was the Cornell coach's first win over his former boss in 13 tries, dating back to Dunphy's days at Penn when the two sat on opposite benches twice each Ivy League season for six years.

Yesterday, the Big Red went ahead, 10-9, less than five minutes into the game, and never trailed the rest of the way. It was a complete victory for the Big Red, who outrebounded the Owls, 30-20; burned the nationally ranked Temple defense for 56.3-percent shooting; and connected on 15 of 19 free throws.

"I give great, great credit to Cornell," Dunphy said. "They deserved to win the game. They were very, very well-coached. I thought they were good all year long. They were great today."

Dunphy followed Donahue on the podium for the postgame interviews, and they embraced for several seconds after the Cornell coach stepped down. Once again, Dunphy did most of the talking.

"He hammered me pretty good during our years competing as Penn and Cornell," Donahue said as he tried to control his emotions. "He comes up to me and he's sincere, as he was today. He used to tell me I do a tremendous job, and that my team is always ready, and that he was lucky to win. And to get his approval like that means the world to me.

"I did my best not to look down at the sideline, and to not think about him today. My heart is broken because he's in pain today, and I know how it feels. Even then, he was classy gentleman."


Contact staff writer Kevin Tatum at 215-854-2583 or ktatum@phillynews.com.

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