Dunphy deserves Big 5 induction now

Fran Dunphy made his mark (on and off court) at four Big 5 schools.
Fran Dunphy made his mark (on and off court) at four Big 5 schools.
Posted: January 12, 2011

I WAS TOLD a few weeks ago there is an unofficial rule that no coach can enter the Big 5 Hall of Fame until he is retired. It is time for an exception.

Fran Dunphy has the most unique resume in Big 5 history. He was the sixth man for what many think is the best team in Big 5 history, the 1968-69 La Salle Explorers, who went 23-1. The next season, as a senior, he averaged 18.6 points. He will deny it now, but he really was a very good player.

Dunphy graduated from La Salle with a bachelor of arts in marketing. Nine years later, he was awarded a master of science in counseling and human relations from Villanova.

He was an assistant coach at La Salle for two different stints before becoming an assistant at Penn. He was the head coach at Penn from 1989 to 2006. All he did there was win 10 Ivy League championships, four Big 5 titles (three shared, one outright) and 310 games. Most will not remember this anymore, but when he took over, Penn was no longer Penn. He restored the glory and once won three consecutive Ivy titles without losing a single league game.

Dunphy then succeeded a certifiable legend at Temple. John Chaney's tenure needs no amplification. The man is in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame for a reason. But, near the end, the Owls were not up to typical Chaney standards.

In his second season, Dunphy led Temple to an A-10 title. Then, the Owls won the next one and the next one. He has won two more Big 5 titles, one outright, one shared.

Penn won a league in which the regular season means everything. Temple is winning a league in which the tournament determines the champion.

Let's review. La Salle grad. Very good player there. Master's from Villanova. Head coach at Penn. Ten conference championships. Head coach at Temple. Three conference championships. More to come.

I am not quite sure why Dunphy has not coached at Saint Joseph's or at least gotten a degree there. But, as far as I can tell, that is the only Big 5 stop he missed.

Dunphy is the only man to be a head coach at two Big 5 schools. He has won more than 400 games. Among his peers, there is no more respected coach in America.

This is his hometown. It would mean a lot to his friends and family if a place were found in the Big 5 Hall of Fame now rather than later.

Why not just do it? I understand the retirement thing, but who would object to this? The answer is nobody.

RANKED AT WELLS FARGO

It's No. 7 against No. 18 tonight at the Wells Fargo Center - Jay Wright's Villanova team against Rick Pitino's Louisville team.

It is 14-1 against 13-2. Neither team has lost in the Big East. Villanova's only loss was to Tennessee. Louisville lost to Kentucky - and Drexel. Not sure what they thought of the losses at the beautiful, new KFC Yum! Center hard by the Ohio River, but this Louisville team does not have the NBA-level talent of the recent editions. Pitino said before the season ever began that this was a much more enjoyable team to coach. No agendas, just a bunch of players who want to get better.

Villanova is having more and more moments in games in which you can see that the Wildcats have a chance to be as good as the ranking. Hardly a finished product, but it is not supposed to be finished in mid-January.

Should be high-level hoops in South Philly. Both teams like to attack at both ends of the court.

By the way, speaking of halls of fame, is there any reason Pitino is not in the Basketball Hall of Fame? Providence, Kentucky, Louisville. Only coach to take three programs to the Final Four. Won the 1996 title at Kentucky with what I consider the best national champion I have covered. Understood the value of the three-pointer before anybody. Innovator. I could go on. And on.

HARD TO BELIEVE

As I walked to the Gola Arena press room after La Salle lost in overtime to Towson on Dec. 9, a result nobody could have imagined, "Don't Stop Believing" played on the loudspeaker. Loved the sentiment, but that was optimism few shared. As I continued my walk, a La Salle fan (and there aren't many these days, judging by the "crowds" at Gola) suggested that if the Explorers lost to Binghamton on Jan. 2, they should "drop the program."

Well, La Salle did beat Binghamton. But it is the only win in the last seven games after such a promising start. In Saturday's loss to Richmond, coach John Giannini told his star, Aaric Murray, to take a seat. The coach had no shortage of reasons to make the move.

Now, the coach is certain his team is ready to play as it played at the start of the season. Don't know whether he is singing that song, but he is talking like a believer.

"I really think we are going to play very well from this point forward," Giannini said. "I know that sounds bizarre."

But no more bizarre than losing to Bucknell, Rider and Towson right after taking Villanova to the wall. It is, the coach thinks, just the nature of his talented, if fragile team.

"I just know how Aaric and other guys respond when they have to," Giannini said.

Well, they have to, starting tonight against Penn at Gola.

THIS AND THAT

* There has not been much to cheer about on Hawk Hill lately. But St. Joe's is 13th nationally in blocked shots at 5.8 per game, largely because of the looming presence of freshman C.J. Aiken. Now, if the Hawks can just keep the ball out of the lane a little more frequently and be way more consistent on offense, they might start to get somewhere.

* There are many reasons for Notre Dame's success. Consider these numbers to be critical. Mike Brey's team has attempted 437 free throws. Its opponents have attempted only 247.

* Colorado is one of those schools that has never been any kind of a serious factor. Well, it has a very serious player in sophomore Alec Burks. He has scored 834 points in only 46 games and is a treat to watch.

* I love efficient players. I do not love volume shooters. I like players who take good shots and convert those shots into points. On Jan. 5 at Penn State, Purdue's Ryne Smith did something that could not have been done many times. He scored 20 points on only five shots. He was 5-for-5 from the arc and 5-for-7 from the foul line. That would be the very definition of efficiency.

* Is the Big East really this good? The league has half the Top 10 - Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Villanova, Notre Dame and Connecticut. Well, they did win a bunch of the early-season tournaments. And, with a few top leagues down a bit and three more at-large berths available in the 68-team NCAA, the league really could get nine or 10 teams in the tournament. Then, they will play 67 games and everybody will see how the league's teams match up with other NCAA-level teams.

Send e-mail to jerardd@phillynews.com.

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