Dunphy knows this. He himself was a terrific player at Malvern Prep and La Salle, but he knew he was not good enough to play in the NBA. So he put his chips on education. And unlike many coaches who simply run basketball factories, Dunphy passionately pushes his players, from the stars to the last guys on the bench, to get their degrees.
Last year, Dunphy promised a former player that if he came back to school and earned a degree, he would shave off the mustache he had grown and groomed for 40 years. The kid came back this year and finished; Dunphy slashed his 'stache.
Dunphy also demands responsibility from his kids; there are consequences for breaching one of his rules. In last Friday's quarterfinal Atlantic Ten playoff game against Massachusetts, Dunphy benched perhaps his best player for the first 10 minutes for being several minutes late for a team meeting. The Owls lost, perhaps costing Temple a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament, but Dunphy treated the life lesson as more important.
Dunphy has been a vigilant caretaker of the long-standing philosophy of the Temple basketball program: If the education is good, the program will be good and the basketball will be good. Hall-of-Fame coach Harry Litwack, for whom I played, would tell recruits, "I won't promise you playing time, but I will promise you a good education and a chance to win." It works: Temple ranks sixth all-time in college basketball victories.
Victories and a place in March Madness will become more difficult for Dunphy when Temple joins the much tougher Big East Conference next year. Victories and tournament appearances, though, will not be Dunphy's lasting legacy. The wisdom he communicates to his players - thanks partly to all those classes he took in counseling, human relations, and student development - will trump any of his on-court achievements.
B.G. Kelley is a Philadelphia writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.