SportsProf

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Sunday, July 04, 2004

Speculation as to Who Would Coach Penn Quakers If. . .

Fran Dunphy were to leave.

SportsProf is a firm believer that a) Fran Dunphy is a very good coach and b) that if he is looking for a shot at the big time, at some point he'll get it. He is a serious candidate for the Ohio State job (see prior posts), and if he doesn't get that job and Kevin Stallings of Vandy does, he should be a serious candidate for the Vandy job.

That said, who would replace Coach Dunphy were he to leave coaching the home team in America's greatest venue for a college basketball game, the Palestra? After all, it wasn't as though Dunphy's elevation to the Penn head coaching job in the late 80's after Tom Schneider left for Loyola (Md.) was met with rousing cheers. Dunphy was a career assistant, Schneider wasn't as successful as many Penn coaches in the recent past (Bob Weinhauer and Chuck Daly), and, well, while it was an important decision for the future of Penn basketball, Dunphy wasn't a big name.

He is now. And he is the dean of Ivy hoops coaches, having succeeded Pete Carril on that notable perch. So, if he were to leave Penn, who would succeed him?

Among his current assistants, Gil Jackson would seem to be the favorite. Jackson was a finalist for the Dartmouth job that went to former Colorado assistant Terry Dunn, the brother of former Penn State coach Jerry Dunn. The one thing against Jackson is his age -- at 57 or so, he's old to be getting his first major college coaching gig.

Among his former assistants, there are two front-runners. One is Steve Donahue, who currently is the head coach at Cornell. While Donahue has yet to turn around the Big Red the way James Jones turned around Yale or Glenn Miller turned around Brown, he has made some strides at that hockey school in Ithaca. He's also about 42, young enough to be in University City for a while. The other is Fran O'Hanlon, the head coach at Lafayette, a brilliant basketball mind who has done wonders in Easton, Pennsylvania. O'Hanlon, like Jackson, is in his late 50's.

There also are other intriguing names. Fran McCaffrey, once a McDonald's all-American, formerly John MacLeod's top assistant at Notre Dame, a Penn alum (Class of '82) and currently the head coach at UNC-Greensboro, would warrant consideration. As would Dan Leibovitz, a Penn alum who, to the best of SportsProf's knowledge, never played at Penn (he played at Franklin & Marshall before transferring to Penn and went to and coached at Episcopal Academy outside Phila., where his coach was Dan Dougherty, a one-time mentor of, yes, Fran Dunphy), who is John Chaney's top assistant at Temple. He's in his early 30's and is a great recruiter, although admittedly Temple recruits a far different type of kid from the type Penn does. Then there is Lehigh coach Billy Taylor, a McCaffrey protege, who took the Engineers to their first NCAA berth in about 20 years. He might warrant consideration, although the Penn link is somewhat attentuated.

Are there others? Well, given that the Penn family is a rather well-defined one, it would be hard to see the Penn administration going with anyone outside it. SportsProf thinks its too early to speculate as to the pecking order of the favorites, although right now he would argue hard that the best coach available for the job would be Fran O'Hanlon. If O'Hanlon were 10 years younger, after what he did at Lafayette, he'd be coaching an upper-level major program. But he's in his late 50's, so he's probably missed is window for the big-time, as Lafayette isn't as prominent a launching pad as Princeton and Penn are proving to be.

Of course, all of this depends on whether Ohio State hires Dunphy in the first place. It says here that they should, but hiring an Ivy coach would be a big leap for any Big 10 school save Northwestern, which hired former Princeton mentor Bill Carmody about 4 years ago, and which many Big 10 stalwarts think should be in the Ivies (perhaps "wish" is the better verb, as Carmody has made great strides in his four years in Evanston and has won some big games with the Wildcats).

One thing is for sure: should Fran Dunphy move on to greener pastures with loftier aspirations, the Penn Quakers should have no problem finding an excellent coach. Penn has a great tradition and a magical building in which to play.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Penn needs a respected coach "teacher" like Gil Jackson. He is what these young players NEED. Not just to make them better basketball players but better people with disciple, respect and belief in a bright future. Although uncharacteristic for Bilsky to make the "right choice" for a coach: usually hiring his "friends" or friends of friends with losing records..WBB coach from g-town...it is unlikely he will make the right choice ever It is unfortunate that Penn loses coach Dumpy ONLY because he cannot work for or respect Steve bilsky but maybe they can retain some hope by respecting Fran choice of coaching staff in Gil Jackson....maybe the president of Penn needs to take a better look at her leadership in the athletic department....

11:36 PM  

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