Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Ivy Hoops Coaching Roundup: How Former Assistants and Head Coaches Have Fared After Leaving

While Fran Dunphy was considering the LaSalle job, I was wondering how former Ivy assistant coaches fared in their subsequent head coaching jobs and how former Ivy head coaches fared in their subsequent head coaching jobs. Because Fran Dunphy is a former Ivy assistant and, at the time, was considering becoming a former Ivy head coach, I searched my way through various websites to put together some information. (One disclaimer: I am sure that I have forgotten someone, so please indulge me if I have, and please note that I have tried to find the best links possible for these coaches, but, like old soldiers, old coaches just fade away, and unless and "old" coach became a legend, the current coach's ego typically doesn't allow for information about coaches of years past to appear on a website. In the media guide with the rest of the history, yes, but not on the website. Especially if the coaches lost a bunch of games).

I'll start with the former assistants, because it's an interesting group.

Most, if not all, of the former assistants paid their dues at either Penn or Princeton. It's pretty obvious as to why -- college athletic directors like to hire winners, and assistants from winning programs are the next best thing to head coaches from winning programs. As you'll see, that theory doesn't always hold water, and some of these former assistants with great pedigrees end up becoming former head coaches rather quickly.

As for former assistants, let's start with the Penn stable. At the top of the list is a former Chuck Daly assistant, Rollie Massimino, who had his great period at Villanova, where he led his Wildcats to an improbable national title over heavily favored Georgetown in the 1984-1985 NCAA season (team was an eighth seed, finished the regular season something like 17-12, and then went on a run to end all runs). Clearly, Coach Mass was a huge success, notwithstanding his post-Nova downfall at UNLV (why he wanted to succeed Jerry Tarkanian there remains a mystery) and Cleveland State (where he couldn't rekindle the magic). This Mary Lou Retton look- and sound-alike had a lot of energy and did great things at Villanova, even if today his legend in the Philadelphia area is somewhat tarnished because it is he who gets blamed for the break-up of Philadelphia's heralded Big 5 during his tenure at Villanova.

The second most successful former assistant was Digger Phelps (there are more links to the eponymous rock band than to Digger the coach, and in the links to Phelps you learn that he is a motivational speaker who wrote, among other things, "Basketball for Dummies", which is neat because the hoopsters he coached in South Bend were far from it). While most people know that Phelps coached at Fordham before he went to Notre Dame (where his John Shumate-led team ended UCLA's 88-game winning streak and where he got to the Final Four once), he was the freshmen coach at the University of Pennsylvania. Everyone had to start somewhere, and starting at Penn in the late 1960's (as Dick Harter was starting to get the better of Pete Carril after about 5 years of getting the worse of it) was about as good as it got. The Quakers were always loaded, usually in the Top 20 if not the Top 10 (by the early 70's), and, yes, there's another famous hoop coach with Philadelphia roots. After Penn he went to Fordham, and then, of course, to Notre Dame, where his career records was 393-197.

The next most successful former assistant is Fran O'Hanlon, the Lafayette mentor who just signed a 10-year contract extension and who was perhaps the favorite for the Penn job had Dunphy opted to leave the Quakers for LaSalle. Over the course of say the past 9 years, O'Hanlon turned around a moribund program and has won three Patriot League titles (along with two trips to the Big Dance, after the 1998-1999 and 1999-2000 seasons) owing to a very creative, flowing offensive style that seemingly makes his squad impervious to stifling defenses. His teams are very fun to watch, and his overall record of 141-117 in Easton, Pennsylvania is a major accomplishment. His big challenge now will be to see if he can compete in a league where his will be the only school not to grant athletic scholarships.

Steve Donahue was Fran Dunphy's top assistant for a while before heading to Cornell about 5 years ago. After 4 years, Donahue has guided the Big Red to a 32-76 record overall, 15-41 in the Ivies (where, under his tutelage, the Big Red have managed only as high as a tie for fifth place). This would appear to be a big year for Donahue in Ithaca. Coaches get 5 years to turn a program around, if they are lucky, and if Donahue cannot get the Big Red into the league's upper half this year, he might find himself looking for a job. His Big Red team was supposed to finish in the upper division last year, but they faded during the stretch.

Ray Carazo is not a well-known coach, but he assisted on those Chuck Daly teams in the early 1970's before becoming the head coach at Yale in the mid-1970's (he coached at Yale from 1975-1976 through the 1981-1982 season, had a record of 64-118 overall (37-61 in the Ivies; his best finish was 3rd in 1979-1980, when, among others, he coached Ivy co-rookie of the year Steve Leondis, a forward from New York who Pete Carril had passed on and came to regret the decision later) and was fired after one of his best years in New Haven, when the team had a 13-13 record). Carazo, a hoopster at Penn in the early 1960's (when Penn was an also-ran in the Ivies after Princeton and sometimes Yale) along with famed author John Edgar Wideman, was in the wrong place at the wrong time, coaching against both Daly and Pete Carril and then his former colleague Bob Weinhauer, who replaced Daly. (I will get to Weinhauer later in this post; he was a very successful former assistant, right up there with Phelps, but he also was a head coach who left the reservation, so I discuss him in the former head coaches category). Carazo wasn't able to carry Penn's magic to New Haven, and it was he who coined the phrase "Saturday Night Syndrome" to describe how difficult any Ivy school not named Penn and Princeton had it in terms of winning the Ivy title. Roughly translated, the Ivies play their games on Friday and Saturday nights, and the eight schools are broken into four travel pairs -- Harvard and Dartmouth, Yale and Brown, Cornell and Columbia and Penn and Princeton. The problem for a school other than Penn and Princeton was precisely that it had (and still has) to play Penn and Princeton on back-to-back nights. Twice. So, if you play well on Friday night, you still need to recover and play well on Saturday night, and against Penn and Princeton that is very hard to do. In the past 35 years, Penn and Princeton have won or shared the Ivy title with each other (and not with anyone else) in 32 of those years (and in a 33rd, they shared it with Yale). Unfortunately for Coach Carazo, his legacy is not any larger.

As for former Princeton assistant coaches, let's look first to current Princeton head coach Joe Scott. Coach Scott assisted at Princeton for 8 years, only to leave for Air Force in the summer of 1999, after the Falcons dismissed their long-time head coach, Reggie Minton (a former Dartmouth head coach). Under Minton, Air Force never finished above 6th place in the Mountain West Conference. In Scott's fourth year in Colorado Springs, he led his team to a regular-season title and an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament. Short of Massimino's '84-'85 Villanova squad, this could be the biggest accomplishment of any former Ivy assistant. Scott had (roughly) a 53-61 record at Air Force, but that sub .500 record belies the success he had there. Princeton zealots will recall that after Butch van Breda Kolff left Princeton after the 1965-1966 season (he accepted a step up, of sorts, to coach the L.A. Lakers), the Tigers passed on Bobby Knight and Larry Brown to hire a rookie college coach with a 13-13 record at Lehigh, Pete Carril (Carril had played for van Breda Kolff at Lafayette). And you know what Carril accomplished at Princeton. Scott accomplished a miracle in Colorado Springs, and if he were a priest he'd be nominated for sainthood. While he's still living. Scott accomplished more at Air Force in his tenure than Carril did at Lehigh in his. It's a strong parallel, and Princeton fans are excited about the passion and rigor that Joe Scott brings to the game. Keep an eye on him.

Former Pete Carril assistant and current Princeton A.D. Gary Walters coached with some success at Dartmouth (where he had to coach against his former HS coach, Pete Carril, and Chuck Daly) and then moved south to Providence, where succeeding the beloved Dave Gavitt proved nearly impossible to do. Walters' coaching record at Dartmouth was 44-59 (his best season in Hanover was 1975-1976, when he coached the Big Green to a third-place finish). Walters stayed for two years at Providence before going into private business. Please note the theme here -- replacing legends, as two former Penn coaches replaced legends with similar results to the ones Walters had at Providence.

Former Princeton assistant Jan van Breda Kolff has some success in a very short stay at Cornell, from which he departed to go to Vanderbilt, his alma mater (reports are that Pete Carril was furious when he could not get this alumni child admitted to Princeton, helping give rise to the Hall of Famer's nickname for the Tigers' admission office -- Heartbreak Hotel). van Breda Kolff jumped from Vanderbilt in all likelihood before he was pushed out (although he was 104-81 in Nashville and got the Commodores to 1 NCAA tournament from the roughest conference in the NCAA), and spent two very successful years at Pepperdine, where he fared very well with his up tempo style of play and got his team into the NCAA tournament as the WCAC representative once (and to the second round to boot). Thereafter, in order to get his family back to the East Coast, he moved to St. Bonaventure, where he had a sad demise and where his troubles have been well-chronicled. He spent last season as an assistant to Tim Floyd with the New Orleans Hornets. Click here for an article that chronicles the younger VBK's coaching record. His overall record as a college head coach: 204-155.

One-time Pete Carril assistant Tony Relvas took the reins at Colgate in the mid-80's, but this old-school basketball coach was a bit like a fish out of water at a hockey school. He lasted three years before being let go (his teams probably won 1/3 of their games, although it's hard to find coaching records, even using Google). Coach Relvas was an excellent technical basketball coach who perhaps had more of a makeup to be an assistant than a head coach.

The one former Princeton assistant with star power written all over him was Bob Dukiet, a former BC star who, with his blonde hair, warm personality and great sense of humor, was a good recruiter and well-liked by his players. He left Princeton for low DI St. Peter's and put them on the map in a serious way in the mid-1980's, getting them to a few NCAA tournaments and winning about 70% of his games. After St. Peter's, Dukiet took a big-time step up to Marquette, where he was picked to succeed the beloved Rick Majerus, and his record from 1986-1989 was 39-46. Unfortunately, that was a tall order, and Dukiet ended up at Division II Gannon University in Erie, where he led the school to the Elite 8 of the NCAA DII tournament (he was there from 1989-1996). Out of basketball now, the affable Dukiet -- this is a true story -- makes his living as a lounge singer.

(I write about one-time Penn assistant Fran Dunphy later in the post).

The records of the former head coaches are mixed bag, some great, some not, some too early to tell. On the Princeton side of things, Butch van Breda Kolff, Jan's father, is famous for having coached Bill Bradley at Princeton and then the Lakers with Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain, but to no titles (his most famous team was his 1964-1965 team, which made it to the Final Four). He jumped around a bit after leaving Los Angeles, at one point coaching a HS team in Gulfport, Mississippi (he and former NFL coach Lou Saban could well be distant cousins for all of their travels). Pete Carril has enjoyed major success as an assistant coach for the Sacramento Kings, but more than that, he has seen his basketball genius emulated around the country and perhaps the world. Carril's former top aide, Bill Carmody (who played for Gary Walters when Walters was the head coach at DIII Union), is now the head coach at Northwestern, where he has inched his Wildcats up the Big 10 ladder in each of his past four seasons but has yet to get his team to a post-season tournament. Carmody's four-year record is 53-64, and he was named the Big Ten' coach of the year after the 2003-2004 season. Apparently he enjoyed a great recruiting year last year, and with Duke transfer Michael Thompson in the middle, Northwestern could surprise some people this year. Finally, recent Princeton head coach John Thompson III, like Joe Scott, a former assistant under both Bill Carmody and Pete Carril, will see if he can take the step up at Georgetown, where he will be in his first season. Thompson won 3 titles in his four years at Princeton (one was shared, but 2 of his teams went to the Big Dance), and he is credited with devising new wrinkles to the Princeton Offense. Thompson's record at Princeton: 68-42 overall, 45-11 in the Ivies.

(There are other Princeton progeny, as it were, in the wings, as former Tigers Craig Robinson and Mitch Henderson assist Carmody at Northwestern, former Tiger Sydney Johnson is an assistant to Thompson at Georgetown, and former Joe Scott assistant and Princeton alum Chris Mooney took over for Joe Scott as the head coach at Air Force).

The former Penn head coaches have had mixed success -- some absolutely outstanding, some okay, some not so good. On the one hand, Chuck Daly coached the Detroit Pistons (with Isiah Thomas, Dennis Rodman, Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn) to 2 straight NBA titles in the late 1980's (Daly was a spectacular 125-38 at Penn, 74-10 in the Ivies during that time).

Dick Harter, a long-time NBA assistant now back in Philadelphia with the 76ers, went from Penn to Oregon with some success (he was 111-82 and was succeeded by former Penn captain Jim Haney, who went 53-82), then to Penn State with limited success (he was 79-61 there) before moving to the NBA in a variety of capacities. Harter might have taken a step up, going to a scholarship school, Oregon, when he did, but Oregon was in the then Pac-8 with a school named UCLA. He had his share of great players, including Ronnie Lee and Greg Ballard, but he didn't enjoy the success in Eugene that he had at the Palestra. Ditto for his tenure at Penn State.

Daly's successor, Bob Weinhauer, coached some great Penn teams in the late 1970's and early 1980's, including the Penn team that went to the Final Four in 1979. Weinhauer's record at Penn was a gaudy 99-45 (51-9 in the Ivies). After Penn, Weinhauer went to Arizona State, where he had a tough act to follow after the Sun Devils "forced out" Ned Wulk, who had been coaching there for 25 years. Weinhauer's record was 19-14 in his first year (and went downhill after that, although a Google search has left me empty as to his overall record), and he ultimately was fired by Charles Harris, the former Penn A.D. who ended up at Arizona State along with Weinhauer (according to the East Valley Tribune, Weinhauer was fired after the 1985 season because of recruiting violations.). Weinhauer has had a variety of front-office, coaching, scouting and media jobs in the NBA since that time, including a stint as GM of the Milwaukee Bucks. Click here for a 1999 article that contains a good box detailing Weinhauer's various stops.

Weinhauer's successor was former Penn player Craig Littlepage, now the A.D. at UVA, and Littlepage was probably too nice a guy to be a head coach; he is remember for playing as many as 12 players in the first half of some games. Littlepage played for some of those great Dick Harter teams in the late 60's and early 1970's. Littlepage won 1 title in 3 seasons at Penn, where his record was 40-39 (28-14 in the Ivies) and then moved to Rutgers, where he fared miserably, as his teams garnered a 23-63. Like Weinhauer, Littlepage replaced an institution at his new school, Tom Young, who had coached the Scarlet Knights to a perfect mark in the 1975-1976 regular season and a Final Four berth, only to lose to Michigan (with Rickey Green and Phil Hubbard) in the national semifinals. Again, tough shoes to fill. Bob Knight protege Bob Wenzel replaced Littlepage. (Littlepage was an excellent assistant to Terry Holland at UVA, where he is best remembered for recruiting the legendary Ralph Sampson to Charlottesville.)

Littlepage's successor was Tom Schneider, who stayed at Penn for 4 years, won 1 Ivy title (his record there was 51-54 (36-20 in the Ivies) and then left for Loyola (Md.) and the lure of scholarships, probably a few steps ahead of the Penn administration's version of The Turk. Schneider was not successful at Loyola, if my memory serves me correctly. He lasted a few years in Baltimore before leaving and, to my knowledge, hasn't coached college basketball since. His former top assistant and successor was Fran Dunphy, who has put together a sparkling 270-145 record (165-45 in the Ivies) and won 8 Ivy titles in 15 season while at Penn. In retrospect, it is amazing that Dunphy got the Penn job when he did, given that his boss had a losing record with the sterling performances of McCloskey, Harter, Daly and Weinhauer in the background. Whoever made that decision at Penn had courage, and boy did it pay off.

What does this all mean? A couple of things. First, Penn and Princeton get some very good coaches. Second, if you get an assistant's job at one of these schools, you could well get a head coaching job if you want one. Third, your future is what you make of it. Past success, as the stockbrokers say in their ads, is no guaranty of future performance. That is very true for college basketball. At various times, Dick Harter, Rollie Massimino and Bob Weinhauer of Penn were close to or at the top of the NCAA men's basketball world, only to see their second, third and even fourth acts pale in comparison to their first gigs. The jury is still out on the Princeton diaspora, with many chapters to be written (and the same holds true for former Dunphy assistants O'Hanlon and Donahue).

Overall, it's a great group of coaches, and it's hard to find in any conference a coaching roster of two archrivals spanning the past 35 years that matches this one. Those do exist, of course, but the fact that the Ivies' best duo's roster is this impressive speaks to the caliber of the product that Penn and Princeton put out every year.


Anonymous said...

dear sportsprof thank you for nice plug, wonderful article regarding old assistant basketball coaches in ivy as i was one! sincerely bob dukiet

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