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Monday, March 13, 2006

Who Will Succeed John Chaney at Temple?

Update: I originally posted this on February 26. Today, Temple University's head men's basketball coach, John Chaney, announced his retirement. His is a great story, and despite some blemishes on his record that no doubt will populate the stories that will be written about him in the next couple of days, he is a very good man. I took issue with his behavior last year, but I was careful not to throw his career under the bus. Let's remember that career and let it rightfully eclipse the unfortunate incidents that at times tarnished an outstanding body of work.

The speculation, of course, will run rampant as to who will succeed him.

Here is what I posted a few weeks ago:

The head basketball coach at Temple University is 74 years old, his team is trying to get into the NCAA tournament, and, according to one Philadelphia-area writer, this year may be his last season on North Broad Street. The Bucks County Courier Times ran an excellent piece on John Chaney's future last week, and it's one worth reading.

Let's assume that this is John Chaney's last season at Temple. He's had a great career, having fielded national championship teams at Division III Cheyney State and then having gotten his Temple team to the regional finals when he had Ramon Rivas at center, Tim Perry at power forward, Mike Vreeswyk at small forward, Mark Macon at shooting guard and Howard Evans at the point. That was an excellent team, and if it weren't for Duke's Billy King harrassing Macon into 6-29 shooting from the floor in a regional final (1988), Temple would have had its first Final Four team in the Chaney era and the first since the Guy Rodgers-led teams of the late 1950's. (Yes, he had his low moments, including some oral threats against then UMass coach John Calipari years ago and the debacle regarding St. Joe's last year, but, as I blogged then, while what Coach Chaney did was deplorable there was no reason to throw his entire body of work under the bus).

It may well be that it is time for Coach Chaney to retire, but only he and the Temple administration know for sure. Getting Coach Chaney to retire after this season will be far easier for the Temple administration because last year's St. Joe affair happened, because Chaney weakened his brand and lowered his stature to beneath the "bigger than the entire university" perch that certain other coaches have cemented (and thereby creating all sorts of entitlement and succession-planning problems). It could well be that Coach Chaney is suffering from generational separation from today's brand of players. Being as tough as he is and compelling 5:30 a.m. practices might have worked fifteen years ago; I'm not so certain it works today. Temple's record, and the quality of the overall recruiting classes coming in, would suggest that the Temple hoops trademark isn't what it was fifteen years ago.

The question is: who will his successor be?

It's a hard question at every Big Five school, so passionate are the fans about their teams. While the LaSalle job was open to many a few years ago, the circumstances surrounding the program at the time were such that whoever was coming in would have to repair a seriously damaged brand, something which is not the case at Temple. Yes, if Temple's goal is to re-attach itself to the Top-25 conversation perennially, a new coach will have to reinvigorate the Owls.

Here, in my mind, are a few possibilities (in no particular order of preference):

1. Penn's Fran Dunphy. Dunphy is a great coach, the dean of the Ivy coaches, and someone who has been a finalist for higher-profile jobs in the past couple of years (Ohio State, Georgetown). He can stay at Penn forever (he's about 57 now) and make a run at the Basketball Hall of Fame, or he can scratch the itch that he's apparently had and go for a big-time program where he would have a shot to take a team deep into the NCAA tournament. Ivy recruiting is a grueling business because not only do the Ivies not give scholarships, but they also have rigorous academic standards that leave many would-be recruits wanting. A few readers of this blog who know the Penn program better than I seem convinced that Coach Dunphy, having passed on his alma mater, LaSalle, a few years ago, will remain at Penn for the rest of his career. I tend to believe that will be the case, but this job would be a tempting one for him.

2. Former Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins. Why? Huggins was a proven winner at Cincinnati, got his team to the Final Four and might have won a national champion during Kenyon Martin's last season at the school had the power forward not broken his leg during the last part of the season. True, he clashed with university administration, and yes, there were questions about the graduation rate there, but one Bearcat reader wrote that Cincinnati's graduation rate had improved during the latter stages of Huggins' tenure. Also, it isn't as though Temple's graduation rate rivals that of the top schools, and, further, the way that graduation rates are calculated leaves a little to be desired. For a further look at graduation rates of Cincinnati's and Temple's men's hoops players, look here.

3. Drexel Coach Bruiser Flint. Flint is well-known in the Philadelphia area, having played his HS ball there and having played for St. Joe's. He had the misfortune of succeeding John Calipari at UMass, and since that time he has done a good (if not great) job with the Drexel program. The question is whether his work at Drexel is good enough to convince the Temple decisionmakers to hire him. The bet here is that it is not, because Flint hasn't succeeded in getting the Dragons into the NCAA tournament. Were he to have enjoyed recent success the way one-time coach Bill Herrion did when Malik Rose played for the Dragons, he'd be on the short list. Now, I think, he might make the semi-final round.

4. Portland Trailblazers Assistant Dean Demopoulos. Once the top assistant for Chaney and the person whom Chaney wanted to succeed him, Demopolous left Temple to become head coach of Missouri-Kansas City after Chaney couldn't secure a promise from then-Temple University President (and huge hoops fan) Peter Liacouras that Demopolous would have the job after Chaney put away his alarm clock and sweats. But Demopolous didn't fare that well at Missouri-Kansas City, and he's been rather far away from Philadelphia for the past five years, with the Pacific Northwest being akin to Siberia for most Philadelphia natives. Still, Demopoulos has fared well as an NBA assistant, and he should figure into the mix.

5. Current Temple top assistant Dan Lebovitz. Hard call here. Lebovitz has worked hard for Chaney, but it's tough to determine with assistants whether they're good number two men (i.e., recruiters) or they have bona fide leadership skills. This is especially true at Temple, where Chaney is the only face of the program. That said, something in the atmosphere tells me that the Owls won't elevate an assistant, that they'll want a bigger name, and to me that means that when Chaney retires, Lebovitz will hire a moving van and take his skills elsewhere.

6. Current West Virginia assistant Jerry Dunn. Dunn's is in his mid-forties and is the top aide to John Bellein, who has worked wonders at West Virginia after having coached very ably at Richmond. Bellein is an innovative coach, and given that most athletic directors want to hire a head coach who was connected with a winning program, Dunn might get another chance to be a head coach. He was the head man at Penn State before Ed DeChellis, and he led the Nittany Lions to a Sweet 16 appeareance about five years ago. After that, his program suffered numerous defections, and Penn State basketball fell through the floor. Dunn is an intriguing choice, but I think he'd be a long shot. After all, Penn State wasn't as prestigious a program as Temple's, and I don't think he'd have the cache that Temple alums would expect.

7. Duke assistant Chris Collins. He's got the great pedigree, that's for sure, in that he played for Mike Krzyzewski at Duke and has worked for him for the past several years as an assistant. While Coach K's coaching progeny haven't exactly set the world on fire (Quin Snyder resigned at Missouri in the middle of the season and David Henderson probably will get the gate at Delaware at season's end), Collins also has another connection to Philadelphia. His father, Doug, starred for the 76ers and is fondly remember in a hoops town as a true gamer. Collins is a bit young (he's in his early 30's), but with his pedigree, I would give him a serious look.

8. Bill Coen, assistant at BC. Al Skinner has done a good coaching job everywhere he's been, and he's really established BC as a perennial threat to be in the Top 25. Coen is Skinner's top aide, and it may well be time for a Skinner assistant to land a prestigious job. Still, unless Coen is well-known to the hoops network in Philadelphia, he'd be a true long shot.

9. Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan. Okay, so this sounds a bit far-fetched, because Ryan has put the Badgers at the top of the Big 10, and the Big Ten is a better hoops conference than the Atlantic 10. So, you say, why would Ryan consider moving to Temple? He's also almost 60, and you would think that Temple might want to go a little younger, even if they can't come out and say it. Yet, Ryan is from the Philadelphia area, and despite having spent all those years in the Midwest, he might want to return home and turn Temple around. His candidacy would be an intriguing one, but it seems that the timing wouldn't be right.

10. Cameron Dollar, assistant at Washington. Dollar is even younger than Chris Collins, but he's a top aide to a very hot coach in Lorenzo Romar. He'll be a hot head coaching prospect at some point, but it may be that he's a West Coast guy, and, if that's the case, it may be that neither he nor Temple would be able to get comfortable with one another.

11. Gregg Marshall, head coach, Winthrop. 142-70 at a perennial top-tier team in the Big South conference, and the Eagles appear headed to the Big Dance again this year. A proven winner in the mid-to-low echelons of Division I, Marshall might be ready for a bigger time program. That said, Winthrop and Temple are different schools, and Marshall might not have enough "oomph" for the Temple cognoscenti. Heck, short of reincarnating Harry Litwack or turning back the clock on Chaney, few could have the right type of special sauce for the Owls' faithful.

12. VCU head coach Jeff Capel. Another great pedigree. Son of a coach, played for Coach K at Duke, and he was 60-31 in his first three years in Richmond. This year, the Rams are 18-9, and Capel clearly has a good future ahead of him. He's in his early thirties as well, and one question would be whether he could transfer his Colonial Athletic Association success into the more competitive Atlantic 10. The answer here is that yes, he'd certainly be worth taking a risk on.

13. Willis Wilson, Rice head coach. Wilson has a 188-187 record in 13 years at Rice, a small, great liberal arts university in Houston .that amazes everyone familiar with it that it can field tough teams despite its small size. Wilson was in the hunt for the Ohio State job when Thad Matta got it, so it's plain to some experts that he could do a big-time job if given a big-time program. My guess is that if Wilson were to throw his hat in the ring, he'd get serious consideration.

14. Jeff Ruland, head coach, Iona. Ruland has done a nice job with the Gaels, leading them to a 114-99 record over 7 seasons and a few NCAA bids, but none within the past four years. Ruland has a Philadelphia connection in that he showed promise for the 76ers before getting hurt, but he's also a reminder of the mid-80's trade to the Bullets that sent Hall of Famer Moses Malone out of town. I thought his candidacy sounded better before I started typing this excerpt, but I think his candidacy would be a long shot.

15. Bobby Gonzalez, head coach, Manhattan. Gonzalez was atop everyone's lists many years ago when he was the top aide at Virginia and renowned as a tireless worker and the next top aide to get a big-time head coaching job. Well, he didn't exactly land in a major conference. He ended up at Manhattan, where he led the Jaspers to a 109-66 record in the past 6 seasons and three twenty-win seasons in a row (last year the Jaspers won 15 games). Gonzalez might make it to the semifinal round, but he's considered to be very intense, and it's hard to know whether Temple will want a more mellow coach than the incumbent.

16. Greg McDermott, head coach, Northern Iowa. I know, you'll say why isn't Pat Flannery, Bucknell's head coach, in the running if you're looking for a mid-major coach who's hot at the moment. As I write this, McDermott has his squad ranked in the top 25, and every year a hot mid-major coach gets elevated (last year, it was Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Bruce Pearl, who is doing an excellent job at Tennessee). McDermott will get a shot somewhere else, but my guess is that it will be in the Midwest and not in Philadelphia. Perhaps he'll get to show 'em in Missouri.

17. Pat Flannery, Bucknell. On the one hand, he's been in Lewisburg for a long time, and it took him a while to win there, perhaps coincidental with the Bison's beginning to offer hoops scholarships. He's also a Bucknell alum, and maybe he's just a good fit for the Patriot League school and will have a great run there. Yet, he does get talented hoopsters to go into central Pennsylvania, not exactly a hoops hotbed (see Penn State), and that says something. Flannery is in his late 40's, and he does warrant consideration. He'd be a good choice for the Owls.

18. Murray State head coach Mick Cronin. Cronin clearly is a hot prospect, and I think he could end up in Missouri or in another Top-5 or Top-6 conference. He's a Rick Pitino disciple, a tireless worker, and, apparently, an able coach. Temple might consider him, but I think that he'll end up elsewhere.

19. Arkansas assistant Ronny Thompson. Thompson is the son and brother of the former and current Georgetown head coaches with the same last name. His name had been bandied about previously as a head coach, although his affiliation with the Georgetown staff after his father retired didn't help his chances (given that people do prefer to hire coaches from winning programs). Still, Thompson has had good mentors, and it may be that he just doesn't quite have a good enough resume to warrant serious contention.

20. Florida assistant Anthony Grant. Billy Donovan is another Rick Pitino disciple, and while his trademark isn't as red-hot as it was say five years ago, he's still coaching very well in Gainesville. Grant is his top aide, and he'll end up being a head coach somewhere. Donovan's former top aide, Kentucky alum John Pelphrey, went to South Alabama and has turned the program around after four years, so maybe Grant could do the same.

21. Vanderbilt assistant Jeff Jackson. Jackson is Kevin Stallings' top aide, a Cornell alum, and the Vandy staff has done some nice work in a conference where its academic standards lap the rest of its opponents. He'd be worth a look.

22. Davidson head coach Bob McKillop. He's been at the North Carolina school for 16 years, where he's compiled a 262-202 record and turned out a bunch of winners in recent years. His teams play hard-nosed basketball, and they are fun to watch. He has New York roots, and he could be another Bellein under the right circumstances.

23. Villanova assistant Brett Gunning. He's Jay Wright's top assistant, the neighboring Cats have fared very well, and he's in his early 30's. He's close enough that Temple wouldn't have to spend anything to bring him in for an interview, and he'd be worth a serious look.

24. Duke assistant Johnny Dawkins. On the one hand, Dawkins has been at Duke for so long that he's probably not going anywhere, and he may be Coach K's version of Bill Guthridge. On the other hand, Coach K isn't going anywhere soon, and Dawkins did have a nice career for the 76ers, so returning to Philadelphia might interest him very much. This would be an interesting development to watch.

Okay, so I tried to give you 25 choices, and I came in with 24. After having thought through the foregoing list, here's the list of who I believe will be the Owls' five finalists (assuming they're interested):

1. Johnny Dawkins, top Duke aide. If Dawkins is interested in the job, Temple would have a hard time passing on him.

2. Bob Huggins, former Cincinnati coach. He has big-time credentials, and someone will give him a second chance. He could win and win big at Temple, and that prospect should intrigue both the Temple administration and the coach.

3. Dean Demopolous, Blazers' assistant. Has to be a solid candidate here. Very familiar with Chaney, Temple and Temple's hoops tradition.

4. Fran Dunphy, Penn head coach. I have great faith in the Penn faithful who read this blog when they tell me that they think that Dunphy will stay at Penn forever. Yet, what can't escape me is that Dunphy has dallied with Penn State, Ohio State, Georgetown and LaSalle over the past three years. It could be that he wants to test himself beyond the Ivies, and he's so popular in Philadelphia that I believe he could have the job if he wanted it. I wouldn't count Dunphy out, especially because I think that Huggins won't come cheap, even if he's more along the redemption end of the coaching continuum than the hot commodity end.

5. Willis Wilson, Rice head coach. Wilson appears to be widely respected, and while his overall record isn't dazzling, you have to consider where he has coached. Free of the very high academic standards of Rice, Wilson may find the platform he needs to demonstrate that he is, in fact, a very good coach.

Overall prediction: I don't think Dawkins will leave Duke, so I think it will come down to Huggins, Demopoulos, Dunphy and Wilson, with Cronin, Flannery, Capel, Coen and Grant being long shots. My view is that if this proves to be the case, the Owls will hire Huggins if they can get him.

Let the hot-stove discussions begin.


Blogger Birkel said...

You can't have a firebrand like Huggins follow a firebrand like Chaney.

Too much for one university to take.

4:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree. No way Huggins fits in at Temple. Most people will hate him before he even coaches one game on North Broad.

10:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

John Calipari....Offer him the store.!!!!! Arn't any other Temple Fans tired of losing and watching Coach Chaney's "watching paint dry" style of basketball. I know I am. Maybe with some kids who will run and CAN actually shoot we will win again.
Second choice...Coach Huggins....isnt Temple all about second...and third...and forth chances!!!!

12:58 PM  
Anonymous The Sports Curmudgeon said...


I'm a Penn alum and I really wish Coach Dunphy would stay there. However a classmate of mine - who is still very close to the Philly college athletic scene - tells me that Coach Dunphy is headed to Temple soon after the Quakers make their early exit from the NCAA Tournament this year. If that happens, who would you identify as the next coach at Penn?

9:51 PM  
Blogger SportsProf said...


If that's the case, here's the pool I would create, with a few comments:

First, I don't think that any current Penn assistant would be eligible. Second, experience with "smart kids" or Ivy recruiting would be a plus.

Here goes (and it's late at night and I haven't fully thought this through):

1. Cornell's Steve Donahue. Plus: He was Dunphy's top assistant and worked at Penn for 10 years. Minus: He hasn't excelled at Cornell, although he's been in the Ivies' first division the past two years.

2. Drexel's Bruiser Flint. Plus: He's energetic, Penn has more intracity prestige. Minus: Hard to see him as a fit.

3. Temple assistant Dan Lebovitz. Plus: his tenure as an assistant for Temple's John Chaney. Minus: His recruiting experience is a disjoint set from Ivy recruiting.

4. Lafayette head coach Fran O'Hanlon. Plus: outstanding head coach, very creative, would escape a non-scholarship school in a scholarship league. Minus: In his late 50's, he's a year older than Coach Dunphy. He'd make the short list.

5. Georgetown assistant Robert Burke. Plus: He's been John Thompson III's top assistant for about 5 years and went to Haverford. Minus: His Ivy connections go through Princeton.

6. Siena coach Fran McCaffery. Plus: He's a Penn alum (class of '82). Minus: He hasn't been an outstanding head coach, and he's only been at Siena for one year.

7. Brown coach Glenn Miller. Plus: Innovative coach and good recruiter, has done a good job at Brown. Minus: He had three first-team all-Ivy players in the same season in Providence three years ago, and he didn't win an Ivy title with them.

8. Howard head coach Gil Jackson. Plus: Dunphy's assistant for years and years. Minus: Only at Howard for one year, seems not the right timing for him.

9. Former Cincinnati head coach Bob Huggins. Plus: had for a short while former Penn player Ryan Pettinella, creating a tenuous Penn connection. Minus: culture shock for Penn. Actually, I wrote # 9 to see if you're still reading.

My guess now would be that they'd opt for O'Hanlon to keep the program going and warm the seat for current assistant Matt Langel, a Penn alum and Dunphy favorite who has only been coaching for two years.

10:21 PM  
Anonymous The Sports Curmudgeon said...

I was indeed still reading. Bob Huggins gets the job at Penn the day after Roseanne Barr wins the Miss Universe Contest.

How about Martin Inglesby? He has had some time at the assistant coach level and has Philly connections.

9:31 AM  
Blogger Adam said...

As I blogged on Throwing Things, I think it will be Demopoulous, but I'd sure like to see them give Dawn Staley an interview.

10:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bobby Lopez will be at Manhattan forever. I don't know what it is, but there is something keeping him form getting the major college job that he should get everytime he is a finalist.

4:41 PM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

Thanks, everyone.

I've read recently where former 76ers coach Randy Ayres and soon-to-be-former Indiana coach Mike Davis are in the running. Flint sounds like he'll be a serious candidate. Then there's current Houston Rocket Rick Brunson, a Temple alum who is at the end of his NBA career. He's well-respected in the NBA, but he has no head coaching experience. More should come out of this story closer to the Final Four.

5:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HUGGINS ON BROAD ST!!! Temple's basketball program has been going down hill every year for the past five years. Huggins is the only coach out there that can restore this program with great recruting and tough minded coaching. He has a proven track record no other candidate even compares!

4:32 PM  
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