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Monday, April 10, 2006

It's Official: Fran Dunphy is Headed to Temple

The AP, Philadelphia newspapers and The Daily Pennsylvanian all have reported that Penn's head basketball coach, Fran Dunphy, is headed to Temple. It's probably one of the worst kept secrets in Philadelphia, as speculation has run rampant for almost a month that Dunphy was the front-runner for the job.

While the list of candidates for the Temple job had some obvious contenders, the potential list for Penn is a big more perplexing. Candidates whose names have surfaced have included Lafayette's Fran O'Hanlon, Cornell's Steve Donahue, Siena's Fran McCaffery and Brown's Glenn Miller. To date, no mention has been made of Penn's top assistant, Dave Duke, who once was the head coach at Lehigh.

As many publications, especially The Daily Pennsylvanian, have pointed out over the course of the past month, each candidate has his issues. O'Hanlon, once Fran Dunphy's top assistant, had lobbied the Lafayette administration to grant a certain amount of athletic scholarships for basketball the way other Patriot League teams (Bucknell has benefited markedly from this practice) have done. This year, the Lafayette administration has granted him his wish. Will that make it tougher for him to leave Easton, Pennsylvania? Several readers of this blog have touted O'Hanlon highly, and, as you know, I am a big fan of his. I somehow think that if the Penn job were offered, Fran O'Hanlon would take it and return to Philadelphia.

Donahue was an assistant at Penn for 10 years and is very well-regarded in University City. Yet, as the DP points out, his record at Cornell is a collective 58-105. That's not necessarily a ringing recommendation for an otherwise good basketball man. Admittedly, Cornell is not exactly a hoops hotbed, but Donahue hasn't exactly turned things around in Ithaca. Sometimes it doesn't matter where you did your apprenticeship; the school, the tradition (or lack thereof) and the admissions climate also figure into the mix. Still, you're hired to win, and Donahue might not have done that enough in Ithaca to warrant consideration here. Penn AD Steve Bilsky will have to expend some capital to sell Donahue to the Penn fans at large.

McCaffery is a Penn alum, which is a big plus, but he's been away from the non-scholarship environment for a long time. Also, he just inked a contract extension to remain with Siena. That doesn't mean, necessarily, that he won't be a candidate for the Penn job, but it does suggest that he's happy enough in Albany not to want to move elsewhere. The extension, like O'Hanlon's having his wish granted, just complicates an otherwise strong candidacy further. Still, my sense would be that so long as McCaffery has an escape clause in Siena that a) let's him go to Penn and b) won't bankrupt him in the process, he'd take the Penn job if offered.

Miller has turned around the Brown program, there's no question of that, and his name has been mentioned for several coaching vacancies from New York up north (Manhattan, Hartford and Northeastern). He's done a very good job in Providence. One reader suggests that I'm not giving him enough credit by perhaps putting him on a short list for the Penn job, but there is one main reason for this -- he has no discernible connection to Penn. Penn hasn't hired outside its family in quite a while -- going back more than 30 years, so I'm not sure how Miller will fare in this sweepstakes.

Could there be other candidates? Lehigh's Billy Taylor? Duke's Chris Collins (the Collins name is a solid trademark in Philadelphia hoops, and he's ready for a head-coaching job)? Vanderbilt assistant Jeff Jackson, who is a Cornell alum? There are more Princeton diaspora in the coaching ranks than Penn family members, but I doubt that Robert Burke, a Haverford alum who is John Thompson's top aide at Georgetown (and was the top assistant at Princeton during Thompson's time there), or Craig Robinson, an aide to Bill Carmody at Northwestern and a two-time Ivy Player of the Year, would warrant consideration. That would be a little too weird, I think, for everyone involved. For my prior posts on this subject, click here.

What's interesting about this search is that people are focused on the "perfect" candidate? When Temple hired John Chaney in the early 1980's to replace Don Casey, he was coaching at DII Cheyney State. When Penn hired Fran Dunphy to replace Tom Schneider (whose teams were relative disappointments at Penn), he had been an assistant there for a year. It wasn't as though either school thought they were getting a big-name, top-drawer coach, although many thought that Cheyney would succeed because he had done brilliantly at Cheyney State (he won a national title there). Those who knew Fran Dunphy well were confident, but many didn't know him well (so for the Glenn Miller supporter out there who has posted on this board, you probably know something that I don't). Still, both turned out great, which meant that the athletic directors knew precisely what they were doing.

Temple looked for the best fit when it found Fran Dunphy (it didn't have to go too far to look). Penn might exhaust itself looking for a sitting head coach with an excellent track record. In doing so, the Quaker athletic administration might overlook an able sitting assistant or a Division III head coach who could continue the excellence that Coach Dunphy has established and who has built upon it. All schools want the big name at the right price, but had Duke gone that route it wouldn't have Coach K.

All that said, I'll continue my endorsement of Fran O'Hanlon. He worked at Penn, he's an excellent coach, and he embodies the Big 5 tradition. He'd make a great fit at the Palestra, and he'd be the one most likely to carry on the tradition of excellence that his one-time boss has established at the University of Pennsylvania.

Something tells me, though, that the successor to Fran Dunphy might not come from the group of names listed above. I can't put my finger on it, but as obvious as it was that Fran Dunphy was the right man at the right time for Temple, there is no such candidate at Penn.

And that's where things could get interesting.


Anonymous noah Rosenthal said...

wow, i love all the ivy league stuff. i can't believe i just found this site.

as a penn alum, i'm sad dunphy is gone. i agree o'hanlon is a good choice. i'd like to see dave duke get some consideration. really anyone connected with dunphy. he did such a great job with the program and connecting with alums too. i'd like to see that traditon continue.

11:53 PM  

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