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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Kudos to Fran Dunphy

Temple made a great choice in hiring Fran Dunphy. He's the right guy for the job, and he'll re-kindle the excitement on North Broad Street. While I remain a fan of John Chaney, I'm sure that by simply moving practices to afternoons he'll open Temple up to a larger potential recruiting pool. All kidding aside, I am a big fan of Coach Dunphy's coaching, and I think that he'll do a great job at Temple and make the Owls a perennial figure in the NCAA tournament in a short time.

Here are links to articles in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News, Bucks County Courier Times and Daily Pennsylvanian. The Inquirer also reports as to who may be successors to Fran Dunphy at Penn, as does the Columbia student newspaper and the Daily News.

As for the candidates to replace Fran Dunphy:

1. The favorites: Brown's Glen Miller, Cornell's Steve Donahue, Dunphy's currently former top assistant at Penn, Dave Duke, Lafayette's Fran O'Hanlon and Siena's Fran McCaffery.

2. The intriguing/field: Lehigh's Billy Taylor, Bucknell's Pat Flannery, Davidson's Bob McKillop, Florida Atlantic's Matt Doherty (who's been taking courses at Penn's Wharton School), Georgetown top aide Robert Burke, Howard head coach Gil Jackson, a former Penn assistant.

3. The dark horses: Penn alum and current Boston Celtics' assistant Dave Wohl, who was the backcourt mate of Penn A.D. Steve Bilsky when Penn fielded nationally prominent, outstanding teams in the early 1970's and Williams College head coach Dave Paulsen, who has excelled at the DIII level and was a finalist for the Dartmouth job Terry Dunn got a few years ago.

When you read the linked articles, you'll learn the process that Temple A.D. Bill Bradshaw employed when looking for a successor to Coach Chaney (who, by the way, wholeheartedly endorses the hiring of Dunphy and was there at the press conference -- for what it's worth, Coach Chaney looks ten years younger in retirement). Bradshaw called up a bunch of basketball notables, including Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, and ran through a group of names with them. Fran Dunphy's name was among those mentioned, and invariably the answer was, "hire him if you can get him." Coach K went so far as to say that if Temple were to hire Coach Dunphy, they'd win a national title. That's a pretty good endorsement, isn't it?

Suppose Steve Bilsky were to do the same thing. What would the responses be? I think he'd get glowing reports on O'Hanlon and Miller, and probably Flannery too, given Bucknell's recent success. One paper doubts whether Brown's Miller could be a serious candidate because of his lack of ties to Philadelphia, while others have him as the favorite for the job. But if lack of ties to Philadelphia and Penn is not good, then how could Robert Burke, John Thompson III's top aide at Georgetown (albeit a Haverford College alum), figure into the mix? After all, he worked for Thompson III at Princeton, Penn's arch-rival. Now you could argue that if Penn went so far as to hire a Princeton provost, Amy Guttman, to be its current president, to extend itself to hire Burke to be its head men's basketball coach should be a piece of cake. You would argue that if you've never been to a Penn-Princeton game at the Palestra and have a sense of the strength of the rivalry. Somehow the general Penn alumni population is different from the hard corps hoops alumni, and that perhaps hiring someone from the Princeton camp, given how well Penn has fared against Princeton in the past ten years, would rub many the wrong way. While John Thompson III has done a great job at Georgetown, my guess is that Robert Burke's first head coaching job won't be in Philadelphia.

But let's get back to the question: which candidate for the Penn job would draw the rave-like consensus that Fran Dunphy did for the Temple job? And which coach can build upon the excellence that Fran Dunphy achieved at Penn?

There are many excellent candidates out there, and the bet here is that Penn will take less time to fill this slot than Temple did, even though the Temple choice, both at the time and now, was more obvious.

Somehow I still think that the gravity pull of the Palestra and Philadelphia would compel Lafayette's Fran O'Hanlon to return to his roots if offered the job. He's one of the best choices, and, for Steve Bilsky, one of the most politically astute. It's hard to say who the best choice is, because especially in this case it's a matter of opinion. Still, if Steve Bilsky were to poll significant members of the coaching community the way his Temple counterpart did, my hunch is that Fran O'Hanlon might draw similar reactions to Fran Dunphy.

This is great theater in Philadelphia, really, and has pushed aside most talk of the Eagles' strategy for the upcoming NFL draft and has even distracted fans from the Phillies' horrific start. For the Phillies' sake, Penn should grab a lot of press and drag the men's hoop coach search out for a while.


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