Although the NBA has tentatively set a Christmas Day start to this lockout shortened season, basketball in the city of Philadelphia remains focused on the Big 5. There are few better representatives to the superb college basketball traditions in this great city, than Temple University's own Fran Dunphy.
"Dunph" has been a staple of college basketball in Philadelphia for most of his life. Born and raised in the City of Brotherly Love, he has established himself as one of the true professionals of the game.
I recently sat down with this living legend, to discuss the outlook for the Owls this season, his unique recruiting style, and his trademark mustache, that briefly disappeared from his face earlier this year.
Coach, you return most of your lineup. How will that experience help you this year, and how do you replace a multi-dimensional player like Lavoy Allen?
It's nice to have the veteran group that we have, I think anytime you can have guys around you who know exactly what you are thinking and feeling, it absolutely has to help. Although, trying to replace a guy like Lavoy has been very difficult, especially on the defensive end where he was so extraordinarily effective. We really are missing that piece to this year's group. He, (Allen) saved a lot of us over the past few years, so we are trying to come together.
Do you see the potential in redshirt freshman Anthony Lee to fill that role?
Lavoy had such an unbelievable feel for the game; Anthony does not have that as yet. Can he get there? Maybe. But I think that Lavoy was one of those kids who knew where to be all the time, and had such an extraordinary sense of where he was supposed to be on the court. I think Anthony is going to have to fill some of the minutes Lavoy left us, but he's not at that same level defensively.
You will be moving into a newly renovated McGonigle Hall as your practice facility. How will having a state of the art facility help with recruiting?
I think it will help. I think just the whole persona of Temple University is constantly changing, and this is another way we are making the statement that we want to do everything in a first class fashion. It has been a wonderful opportunity to watch it come together, and we hope that will be in there sometime before the first of the year.
You have a very unique recruiting style. I recall being involved in the process when you recruited my brother, (Geoff Owens) to University of Pennsylvania and you were very honest. It was refreshing to hear such honesty, when some people in your profession are not. Has that honesty helped you with recruiting over the years?
Well, I'm not quite sure how to answer that question, but I appreciate that. Your brother was someone that I really enjoyed being around and your family was great listening to my shtick. But I think it is a very honest approach, and it's one, that I don't quite know how to be other than that. You just say, ‘Hey I'd love to have you come to school here, this is what I think is going to happen. Are you going to be a superstar right away? Probably not. But it will be a lot of fun to watch you grow and get better. You will have a wonderful opportunity for getting a great education.' I think you just talk about life as you know it.
It's an unbelievable time in everybody's life. It's one of those times when there is such uncertainty in just about everything that you do. You're not sure who you are at this age, and you're still evolving even at my age. I think it is one of those things I truly enjoy about this particular age group, because they are so sponge-like and yet there is another piece to that...they are needy as well. They need some guidance; they need some mentoring, so that's why it's so much fun for me. And I hope my stuff, when I throw it up against the wall, I hope it sticks. It is a very honest and forthright approach, and I don't know how to be anything else, and I think most coaches are that way. There may be other guys that say things they probably shouldn't say, but I think those are few and far between.
How does it feel to have such a strong coaching lineage, with Andy Toole, (Robert Morris) Matt Langel, (Colgate) and Jerome Allen, (Penn) all currently head coaches?
I sometimes wish they wouldn't be coaches, (laughing) I wish they chose other professions, but they are great guys, and really are very bright people and they know the game. I think their goodness will show through the kids they coach. I'm really thrilled for all of them, and I hope they all have great careers, I'm sure they will.
You were at Lasalle University as a player, coached at the University of Pennsylvania for 17 years and have moved across town to Temple University. What is it about this city you find so endearing?
Well I was born and raised in the city, and I think college basketball has a special place in the hearts of many many Philadelphians. I was given the opportunity to be a head coach in Philadelphia, and now I've had two of those opportunities...That's a pretty special feeling, and I am honored to be included with all of those guys who have gone before me, and really set the stage for where we should be in college basketball in Philadelphia. We are just the present caretakers of this great profession that we have in Philly.I hope I represent those guys that have gone before me in a good fashion.
Coach not many people can pull off the mustache like you have...I certainly can't. Describe your brief hiatus after shaving it off earlier this year.
I did shave it off and I had a number of people tell me I looked younger, so I might have to go back to it. But right now, two of our former players at Penn asked me to participate in this fundraiser for prostate and testicular cancer called Movember. So I started it November 1, and we will see how we're playing by the end of November to see it I will shave it off. If we are playing well I will continue to keep it, if not I will get rid of it again. Anything I can do to try and help somebody, in this case whether it is growing a mustache or shaving it off, it is pretty easy stuff to do. We had a lot of fun with shaving it off. I was proud of Dionte Christmas for getting his degree. I think I will have to shave my head when Ramone Moore graduates, but that will be ok too. Any kind of celebratory stuff for these guys. I think it is a wonderful achievement that they got their degree and I'm happy for them.