It was the beginning of March when Temple head coach Fran Dunphy was named American Athletic Conference Coach of the Year. At the time, the Owls were wrapping up their regular season and gearing up for the conference tournament. The year had been quite remarkable, after turning around a 9-22 record during 2013-14 to a possible NCAA Tournament bid. Despite their success, coach Dunphy refused to take any credit himself in his award acceptance speech. He didn’t even say anything along the lines of “a lot of other teams deserved it, but I am glad my hard work was noticed.”
Nope. Coach Dunphy took absolutely zero personal credit. He went as far as saying, “I’m sort of humbled to be here, a bit embarrassed to be honest.” He gave credit to many AAC coaches and their success. He credited his staff, program, and players, who “do all of the heavy lifting.” He talked about his ideal “Coach of the Year”, Will Smith, the girls basketball coach at a high school in Massachusetts, who had cancer and passed away. But never did he personally take credit for himself in his speech. And that is exactly how coach Dunphy builds his program; off of the backbone of unselfishness.
“The best lesson coach Dunphy taught me as a person was that ‘it’s never really about you’,” former point guard Khalif Wyatt said. “It’s always bigger than you. You play for your teammates and the name on the front of your jersey. It’s also a life lesson, you can’t live life thinking everything revolves around you, because it doesn’t.”
Coach Dunphy added to this idea and how he has engraves it into his program. “We don’t have a lot of rules in our program, but one of them is, if you are early, you are on time. If you are on time, you are late. And if you are late you are thinking only about you and that is probably not a real good way to be the best teammate you can be.”
His unselfishness has brought him loads of success. In his 26 years as a college basketball head coach he has won 503 games, been to the NCAA tournament 16 times, and 12 regular season conference championships in his time at Penn and Temple. After playing for La Salle’s basketball team in the late 1960s and early 1970s, coach Dunphy hopped around as an assistant and head coach. He was an assistant at Army, but then came back to the Philadelphia area as the head coach at Malvern Prep, his alma mater. Four years later, he became an assistant at La Salle for a season before moving to American University. In 1985, he returned to La Salle, but left for good in 1988, joining Penn’s coaching staff again as an assistant. It only took one year before he was named Penn’s head coach in the 1989 season. Then in 2006, he succeed Hall of Fame coach John Chaney and became the Temple head coach.
Coach Dunphy has built a name for himself off of not only unselfishness, but discipline and accountability.
"I think the discipline that you bring to the job and get a sense or feel of what your players need and also how they're going to approach the game…This is serious business. These young men get college scholarships, but they have such great opportunities to market themselves and brand themselves and be on a team and being on the team being the most important aspect of the game.”
Those concepts aren’t held solely for him. He expects discipline and accountability from his players, two ideas that run hand in hand with being unselfish. For example, he relies on his team to be on time to practice and handle themselves as mature adults on and off the court-- hence the lack of towering rules in the program.
From a basketball standpoint, there is always a lot of freedom in the Temple offense. Coach Dunphy puts the game in the hands of his players by not restricting them with a chaining offense. He relies on the accountability, discipline, and unselfishness his players learn off the court to translate onto the hardwood.
However, on the floor, the most important aspects for coach Dunphy’s teams are always defensive techniques and offensive efficiency.
“Coach Dunphy’s main focus in practice was always defense,” says Wyatt. “He is a very, very detailed in how he wants things and he’ll make you go over things repeatedly until you get it right and eventually becomes a habit.”
Coach Dunphy added, “I hope again that we will be very solid on the defensive end. We had a very good defensive year [last season] and it keeps you in games. It allows you to compete at the highest level. And then to get over the hump you need to shoot well, you need to make good decisions, not turn the ball over.”
He credits his success and strengths to his past coaches, assistants, and players.
“From a coaching aspect of things, you always go back your high school coach. I had a great high school coach, Dan Dougherty. I had a college coach in Tom Gola who [also] taught me much.” Coach goes on to name more than fifteen other coaches and players who have helped him “immeasurably” along the way.
Typical coach Dunphy to rest his success on so many other people.
Photo courtesy of espn.go.com
-Temple loses to Penn State in the first round of the NIT tournament