Ron Costello

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Temple's Fran Dunphy — he's got the accolades to warrant the title, Master and Commander!

From 1989 to 2006, 17 seasons at the University of Pennsylvania: 310-163, including four Ivy League titles and nine NCAA first round appearances. Since 2006 at Temple: 198-113 and four NCAA first round, one second round and one third round appearance and an NIT semifinal.

Overall: 508-276. Nice!

He's been named Big Five Coach of the Year  in four of his nine seasons at Temple

Last season he was the American Athletic Conference coach of the year and prior to that the Atlantic Ten Conference coach of the year in 2010 and 2012.

He currently teaches a course in Temple's Fox School of Business, team teaching an honors course, Theory and Practice: From the Locker Room to the Board Room. He has lectured at Penn's Wharton School. He's active in Coaches for Cancer and serves on the Big Brothers/Big Sisters Greater Philadelphia Board of Directors.

I am honored to sit behind him at home games and watch him work.

He started the season with a mustache but shaved it off. Wonder why? He wears nice suits, Boyds or custom made. He's got a contingent of assistants in a pecking order with him on the bench. Former Owl and Sixer Aaron McKee is one of them but doesn't say much. He must be learning.

Coach doesn't swear on the bench like a lot of coaches. Well, okay, he does once in a great while, but he covers it up nicely. When  he does — you know, use the word — he really gets into it. His face gets red and he'll clap his hands and say "fucssesk," and his hair goes into a bad hair day.

Most fans don't notice, but I do. I think, Ah ha, coach, oh yea, you said it.

Once, he went to the word when he was really angry. About the time he said it, "fucssesk," he violently swiped his hand for a water bottle on a nearby table and sent it skipping across the court to the fans in floor seats on the other side.

Luckily, the officials didn't see it. I saw it: Oh boy, you got away with that one, Coach. That would have cost you a couple of T's.

Thing is Mrs. Dunphy sits in the first row behind the bench — just down from us. We watch her, too. I don't think she'd put up with a lot of swearing.

My guess is she'd wait until they got home and say: "Fran, you've got to knock that off, we've got nuns sitting with me. And it's not good for the children."

So Coach is good about it. Like I said when he has to one word it, it's camouflaged and rare.

And Mrs. Dunpy holds court before and during the game. Former players, priests, nuns, family, and parents of current players arrive at her courtside seats to greet her and pay homage. She's always gracious and pays attention to each one who calls.

Not a word I'd use with Coach — gracious. Oh, maybe he is on Christmas eve or at the Big Brothers/Sisters board meeting, but on the bench?

Uh uh.

His team this year looks mediocre. Now at 5-5, they should have beaten St. Joseph's — lost by a point in overtime — and it took them to the middle of the second half to put away an 0-11 Delaware State.

The team seems to play sometimes without enthusiasm. It doesn't have consistent three point shooting. The field goal shooting percentage is low and their three point percentage even lower.

He's got the heavyweights coming up: Cincinnati (2) (10-3); Houston (2) (9-2); E. Carolina (8-5); Memphis (2) (8-3); UConn (8-3); Tulsa (8-4); Larry Brown's SMU (8-4); Villanova (9-2); and Tulane (8-3).

Plus Big Five rival Lasalle (4-5) at the Palestra — could be a tough game. The way the team is playing, USF and UCF could be tough, too.

An NCAA run this season? I don't see it. But then you can't count the Master out.

John Chaney coached at Temple until he was 74. Harry Litwack quit at 66. Don Casey, now 78, ended his professional coaching career at 63, but is still involved with the game.

Here's the thing. Looking at his current team, the Master and Commander may need a few more years to get the Owls back to the Sweet 16.

But damn, at 67, the man's still a kid!

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