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Fran Dunphy comes out of retirement to coach La Salle

04/06/2022, 1:30am EDT
By Kevin Callahan

By Kevin Callahan (@CP_KCallahan)

For Fran Dunphy, the reason to return to his alma mater and coach La Salle is as simple as doing layup lines before a game.

“It's like most of us, when you're asked to serve, you do,” Dunphy said on Wednesday afternoon.

Dunphy, of course, isn’t like most of us. He is the winningest coach in Big 5 history. He is one of the founders of the Coaching vs. Cancers chapter in Philadelphia. 


Fran Dunphy (above, in 2016) will return to the sidelines this fall as he takes over at La Salle. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

His actions define him. 

“My favorite quote is “go out and preach the Gospel and occasionally use words,’ ” Dunphy added.

While Dunphy will still serve as a selfless 73-year-old, expect him to win as well. He was the coach for three decades at Penn and Temple where he won almost 600 games and went to 17 NCAA tourneys.

Dunphy, a guard for the Explorers who averaged over 18 points a game as a senior, has rooted connections in the city and suburbs so recruiting high school talent to win in the Atlantic 10 Conference can be expected.

And, with the transfer portal, Dunphy has the opportunity to add winning talent to next year’s roster.

“I think the whole world has changed in college, basketball with the portal and Name, Image, and Likeness,” Dunphy said. “So much has changed. And, it is to be determined as [to] how it will affect the future of college athletics and not just in basketball.” 

The last time La Salle made the NCAA tournament since 2013-14. The Explorers haven't had a winning record since the 2014-15 season.

Dunphy replaces Ashley Howard, who didn’t register a winning record in four seasons, including going 13-19 last season.

Dunphy, who played on the 1968-69 team coached by the great Gola that finished 23-1 and No. 2 in the final Associated Press Top 25 Poll, was an assistant on La Salle's 1979-80 squad that earned a trip to the NCAA Tournament with Michael Brooks, who earned National Player of the Year.

After five seasons as an assistant at American, he returned to La Salle's staff from 1985-88 with Speedy Morris when he helped recruit Lionel Simmons, who went on to score over 3,000 career points and to win the National Player of the Year, from South Philadelphia High.

In 1989, Dunphy was named head coach of Penn, where he won 10 Ivy League titles and collected nine 20-win seasons in 17 years. 

In 2006, he replaced Naismith Hall of Famer John Chaney at Temple where he took the Owls to eight NCAA tourneys in his 13 years, including seven consecutive seasons from 2007-13.

Truly, the only one to coach more than one Big 5 men's teams is a Philly treasure on and off the court.

With his willingness to serve at 20th and Olney, you have to believe the administration will reciprocate and afford him the resources needed to win in the A-10, which includes immediate renovation of the on-campus Tom Gola Arena .

“When I was asked to do this, it was it was all-encompassing,” Dunphy said. “I thought whatever I could do for the school, I would, it gave to me much, and it's time for me to give back and I'm happy to do it and grateful for the opportunity.”

La Salle is grateful for his service. So are all of his first-name basis friends who call him Dunph, so many that they would fill the Palestra, who simply like to watch him coach and his teams compete like he did as a player for the Explorers.

~~~

Original Story

The earth-shaking sports news on Tuesday might have been the Tiger Woods announcement that he planned on playing in the Master’s this weekend. 

However, around Philly hoops, the announcement that Fran Dunphy is the new La Salle coach truly is the seismic news of the day, shaking the Palestra into the night and into the foreseeable future.

And, like Woods, who was asked if the thought he could win the Master’s this year and said he did, make no mistake, Dunphy isn’t returning to his alma mater for a feel-good story, but to win. As good of a guy Dunphy is, he is also a ferocious competitor. He was as a guard for the Explorers when he averaged over 18 points a game as a senior and he was a coach for three decades at Penn and Temple where he went to 17 NCAA tourneys.

"La Salle has given me so much over the years," Dunphy said in a statement. "It gave me a chance to be a part of multiple teams as a student-athlete, an opportunity to form life-long friendships, and helped mold me into the man I am today. I can't wait to work with the young men on the team, re-introduce myself to the campus community, and to help my alma mater any way I can."

And, La Salle didn’t hire a 73-year-old coaching legend to win in the future. They hired Dunphy to win now, too, like he has done at his Big 5 brethren, Penn and Temple, because he can. With the transfer portal and Dunphy’s rooted connections in the city and suburbs, along with his proven coaching ability, La Salle can win again.

“In my conversations with Fran, he has made it clear that he still has a passion for coaching and a burning desire to help his alma mater," Vice President for Athletics & Recreation Brian Baptiste said in a statement. “I know he's excited to get to work and I know our student-athletes will benefit from having him as the leader of our program."

You have to believe that Dunphy is returning to 20th and Olney only after he was assured he would receive the resources needed to win in the Atlantic 10 Conference. And you would expect on top of the list of needs is renovation of the on-campus Tom Gola Arena.

The Explorers haven't had a winning record since the 2014-15 season. The 2012-13 season is the only time La Salle made the NCAA tournament since joining the Atlantic 10 in 1995.

Dunphy replaces Ashley Howard, who didn’t post a winning record in four seasons on the bench, including going 13-19 last season.

Howard isn’t the only member of the Explorers who is gone as more than half the team is now in the transfer portal. So winning right away will be a challenge, but the 1970 grad has won big in 30 years at Penn (1989-06) and Temple (2006-19), posting almost 600 victories and 24 winning seasons. His teams have competed in 17 NCAA Tournaments.  

Dunphy, who played on the 1968-69 team coached by the great Gola that finished 23-1 and No. 2 in the final Associated Press Top 25 Poll, was an assistant on La Salle's 1979-80 squad that earned a trip to the NCAA Tournament with Michael Brooks, who earned National Player of the Year.

After five seasons as an assistant at American, he returned to La Salle's staff from 1985-88 with Speedy Morris when he helped recruit Lionel Simmons, who went on to score over 3,000 career points and to win the National Player of the Year, from South Philadelphia High.

In 1989, Dunphy was named head coach of Penn, where he won 10 Ivy League titles and collected nine 20-win seasons in 17 years. 

In 2006, he replaced Naismith Hall of Famer John Chaney at Temple where he took the Owls to eight NCAA tourneys in his 13 years, including seven consecutive seasons from 2007-13.

Dunphy, the all-time winningest coach in Big 5 history and the only coach to coach more than one Big 5 men's team, is a Philly basketball treasure.

"We are so proud to introduce Fran Dunphy as our head men's basketball coach," said William W. Matthews, III, Esq., '90, Chair of La Salle University's Board of Trustees. "Coach Dunphy is committed to excellence. He has demonstrated over his tremendous career that he knows how to develop players who achieve success on the court and in the classroom.” 

And, to win, like Dunphy has done at Penn and Temple.


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