Dunphy attempts to fill Chaney's huge shoes
- When he took over as head basketball coach at Temple, Fran Dunphy immediately installed an open-door policy.APDunphy still will make annual appearances at the Palestra.
Really, it's for his players, the ones getting used to the first new coach at Temple in 24 years. Dunphy wants them to be able to come in to say hello, to talk hoops, to just get to know their new leader.
Dunphy also had a far less altruistic reason for leaving the door open.
He figured John Chaney would just knock it over anyway.
"When he wants to come in, he's going to come in," Dunphy said with a laugh. "Not much stops him."
Dunphy has the difficult task of not only replacing a coach, but stepping in for an icon. Chaney's bug-eyed, shirtsleeves-rolled-up, tie-skewed figure has been more the school's mascot than the Owl that parades around the Temple sidelines. He was the face of the university, a lightning rod of a coach who threatened to kill John Calipari, admitted to sending in a "goon" to stop illegal screens against rival Saint Joseph's and will, with just the slightest provocation, verbally attack the President of the United States ... at a sports banquet.
And as much as he represented Temple, Chaney also served as the face of the Atlantic 10. Certainly in recent years, St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli has emerged as a national personality and both Xavier and George Washington have enjoyed success on the big stage, but if you're looking for staying power, that goes to Chaney. He's the man who carried the league through its down years and helped it soar during its heydays, the man not only in the Basketball Hall of Fame but the subject of a special exhibit there this summer.
"I think when you lose someone like John, it leaves a void not just in our conference but in college basketball," said Atlantic 10 commissioner Linda Bruno. "He is one of the few people who will leave a mark not just on his institution, but on his sport. Not many of us get to say that."
The folks on North Broad Street never could have found another Chaney. That mold was broken when coaches started getting their suits hand-tailored. You'd be hard-pressed, though, to find someone more Chaney's opposite than Dunphy. Dunphy's is a sly wit, a man who smirks behind his mustache and is subtle in his humor and his personality.
Subtle? No one would ever accuse Chaney of that. His press conferences were legendary, a place where desperate sports reporters went in search of a story line and left with notebooks full of one-liners and too many angles to choose from. Even his final goodbye, a monologue more than a Q&A that ended with his scripted, "Excuse me while I disappear," was more a one-man show than press conference.
"He's a tremendous figure in Temple, in Philadelphia and in college basketball," Dunphy said of Chaney. "He's a phenomenal figure in our sport. For me to succeed him is an unbelievable task for me. You're never going to have a day where you don't think about him.
"I'm different. I'm just a regular everyday Joe. But he gave me some great advice. He told me you have to be who you are."
Though universally liked and respected, Dunphy's hiring was met with some criticism and skepticism, mostly from people who wanted to keep the Temple job in the family. Most of the other candidates -- ex-players Mark Macon and Rick Brunson and former assistant coach Dan Leibovitz among them -- had Temple ties and, more, John Chaney ties. Though Dunphy only came from across town, some viewed him as an outsider.
His transitional phase was eased somewhat at the outset when Chaney appeared at the press conference to announce Dunphy's hiring, stepping to the dais to offer his successor a warm embrace.
Dunphy made his first charge getting to know the shell-shocked players left in the wake. Of all the people perhaps most affected by the stark change in personality, none likely felt the cosmic shift more than them, kids accustomed to the grumpy SOB who never failed to cry during a senior night.
"Even when we were doing right, he'd tell us we were doing wrong," senior Dustin Salisbery said. "But he'd always be there to defend you, too. He was the only one allowed to cuss you out.
"Coach Dunphy, I don't know how he is on the court yet. I know he's a real competitive guy, but he probably doesn't cuss as much as coach Chaney, which will be easier to deal with."
Though Salisbery knew Dunphy had done well at Penn, he knew few details before Temple hired him. He isn't alone.
While seeing Penn or Princeton on the line on Selection Sunday has become an annual event, few outside of the Ivy League and the confines of Philly truly appreciate what Dunphy did there. He took a program without scholarships and with a high price tag and made it into a consistent winner. The Quakers won 310 games and 10 Ivy League titles in Dunphy's 17 years, posting nine 20-win seasons and even earning spots in the Top 25 in 1994 and 1995, a rarity for Ancient Eight teams.
Few doubt the man knows his hoops. What people wonder is do Dunphy and his staff -- basically his entire Penn bench crew has crossed from West Philly to North Philly -- have what it takes to recruit with the big boys? Can Dunphy, accustomed to selling the Wharton School, sell North Broad Street?
These, after all, are coaches who have been looking at a different type of athlete, worrying about SAT scores, but not in quite the same way as his brethren.
"I think a lot of people don't realize that the Ivy League is really difficult and Fran enjoyed great success with a lot of limitations," Bruno said. "Now he's able to offer scholarships and play different nights of the week. He can recruit kids he couldn't before. I see no reason why he wouldn't succeed."
Dunphy insists that recruiting is really no different, that although he can get "in" with a different caliber of athlete, it's still about building relationships and trust in the end. While outsiders are curious about the sort of player he will bring to campus, Dunphy doesn't believe that he, along with Dave Duke, Matt Langel and Shawn Trice (Langel and Trice are Penn graduates) will be any different than any other crew sitting on an Atlantic 10 bench. They've already landed one recruit for this season -- Ryan Brooks, a 6-4 guard out of Lower Merion High School, alma mater to one Kobe Bryant -- and have, he said, offered a few other scholarships for next year.
"You're not saying to yourself quite as often, 'Let's make sure we get that transcript right away," Dunphy said. "We're still asking for transcripts, but it's a different perspective."
In some ways, Dunphy is lucky. He will get a mulligan this season as he inherits a program rich on tradition but poor in the way of recent success. The Owls have not made the NCAA Tournament since 2001, a drought previously unheard of under Chaney. Always less than pretty offensively, Temple has been downright difficult to watch, a plodding offensive team that managed to score just 34 points in a loss to Massachusetts this past season.
No one expects Dunphy to come in and run away with the league. The early gauge says Xavier has the inside edge, with Saint Louis setting up as a nice sleeper and perhaps even Massachusetts on the brink of returning to the league's top tier.
"The interesting thing last year was Temple had a pretty decent nonconference record but they struggled in our conference," Bruno said. "That's because we were pretty good. We had some parity last year and I think this year, you can't say, 'Well this team lost these two guys, so they aren't going to be any good anymore.' That just doesn't happen."
If Dunphy does have one advantage over others who might have walked into Chaney's Gucci loafers, it is location, location, location. His new office sits three miles from his old one. He doesn't have to introduce himself to the city and its media, doesn't have to relocate his family. He just needs to drive a different way on the Schuylkill Expressway. And thanks to the Big 5, he is more than familiar with the other teams in Philadelphia, two of which just happen to play in the Atlantic 10.
That, however, doesn't mean that seeing his neatly pressed shirt on the sidelines instead of Chaney's rumpled ensemble won't take some adjusting.
"It's going to be strange looking over at that bench and not seeing Coach Chaney," Salisbery said. "That's something we all have to get used to, but everything changes with time."
Duquesne's Sam Ashaolu is a cousin of Hakeem Olajuwon. The 6-7 power forward averaged 15.3 points and 6.3 rebounds for Lake Region State College in Toronto and shot 53.7 percent from the field. He has two years of eligibility remaining.
In good years and in bad, for better or for worse, fans flock to the UD Arena to watch their Flyers. For the seventh year in a row, U of D finished in the top 25 in national attendance, pulling in at 23rd this year despite a 14-17 record.
Dayton's Andres Sandoval is back in the league after a one-year hiatus. Originally a guard at Richmond, Sandoval transferred last year to Santa Fe Community College. Now he's back in the A-10, wearing a Flyers jersey and likely starting in the backcourt.
Hottest home visit
In December, Massachusetts coach Travis Ford returns to his ole Kentucky home as the Minutemen take on his alma mater Wildcats at Rupp Arena. A week later, UMass pays a visit on one of its famous alums, meeting Rick Pitino at Freedom Hall for a date against Louisville. "Every single day I wake up, I'm more concerned about that, that I bit off more than I can chew," Ford said.
Charlotte led the Atlantic 10 in 3-pointers made, sinking an average of eight per game. Don't expect coach Bobby Lutz to change that philosophy now with Curtis Withers gone and wingmen De'Angelo Alexander and Leemire Goldwire in line as the best scoring threats.
It has to go to the guy sitting in the head coach's spot at Duquesne. That chair is like basketball's execution chair. Ron Everhart, who took over for Danny Nee this year, becomes the sixth head coach at Duquesne since 1989. That's an average lifespan of 2.8 years. "Two or three months in at Northeastern, my high school coach called me and said, 'Well, how is it?' " Everhart said. "I told him I forgot how hard it is to have a competitive Division I program. I think I'm feeling the same way right now."
Most people go to the Bahamas to chill. Travis Ford hopes his players go to the Bahamas to scrap.
Taking advantage of the NCAA rule that allows teams to take a summer trip every four years, Ford will pack up his Minutemen next week for a weeklong stop in the islands. UMass will play five games but Ford is more interested in seeing his club sort out its lineup.
"We're the poster child for this sort of trip," Ford said. "We can take every player on our team except one (by rule, freshmen aren't permitted to participate). Practices are going to be very interesting. We can go 10-, 11- or even 12-deep, but obviously I'm looking for the best five."
Ford took what he called a calculated risk last year, opting to accept three transfers (Gary Forbes from Virginia, Luke Bonner from West Virginia and Etienne Bower from Boston University) plus one academic casualty (Tiki Mayben) who he knew couldn't help his team immediately.
It hurt at first. With just seven scholarship players to choose from, the Minutemen struggled to a 13-15 finish, a mark better than Ford had hoped for in his rookie season but still not great no matter how you slice it.
"We could have won three or four more games last year if I didn't take those transfers, but that's not what it's about," Ford said. "It's about getting this program consistently back on top. These are some very good recruits who will make us a better team and already are bringing better players in."
Now with those players eligible, plus four starters returning, Ford finds himself with a nicer numbers problem. He's hoping the trip to the Bahamas not only will help him get the early line on a starting lineup, but also give the players a nice lesson in ego reduction.
"We'll do a lot of team-building projects, things off the court to build team chemistry," he said. "We have a lot of players with big reputations on this team, so dealing with the egos could be our biggest challenge. We want them to figure out early on that it takes everybody to win. We want them to stay very grounded."
* * *
As he answered his cellphone, Ron Everhart quickly apologized for the noise in the background. He was in a Pittsburgh area deli grabbing lunch.
Miraculously he wasn't in a gym somewhere.
No one has worked the recruiting trail harder than the Duquesne coach this summer. Hired in March to replace Danny Nee, Everhart watched his roster slowly dwindle to two as players graduated or transferred out of the school. Left with little choice, he and his staff scoured the country looking for players, signing 10 new faces in six weeks.
"I tell you what, it's been interesting," Everhart said with a laugh.
No stranger to overhauling programs, Everhart instead is somewhat of a basketball do-it-yourself junkie. He turned both McNeese State and Northeastern into winners, and when Duquesne, a perennial cellar-dweller in the Atlantic 10, came calling, he jumped at a fixer-upper once again.
Everhart admits he likes the satisfaction of seeing something built from nothing, but liked the fact that this particular job isn't far from his Fairmont, W.V., hometown. After 13 years in Louisiana (seven at McNeese plus six as an assistant at Tulane) and five more in Boston, he and his family relished the chance to be near family, particularly 7-year-old twins Ronnie and Gianna who can see the grandparents regularly.
This job, though, could be Everhart's toughest. Duquesne hasn't had a winning record in 12 years, hasn't sniffed an NCAA bid since 1977 and has finished either next to last or dead last in the conference since 1994.
Those 10 players he brought to town were sold more on the job he did at Northeastern -- turning a team that averaged nine wins in the six seasons prior to Everhart's arrival into 19-, 21-, and 19-game winners in his final three years and earning the school's first postseason berth, a 2005 NIT bid -- and the promise of lots of playing time than the tradition of the program.
"The mind-set was that Duquesne was holding up the Atlantic 10 from the bottom," Everhart said. "The program hasn't been good. The tradition hasn't been good. The only thing we could point to was it's a great school that offers a great education in a great city.
"The bigger part we still have to overcome, and that's changing the culture around here. That goes from our players' mentality to the way things are done here, everything from admissions to academic support to strength and conditioning, all of the little things you rely so heavily upon. That's always a difficult task, because it takes time. But Duquesne is committed to having a strong basketball program and that's the first step in climbing the ladder to changing a mind-set."
In the short term, Everhart has to put a team on the floor. He still has one scholarship left to give and said he'll likely get another back because one of his incoming players isn't likely to qualify. Though tempted to shore up this roster even more, he said he'd probably sit on those last two offers and use them for next year's class, when he has more time to really evaluate talent.
As for what to expect from the Dukes this year, Everhart pulls no punches.
"That's a great question and I don't even think I can answer that," he said. "I think my first expectation is to field a complete roster. Second, these kids will play hard, go to class, work hard, be accountable and be responsible. Right now, if we can establish that framework, that's all I can expect. That would help us significantly down the road."
* * *
Linda Bruno walked the boardwalk in Atlantic City on a recent July weekend and found herself drinking in the sights.
Not the sunbathers or happy couples, not the kids with ice cream cones dripping down their elbows or the retirement community busloads pushing quarters into the slot machines. It was the banners fluttering outside Boardwalk Hall that Bruno couldn't stop gazing at. Eight months before it's to begin, the Atlantic 10 Tournament already isgetting publicity in Atlantic City.
"They're used to promoting events there," said Bruno, the conference commissioner.
Moving the Atlantic 10 Tournament to Atlantic City is a risk. The league has never played outside a conference-member city, moving the tournament from its 14-year home in Philadelphia, where three member schools reside, to Dayton in 2003 and 2004 and then Cincinnati (home to Xavier) in 2005 and last year.
Now it's in Trump Land, a good 90-minute ride from Philly and the nearest Atlantic 10 schools.
"For the first time, our tournament will be in a destination city," Bruno said. "We're hoping that people will come to Atlantic City, and even if their team loses, will stay and enjoy all of the entertainment."
As for the worries about college sports being conducted within inches of blinking slots and rolling dice, Bruno said she doesn't think there's a problem at all. For starters, the teams won't be bunking down at any of Trump's casinos, or even the swanky Borgata. They'll all be staying in non-gaming hotels.
And while AC is the East Coast's biggest gambling outpost, she said it still isn't Sin City.
"The kind of gambling in Atlantic City, that's not the type we're talking about being a problem on college campuses," Bruno said. "There, we're talking about sports gambling, and they don't have it in Atlantic City."
Have an opinion or just want to see what our users think about the conference? Click here for SportsNation's Atlantic 10 poll page.The top A-10 story linesCharlotte: For four years, the 49ers knew they could count on Curtis Withers. The three-time first-team all-league selection (in the A-10 and C-USA) served as the 6-foot-8 anchor for Charlotte. All good things come to an end -- or in this case, use up their eligibility. Still, coach Bobby Lutz has plenty to work with, and if junior college transfer Carlos Williams can assume the point guard duties with ease, the 49ers should be strong again.
Dayton: Young but talented, the Flyers struggled to a 14-17 finish last year with super sophomore Brian Roberts doing much of the scoring as well as playing the point. With the addition of some junior college help in the form of Andres Sandoval, Roberts should be able to slide over to his natural shooting guard position -- good news for him and Dayton.
Duquesne: The latest in a long line of coaches assigned the job of resurrecting the Duquesne program goes to Ron Everhart. The coach has done this before, turning both McNeese State and Northeastern into winners, but this job could be his toughest yet. In the past five years, the Dukes have won only five league games, and thanks to a rash of transfers after Danny Nee's dismissal, are down to two returning players.
Fordham: Now that Dereck Whittenburg isn't going to NC State, the Rams can get back to the business of rebuilding. A respectable 16-16 last year, Fordham expects more this year thanks to the addition of Penn State transfer Marlon Smith, a point guard, and the return of talented big man Bryant Dunston, who led the league in field goal percentage (53.5 percent), was sixth in scoring (16.1 ppg) and fifth in rebounding (7.6 rpg).
George Washington: With 60 percent of its offense graduated and/or off to the NBA from last year's 27-3 team, the Colonials need new faces to take over. First among them is Maureece Rice. A talented sixth man who shot 45.7 percent from the field a year, Rice is a capable scorer and should serve as a compliment to Carl Elliott, the point guard who sent waves of happiness throughout D.C. when he elected to withdraw his name from the NBA draft. "To say 'starting over,' [those are bad words]," coach Karl Hobbs said. "Our program is at a point where I think we can be competitive every year, and that's what I expect -- that we'll be a good team again next year. But right now, we're a hard team to predict because how we'll do depends on so many unknowns. Maureece will be one of the keys to this team. He has to be an impact player."
La Salle: Atlantic 10 player of the year Steven Smith is gone, but the Explorers are hardly dead. Second-year coach John Giannini proved his mettle last year by guiding La Salle through the turbulent waters of an alleged rape scandal (two players were acquitted, a third had the charges dropped) to a surprising 18-10 record. He hit the recruiting trail hard, bringing in a highly touted class anchored by Philly guys Brian Grimes and Rodney Green plus Kimmani Barrett out of New Jersey's Paterson Catholic -- all signs pointing that La Salle might just be rising from the ashes.
Massachusetts: The Ellis Island of the A-10, UMass welcomes three transfers to its active roster this year in Gary Forbes (from Virginia), Luke Bonner (from West Virginia) and Etienne Bower (from Boston University), but perhaps the most important newcomer will be Tiki Mayben. One of the top point guards in the high school class of 2005, Mayben originally was targeted to go to Syracuse, but when he didn't qualify academically, he changed direction and signed with the Minutemen. If he can pilot this team, the seeds of excitement growing in Amherst might just be realized. "I think UMass has the talent and now the experience," GW coach Karl Hobbs said. "To me, they've got the total package."
Rhode Island: Down the stretch last season, Jim Baron relied almost exclusively on seniors. He was hoping one of them might be back for another go this season, but leading scorer Dawan Robinson's application for a fifth year was denied, leaving Baron and URI with a young, albeit talented, roster. He has things pointed in the right direction, from 6-22 in 2005 to .500 in 2006 but will need these young players to gel quickly to take the next step.
Richmond: The Spiders have seven incoming freshmen, which in most cases would prove disastrous, but for Chris Mooney, that means seven players who come to town ready and willing (if not yet able) to play his Princeton-style offense. Last year, the Spiders simply could not grasp the Pete Carril model and struggled to a 13-17 record. Maybe new blood will help.
St. Bonaventure: Michael Lee and Paul Williams return to create a frontcourt tandem that should prove as an offensive force. A year ago, the pair combined for 28 points and 13 rebounds. That would be good news if the Bonnies' offense were the problem. It isn't. St. Bonaventure struggled to stop anyone last year, allowing 73 points per game. They were next-to-last in a down Atlantic 10 in scoring defense, finishing 8-20, and will continue to struggle if they don't right that ship.
Saint Joseph's: Late this spring, Abdullah Jalloh, who never quite saw eye-to-eye with Phil Martelli, requested and was granted a transfer, leaving the Hawks without their point guard, leading scorer and top rebounder. Normally that means bad things are coming but remember a year ago St. Joe's was in a big mess, with a lifeless 10-12 mark, and Martelli resurrected that into a 19-14 finish and a spot in the A-10 championship game. With solid returning players led by Rob Ferguson and a host of talented freshmen including Darrin Govens, a point guard from Chester High, alma mater to Saint Joe's deity Jameer Nelson, don't count the Hawks for dead just yet.
Saint Louis: The Billikens got some good news when forward Ian Vouyoukas decided to withdraw from the NBA draft. The senior-to-be enjoyed a breakout season last year, averaging 13.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.9 blocked shots a game. Add Tommie Liddell, the league's rookie of the year, in the backcourt and it's easy to understand why many are pointing to Saint Louis as a sleeper to watch this season.
Temple: There will be no more matchup zone. Practices will be in mid-afternoon, not before the rooster crows. Those are just a few of the changes that Fran Dunphy brings to North Philly as he takes over for John Chaney. Dunphy has talented returnees in Mark Tyndale and Dustin Salisbery, plus freshman point guard Luis Guzman, the only player from Chaney's last recruiting class coming to Temple, but he will have his hands full trying to get Temple back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2001.
Xavier: Pardon Sean Miller while he gloats. His Musketeers won the conference, finished 21-11 and might just be better this year. Sure, they'll miss the strength and talent of Brian Thornton and Will Caudle, but the X-men will put a starting five on the floor that remains pretty impressive. Stanley Burrell (14 points per game last year), Justin Doellman (11), Justin Cage (10.3) and Josh Duncan (9.1) are the returning players and the addition is nothing shy of a former McDonald's All-American -- Drew Lavender, a transfer from Oklahoma, makes his debut at the point.
Everyone lost key players, but the Atlantic 10 should still have some really competitive teams that are capable of beating almost anyone.
The key for the league in getting its share of at-large bids will be how the teams do in nonconference play. If the league shows well early, everyone will be elevated by the bounce of big-time, out-of-conference wins.
Xavier should be the best team in the long run. Sean Miller has been at the helm for long enough to get his system in and have all of his players trained in the way he wants them to play. Stanley Burrell is a good standstill jump shooter, Justin Doellman can do everything well, Justin Cage is tough and competitive, and Josh Duncan is a future star in the Atlantic 10. The key will be how Oklahoma transfer Drew Lavender handles the point. Lavender has speed and handling ability, but needs to be a good leader for this team.
George Washington might have lost Danilo "J.R." Pinnock and Pops Mensah-Bonsu, but Carl Elliott returns, and Elliott was the Colonials' best all-around player and best defender. Karl Hobbs will still want to play fast and push the tempo, and it will be up to others to adjust.
Charlotte has De'Angelo Alexander, Leemire Goldwire, and E.J. Drayton back in the lineup along with a very solid recruiting class that will play right away, headlined by David Booker and Carlos Williams. The 49ers will be a major factor in the league in just their second year.
UMass has a solid crop of newcomers to go around Rashaun Freeman, with Virginia transfer Gary Forbes, West Virginia transfer Luke Bonner, and high school All-American Tiki Mayben. Travis Ford's team will be talented and prepared to challenge in the Atlantic 10.
Dayton, Temple and Saint Joseph's will all be competitive for the upper division of the league, and all can be factors at the end of the year for the conference tournament crown.
In his very early look at the 2007 NCAA Tournament, resident Bracketologist Joe Lunardi thinks two Atlantic 10 teams will be dancing come March. He likes Xavier to nab the auto bid and defending champ GW to make it in as an at-large. Where are they seeded? Check out ...
2005-06 Standings Team League record Overall record Geo. Washington* 16-0 27-3 Charlotte 11-5 19-13 La Salle 10-6 18-10 Saint Louis 10-6 16-13 Saint Joseph's 9-7 19-14 Fordham 9-7 16-16 Xavier* 8-8 21-11 Temple 8-8 17-15 Rhode Island 8-8 14-14 UMass 8-8 13-15 Dayton 6-10 14-17 Richmond 6-10 13-17 St. Bonaventure 2-14 8-19 Duquesne 1-15 3-24 Leading returning scorers Player (Team) 2005-06 PPG De'Angelo Alexander (Charlotte) 17.0 Bryant Dunston (Fordham) 16.1 Brian Roberts (Dayton) 16.0 Stanley Burrell (Xavier) 14.4 Ian Vouyoukas (Saint Louis) 13.9