La Salle officially announced on Tuesday evening the appointment of Fran Dunphy as the men’s basketball coach. The university is his school.
Dunphy, the first to hold the position of men’s basketball coach at two big 5 schools after long distances in both Penn and Temple, is about to make it three schools. So what is already a unique coaching career in Philadelphia veers into never-before-seen territory.
“During my time at La Salle, I have met many enthusiastic alumni who exemplify what it means to be an explorer,” said Brian Baptiste, La Salle sporting director. “Fran Dunphy is at the top of that list, and to be able to present him as the 20th head coach in La Salle men’s basketball history is an honor and a privilege. In my conversations with Fran, he made it clear that he still has a passion for coaching and a burning desire to help his alma mater. I know he Excited to go to work and know that our student-athletes will benefit from having him as the leader of our program.”
The news was first reported by The Inquirer. According to several sources, Dunphy takes the job after himself trying to persuade several other people, including former assistant Matt Langel, now successful manager of Colgate, to take him. One alumnus close to him said Dunphy’s interest in the institution itself goes beyond the basketball program.
If that sounds lofty, consider it in the context of a fundraising project to renovate Tom Gola Arena that needs to get to the finish line. Also remember that Dunphy, now 73, agreed to be the temporary athletic director of Temple Temple early in the pandemic. This is not a man’s first difficult job.
Heading La Salle is one of the toughest basketball assignments. Between the lack of 10 quality facilities in Atlantic, and most of the current team now in the transfer gate, it’s the heaviest lifts.
Dunphy will replace Ashley Howard, leave him after the 13-19 season, as his fourth in charge of the Explorers. In 30 seasons as a head coach at Penn and Temple, Dunphy has had 24 winning seasons, and has gone to the NCAA Championship 17 times. But this is not about beautifying the resume. It’s about a native son going back to his school, trying to make it relevant, or keeping it from sinking further. One source said Dunphy would only take the job if the school listened when he told her the program needed something, no questions asked. Several sources said that it was Dunphy who could make the phone calls and bring the old guard alumni back to support the program again.
“La Salle has given me so much over the years,” Dunphy said in the statement. “It gave me the opportunity to be part of multiple teams as a student-athlete, the chance to make lifelong friendships, and helped shape the man I am today. I can’t wait to work with the young people on the team, reintroduce myself to the campus community, and help my alma mater in any way I can. possible.”
On the day Howard was abandoned, La Salle sent a note to alumni from the president’s office indicating that La Salle’s Board of Trustees had approved “the next phase of the design process for the arena project,” with outside fundraising continuing. And then the main part: “In 2013, the university received a restricted planned gift, generously donated by John Glaser,” 62, specifically to support the arena project. In order to use this real estate gift, which is currently valued at $6.2 million, the plaza project will need to start work during the calendar year 2023. The university will fund this project exclusively through charitable contributions.”
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Dunphy was an assistant at La Salle during some of his glory years under Speedy Morris. He came off the bench himself as a sophomore and young explorer. In his final season, Dunphy averaged 19 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists per game.
From the start, this quest was more than just basketball. It was also about waiting to see if Dunphy could be persuaded to take it. There is a precedent, indicated by the La Salle alum near Dunphy, and Dunphy is well aware of it. When former Dunphy coach Jim Harding, after one turbulent pro year, also left La Salle with NCAA problems that kept them, out of that post-season 1968-1969 season, Tom Jolla, the school’s greatest basketball alum, and at the time he took over In which the City Superintendent of Philadelphia is responsible. The Explorers finished 23-1, and Dunphy was a prime reserve during the junior season.
“La Salle needed him,” Dunphy himself said in 2014, days after Jula’s death. “It is possible that he did not have the time, but he had such time, to help anyone who needed him.”
This time around, multiple sources said huge numbers of La Salle alumni beat up Dunphy, urging him to go home to his alma mater. One of the phone conversations, according to someone who heard the end of the call, was with Morris, his old boss. Maurice tells Dunphy that he’s earned the right to a nice retirement, to play all the golf he wants. Morris said he was sure Dunphy was hearing all kinds of people say either “Take it” or “Are you crazy?” It’s your decision, said Morris.
Then Speedy couldn’t help himself: “But I want you to take this job!”