- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 18, 2009

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Fran Dunphy could not make the move until he made the call.

Yes, the Temple Owls were interested in the coach known affectionately as “Dunph.”

He’s a Philly guy who crafted a perennial Ivy League title team in 17 years at Penn _ a place where NCAA berths were as expected as the hot dog and soft pretzel cart outside the Palestra.

Before Dunphy left the comfort of coaching the Quakers, he had to reach out to John Chaney and get his support.

“He said to me clearly, he would not take that job if I didn’t endorse him,” Chaney said. “That’s somebody that I’ve loved, that’s somebody I’ve respected all these years. He’s perhaps one of the most respected persons all over this country.”

Once Chaney gave the OK, Dunphy was on his way to try and put Philadelphia’s team back on the national basketball landscape.

“We’re lucky that he only had to take two steps to come across town,” Chaney said.

Now Dunphy has the Owls (22-11) in the NCAA tournament for the second straight season, filling a line on the bracket that Chaney couldn’t reach in his final five seasons. Chaney may have left the Owls mired in mediocrity, but he did net one final solid recruiting class _ that included two-time Atlantic 10 scoring champion Dionte Christmas _ that has been as big a reason as any for Temple’s postseason run.

Chaney did one more favor for Temple when he vouched for Dunphy after the 2006 season. He assured the Owls of a smooth transition from a Hall of Famer to one of the top coaches in city hoops history.

“Franny is almost as calm as our new president,” Chaney said. “He’s clearly intelligent. He’s also a Philadelphia player and athlete that has experienced everything and anything. There’s nobody in this city that could tell you anything that could harm or disrupt or disconnect Fran Dunphy from what he’s accomplished.”

Dunphy has deep roots in Philadelphia basketball that stretch back more than 40 years to his high school days at Malvern Prep and his college career at La Salle, where he was co-captain under coach Tom Gola.

He earned a master’s degree at Villanova and is the first person to coach two Big 5 teams.

Dunphy spent 18 months in the Army and had a five-year stint as an assistant coach at American University. Other than those brief detours, he’s as Philly as the Liberty Bell. Only Dunphy hasn’t cracked.

“I didn’t have that issue where you’re trying to learn the city,” Dunphy said. “You’ve got to know what you’re getting into.”

Chaney, who led Temple to five NCAA regional finals in 24 seasons, paid Dunphy perhaps the greatest compliment on the coaching job he did this year.

“He’s been able to do more than I could have done,” Chaney said.

Bound by their mutual respect and love of Temple, the two coaches talk often, and Chaney made a congratulatory call after the Owls wrapped up another A-10 tournament title on Saturday. The 77-year-old Chaney was touched by Dunphy’s words.

“Hey, Coach, just want to let you know there are some angels and you’re watching over us,” Chaney said.

Dunphy plans at least one more chat with Chaney before the Owls leave for Miami and Friday’s first round game against No. 6 seed Arizona State.

“The only thing I ever say to him is make sure you don’t have turnovers,” Chaney said.

Turnovers, which Chaney deplored as much as any coach around, are a common theme in their talks.

“I imagine the matchup zone will come up in our conversation,” Dunphy said. “Zone usually comes up in our conversation. And turnovers. Not apple turnovers.”

No turnovers is more than an X’s and O’s gameplan. It’s a coaching philosophy at Temple. Dunphy prides himself as the caretaker of a program that’s had only four other coaches _ Chaney, Don Casey, Harry Litwack and Josh Cody _ since 1942.

Although Chaney is always a phone call away, he’s largely stayed out of the spotlight and let Dunphy and the Owls enjoy their success without him. Chaney popped up at senior night and when he was inducted into Temple’s Hall of Fame. When he does watch games at the Liacouras Center, he prefers a luxury box instead of a seat in the stands.

“Everybody comes up to me, and they want to talk about the game,” Chaney said. “I don’t want to talk about the game. I just want to enjoy the game on the floor.”

Chaney won’t be able to make the trip to Florida, but he’ll be watching and rooting for the Owls to advance out of the first weekend. Then he’ll wait for the weather to turn so he can enjoy another favorite passion of retirees.

“I’m waiting for the golf season to come around so I can hit my clubs,” he said.

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