One of the nice things about playing a John Chaney team was that you always
pretty much knew what to expect: highly conservative offense, always a
zone defense, players go out after two early fouls, usually two or three guys
who are about 6-10 and 295 (there's one left: Anthony Ivory, 6-10, 300
lbs). But Fran Dunphy? We have no clue what to expect.
Chances are he'll call his former boss Gary Williams to ask him what to do
with Duke, and given his deep affection for the Devils, Gary may call him first.
Dunphy had a superb career at Penn, at one point winning 48 straight games
and posting winning records against every other team in the Ivy League.
Only Princeton was even close to Penn's standard. You might think
dominating the Ivy League is easy, but it's probaby easier to dominate the
ACC. Recruiting to schools with stiff entrance standards and no athletic
scholarships means your margin for error is nil.
At 6-5, Temple is a middling team so far, no great surprise in a coaching
transition. But over the last years under John Chaney, they were deteriorating
and winning less and less often.
Part of this was due to his suicidal scheduling; Chaney wanted to play as
many tough teams as possible, consequences be damned. It was admirable, but he
didn't always have the talent to do it.
Dunphy changed this immediately: the contract with Duke mandated a game
this year, but the wins have come against Rutgers, Long Beach, Western Michigan,
Towson, Ball State, and Lafayette. Western Michigan and Ball State have
had some good stretches in recent years, and we'd bet on Rutgers improving
rapidly in the next few years. But not this year.
The losses came to Kent State, a team we respect a great deal, Buffalo,
Cincinnati, Drexel, and Villanova.
It's not a wretched schedule, but it's a (wise) step down from what Chaney
put his team through annually.
Statistically, the team is a bit different as well, with three players
getting most of the scoring opportunities: Dionte Christmas is averaging
20.8, Dustin Salisbery 17.2, and Mark Tyndale 14.4, respectively.
Under Chaney, the offense was fairly rigid and, well, maybe ossified.
We admired him a great deal in some ways, in particular his determination to use his program to lift as many young black men out of poverty as he could, but his teams were not fun to watch.
We can get some idea of what to expect from last year's Duke-Penn game, when
Dunphy, clearly out-talented, still managed to give Duke a game. His team
lost 72-59, but they gave Duke a game.
They took 21 three pointers, made eight, and despite being considerably
smaller, outrebounded Duke 34-27.
It was an early December game, but still, they came prepared.
On the other hand, Penn had had Dunphy for years and his system was in place
and successful; at Temple, he inherits players who were used to some very
It may take them time to unlearn Chaney's lessons, which is not to say that
they're all bad. But they won't work with another coach.
And Dunphy is suddenly getting a much better class of athletes, and he may
find that the compromises he had to make to succeed at Penn are no longer
At Princeton, Pete Carrill found that he could overcome the talent gap by
designing a precise offense which took good care of the ball, put multiple
stresses on the defense, and exploited the slightest openings.
We don't know Dunphy well enough to know how he did it, but we're guessing
that he's like a guy who won races in a Peugot and suddenly got the keys to a
Mustang: of course he's going to race differently with different tools.
In their latest outing, against Villanova, Temple hung close until early in
the second half. Their leading rebounder, Dion Dacons, hurt his right foot
(again) and is questionable for the Duke game.
It turns out that Dunphy and Coach K go back - they
played together on military teams when they were both in the army and remain
And Philly native Gerald Henderson knows the kids on Temple's team well.,
telling the Herald-Sun that "Mark Tyndale, Salisbery
and Dionte Christmas -- those are guys I worked out with all summer. And
Luis Guzman, I played AAU basketball with him for like three years. They've got
some good players over there."
He's correct; they do. They also have a lot of
adjustments to make, from (we're assuming here) no more 5 a.m. practices to more
offensive freedom and a different defensive philosophy. But the guy's a
solid coach with some pretty good players. Duke will be favored, and
should be, but it's not like this is going to be a guaranteed win or anything.
Odds are it'll be anything but.