DAYTON, Ohio — At 11:36 p.m. Tuesday, Fran Dunphy walked out of his last locker room, to walk down a hallway inside the University of Dayton Arena to his last news conference. Owls senior Shizz Alston got out to the hallway first, then Nate Pierre-Louis, wearing a towel over his head. The emotions hung heavy. Pierre-Louis kind of collapsed onto Alston’s shoulder. They started walking, Dunphy right behind them, box score in his right hand, cheeks red.
Up a steep ramp, into a news conference room, behind a curtain, waiting for Belmont coach Rick Byrd to finish up. Two more questions. Dunphy could hear Byrd from behind the curtain, but he wasn’t in there when Byrd had said he’d been fully prepared to be happy for Dunphy. Byrd had said, “He is really one of, if not the best guy in our business, and a quality man. And this game will miss him.”
The Temple group was behind the curtain hearing the Belmont coach talk about how the Bruins expected to get to Jacksonville about 4 o’clock in the morning, the hotel by 5. That had been Temple’s plan, too.
Temple’s turn. There were questions and answers about where Belmont had found space for a couple of three-pointers, about different players who impacted the game in different ways, the pace of the game.’
For the record, final score of Dunphy’s final Temple game: Belmont 81, Temple 70.
Had it hit Dunphy yet that this was the end?
“No, I’m just disappointed for the guys that we’re not able to continue on and go to Jacksonville and play against a team like the University of Maryland,’’ Dunphy said. “And give a lot of credit to to Belmont. They’re a good team. Rick does a great job of coaching them.”
His best defensive player couldn’t have done a better job of deflecting the question away from his emotions. Dunphy went on a little more about Belmont’s star forward and how Pierre-Louis did a terrific job on him, but the guy did nothing crazy, let the game come to him, stayed a critical piece to their game plan even though he wasn’t scoring.
“But, no, to answer your question,’’ Dunphy said, returning at hand. “I haven’t thought too much about it. I will reflect in the coming days. And again, I’m very appreciative of what Temple University gave to me, what the University of Pennsylvania gave to me. And I’m a pretty fortunate guy.”
The questions returned to the game, about this run or that bit of foul trouble.
About one big shot that Belmont hit, Dunphy said he thought Alston had been in good defensive position.
“It would be nice to see on the film,’’ Dunphy said.
News conference ended, Dunphy stopped on the ramp.
He’d called Phil Martelli that morning. A day that ended with Dunphy’s last Temple game started with the news that Martelli had already coached his last St. Joe’s game.
“He’s apologizing to me that he didn’t call me — because it’s game day,” Dunphy said. “What, are you kidding?”
What does he do next?
“I’ll take a deep breath, settle back, see where Shizz is going to go, what’s happening with him,’’ Dunphy said, mentioning that he hoped Alston would play in the college all-star game held at the Final Four. “There’ll be a lot to do.”
How does he feel about how he’s leaving things for Aaron McKie, who now takes over?
“Pretty good,’’ Dunphy said, ticking off the players ready to contribute. “Aaron is going to do great. So I’ll feel good about it.”
Does he feel sad about leaving the coaching ranks?
“Uh, no, I’m at peace with it,’’ Dunphy said. “I’m very much at peace. I’ve been the luckiest guy I know. I’m not sad; I’m grateful.”
Whatever he can do for any of these guys, he said he’ll do.
Anything he wants to do that he hasn’t done?
“You know what I probably should do, finish my doctorate,’’ Dunphy said. “But I’m probably too lazy to do that.”
Is he sure he is done coaching? Even his closest friends wonder about that one.
Dunphy kind of laughed.
“Does anybody out there ever say never?’’ Dunphy said.
Was he really going to watch the film?