Fran Dunphy is entering his final season as Temple men's basketball coach. He will be replaced by assistant coach and former Temple star Aaron McKie after the season.
It will be Dunphy's 13th season at Temple and 30th overall as a head coach, with the first 17 at Penn. He has a combined 557-315 record. We talked to Dunphy recently about his final season guiding the Owls.
Has anything changed because this is the last year? Has Aaron gotten more responsibility, or is it business as usual?
Fran Dunphy: "It is sort of business as usual, but let's say when an incoming potential recruit comes in, then our conversations are different. I can say things about Aaron that he may not want to say about himself, how I can praise his basketball coaching abilities and the quality of the person and all of those things that he may be uncomfortable saying. It is more of that. And at the end of the conversation, I am saying I won't be your coach, but I certainly want you to come to Temple because I think it is a great place to come to school, but Aaron McKie will be fantastic as your head coach. That is really the only thing that has changed. I like to think I give great ownership to not only the coaching staff, but the players as well."
Are you running practices fully, or do you let Aaron do more?
FD: "We are pretty much the same. These guys [the assistant coaches] will sit in a room and talk about — they have been doing this for a number of years now — planning the practice. Now I have my own idea how I want to get it done, but I want their input on this. I want what should we work on today, a little bit of zone look? How should we be off the ball? All sorts of examples like that. Essentially, I am running the show and handing out the minutes, going over strategy with them as to how we are going to play. So it is business as usual that way."
Have you not been as much on the recruiting trail?
FD: "For the summer, I did [recruit]. That was business as usual. We talked a lot about it, have seen a lot of kids. In the end, Aaron's going to be the end product."
Will you savor this year even more knowing that this is it as a head coach at Temple?
FD: "I think I have been so fortunate and valued every moment I have had in the coaching world, but what I have to do is ensure that the players on this year's team are getting every ounce of energy, enthusiasm and desire to succeed at this, as I ever have had. So we just want to have a really good year and not make too much of [the pending coaching change], and we want to win and be the best Temple basketball team we can be. I am appreciative of the guys and how they are working and appreciative of the staff and how hard they are preparing."
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When this first happened, you said the book might not be closed on your coaching career. Do you still feel that way?
FD: "After the season is over, there will be somewhat of a great unknown. Who knows what is going to take place? I have been asked to do a number of things here, which I will look forward to, but who knows what else will be on the horizon. I am not thinking about that. What I am thinking about every single day is trying to make our team better. That is what these guys deserve, and I want to give to them."
How hard is it for a private guy like you to go through a season in which you will hear the same questions all the time about you?
FD: "I will answer it just like I am answering it with you. It's the way of the world, and I'll do whatever I need to do. But at some point, it is business as usual and let's make it about the student-athlete, rather than about anything else."
When the administration first broached this situation with you, my guess is you couldn't have been happy.
FD: "It was a long conversation. It wasn't just 'This is what we are going to do.' We had a long conversation about it."
Over many days?
FD: "Yes. So the transition looked good to me as we talked about it. And something that — I would love to do this forever. I know I can't, so this is the transition that is going to be made now with Aaron, I think is terrific. I think the timing of it is good, that he will do a wonderful, wonderful job. So I am happy for him. I am happy for Temple. I am happy for the players. The transition will be smooth, and that is how I am looking at it."
Are you happy for yourself, only because I know the passion you have for coaching?