Temple basketball coach Fran Dunphy had sported his trademark mustache for 40 years, going back to his days in the Army. But today at the Liacouras Center he shaved it off, in front of an amused crowd and a row of cameras capturing the moment, for the best of reasons.
A couple of years ago he made a promise. Now it was time to keep his word, because this summer former Owls standout Dionte Christmas took an online elective class that gave him the final three credits necessary to earn his degree in African-American Studies.
"It’s not a story about me," Dunphy said. "I’m just proud to be part of these guys’ lives. I’d do it once a year, by the way. I got a text from a former player who said, ‘I’m sure you hope he doesn’t go to grad school. Then what would you have to get rid of?’
"I’m proud of him. I’m proud of Temple, for giving him the opportunity, [former] coach [John] Chaney and his staff. Everyone’s contributed in this. I beat [Dionte] up pretty good about not getting his degree in a timely fashion, because he was so close and has worked so hard."
Christmas is the second person in his family to get a college degree. He helped the Owls win the first two of their three consecutive Atlantic 10 titles and has spent the last two seasons playing professionally overseas.
"[Dunphy] always brought it up," Christmas said. "I was almost afraid to come back here. At first I thought it was a joke. Then I knew it was real. That was a motivation, too."
Maybe he should have taken the class that Dunphy teaches?
"I wish," Christmas said, smiling. "Actually, I don’t."
It took mere minutes to erase four decades. Dunphy said his wife has never seen him without the mustache. "She wasn’t all that fired up," he noted.
Athletic director Bill Bradshaw wore a fake one for the occasion. "I told him 20 years ago that if he ever shaved his off, I’d grow mine," he explained.
Everyone had a good time. Why not? They were, after all, there to celebrate something.
"I have no idea what’s underneath it; I had a doughnut this morning . . . " Dunphy said, before the shaving began. "It’s about the wackiest thing I’ve ever done. I’m way more nervous than any game I had the chance to play in or coach. Where’s coach Chaney when I need him? I’m thinking about just shaving one side, to see what it looks like."
Actually, he didn’t look so bad with a hairless upper lip.
"I don’t know what to do, to be honest," he admitted. "I should have marketed this better. But it won’t take too long to get it back."
At least, hopefully, until there’s a good enough reason to have a next time.