In all his years as a head coach, first at Penn and now at Temple, Fran Dunphy has had no bigger admirer, no more avid cheerleader, than Phil Martelli, his rival coach at St. Joseph's.
No doubt that admiration has been influenced by the close personal relationship Martelli has long had with Dunphy, which is partly evidenced by the Coaches vs. Cancer fund-raising efforts the two of them have led.
Still, Martelli has long felt over the years that Dunphy's acumen as a coach has never been fully appreciated, and he believes he knows why.
"I say this lovingly, but he's boring. He's just Dunph," Martelli said yesterday as he prepared the struggling Hawks (9-17, 3-9 Atlantic Ten) for today's conference matchup against No. 21-ranked Temple (21-5, 9-2). "I think Fran Dunphy has been undervalued as a basketball coach in this area, because people concentrate on the fact he's such a good person and he does so much for the community, so people don't talk about what a great coach he is."
A man of deep humility, Dunphy shuns the spotlight. His teams are never about him. A fierce competitor? Yes. But he's a players' coach. He always funnels all credit to any of his players' success to them. As far as Dunphy is concerned, he'd just as soon blend into the woodwork. In Martelli's opinion, that's why Dunphy isn't fully appreciated on a broader level.
"In my time, we've had Rollie Massimino, the little rumpled Italian guy on the sideline," Martelli said. "We've had John Chaney, the taskmaster with the early-morning practices. We have [Villanova coach] Jay Wright, who has it all. He does a great job with the media. He's a great dresser. When I had my little run, it was the tongue-in-cheek stuff, I guess.
"With Dunph," he added before pausing, "he's boring."
Martelli said there's nothing complicated about the approach Dunphy employs to wring so much from his players.
"He demands that his players are going to guard you," he said. "They don't press much. There's not a lot of trapping. They've decided a certain part of the floor is going to be theirs - the three-point line and in - and every guy marches to that same tune defensively. Offensively, again, it's not complicated, but it's very efficient.
"Another thing that jumps out is Dunph has come up with a way of teaching and practicing that gets his guys to continue to improve and to develop over the course of their careers. And by winning the Atlantic Ten tournament the last two years, he's fostered a belief that winning is going to be the result of following his prescription, so to speak."
Even though the Owls and Hawks are far apart in the standings, today's game is meaningful for both. Temple is in a scramble for the top seed in the A-10 tourney. St. Joe's, which has lost six straight to Temple, is scrambling to avoid getting left out. The final two finishers in the conference won't qualify for the tourney, and the Hawks begin today in next-to-last place.
Dunphy, Martelli and the city's Coaches vs. Cancer group are asking fans who attend today's game to bring household items to donate to AstraZenca Hope Lodge of the American Cancer Society, a free service provided to cancer patients and their families who must travel to receive treatment.
Among the items needed are towels, bedsheets, laundry and dishwasher detergent, hand sanitizer, paper plates and lightbulbs.
Contact staff writer Ray Parrillo at 215-854-2743 or firstname.lastname@example.org.