Ex-Providence star Linehan launches coaching career at Temple

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John Linehan while at Providence in 2002. Linehan is now coaching at Temple. (AP File Photo/Victoria Arocho)

The guy sitting right behind Temple's bench at home games looks familiar. He should look familiar. The all-time NCAA steals leader is back there keeping statistics, working as an Owls graduate assistant, ready to break down more film or even help scrub the practice court. Whatever he's asked to do - none of it is glamorous.

"Like an errand boy, almost," John Linehan said this week without a hint of discontent.

Working his way up has always been Linehan's style. A few inches shy of 6 feet tall, he was used to being underestimated. As a senior at Chester High, Linehan had one scholarship offer, from Howard University. He decided to try the prep school route and ended up at Providence, where he made 385 steals. Years ago, Kobe Bryant was asked about the toughest defender he had faced. He mentioned a former AAU teammate: "You may laugh, but it's a guy named John Linehan."

Linehan knows his college record is on shaky ground. VCU's Briante Weber needs one more to tie Temple great Pepe Sanchez for third on the all-time list and just 22 more to pass Linehan.

Linehan's defensive prowess didn't stop in college. He did a stint in the NBA Development League and spent half a year traveling the world with the Harlem Globetrotters, then he played overseas for a decade, mostly in France. A guy who figures out how to get paid for playing basketball in and near Paris probably has some things to offer college guys.

"This summer, I was kind of in the process of deciding between maybe playing one more year or just hanging it up," Linehan said. "I always wanted to be a coach. I sat down with my family, my wife, talked about it, then reached out to a few coaches in the area. Coach Dunph responded back within an hour, told me to come up and have a conversation."

As a graduate assistant on Fran Dunphy's staff, Linehan is taking classes again for the first time since he graduated from Providence, a shock to his system. Again, no complaints.

"I know how to play the game," Linehan said. "I want to learn how to coach the game."


mjensen@phillynews.com

@jensenoffcampus