ORLANDO — His team had just had its last-gasp NCAA hopes dashed Friday in an 89-81 quarterfinal loss to 11th-ranked Wichita State and Temple coach Fran Dunphy had high praise for the Owls.
“I am proud of them, proud of how hard they played, proud of the fact that there was no give-up in them and we had our chances,” Dunphy said.
Dunphy made it clear that he has every intention of continuing to coach this team. But the Owls fell to 17-15, and as their record suggested, they had too many uneven performances this season.
Everyone’s scapegoat seems to be Dunphy, who is 247-151 in his 12th season at Temple and 557-314 overall, and is one of the most well-respected men in the profession. There are the usual outcries for a coaching change, but it’s not that simple.
According to several sources, Dunphy has three years left on his contract. The buyout terms aren’t known, but Temple could take a public relations hit in paying three years for someone not to coach. The Owls are looking to build a football stadium, which has been estimated to cost at least $130 million. Is the university in a position to be able to pay two basketball coaches for three years?
Dunphy, who turns 70 in October, said he plans to stay at the helm. “Sure, I want to keep coaching,” he said. “I love working with these guys every day and I love the competition, which is spectacular.”
With freshmen J.P. Moorman, Dre Perry and Nate Pierre-Louis playing a much more prominent role late in the season, and this year’s two leading scorers being sophomore Quinton Rose and junior Shizz Alston, there is reason for optimism.
The Owls were picked to finish seventh in the AAC preseason poll and wound up seeded seventh in the AAC tournament, so at least from the outside, the expectations weren’t high. But two years ago, they were picked sixth and won the regular-season AAC title.
Temple trailed Wichita State,76-64, after two Austin Reeves foul shots with 4 minutes, 38 seconds left but got to within 78-75 when Moorman completed a three-point play with 2:23 remaining.
Finally, Wichita State (25-6) pulled away. Now the Owls hang their hopes on whether they have done enough to earn an NIT bid.
Wichita State is one of three current top-25 teams the Owls have beaten, with Auburn and Clemson being the others. Temple played three of its best games against the Shockers. In the regular season, the Owls won in overtime, 81-79, at home on Feb. 1 and lost, 93-86, at Wichita State on Feb. 15 after owning a 14-point halftime lead.
When asked about Temple’s NIT chances, ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi replied in a text, “I expect they will make it.”
While Temple’s goal each year isn’t to make the NIT, earning a bid and making a deep run would show that the Owls can play with the fire and consistency that was so often missing this season.