It is a glorious day for Explorers as white smoke rises from Tom Gola Arena; La Salle has their head coach. Per Mike Jensen, La Salle has hired Fran Dunphy to take the reins of La Salle Men’s Basketball.
Fran Dunphy Background
Dunphy is a man with plenty of experience with Philly Big 5 basketball. La Salle is his alma matter; he played for La Salle from 1967-1970 under Coach Tom Gola. He was an instrumental player his junior and senior years at La Salle, most notably leading the Explorers to a 23-1 record his junior year.
If there was anyone you can call Mr. Philly Basketball, it’s Fran Dunphy. La Salle will be Dunphy’s third Big 5 head coaching stint. He started his Big 5 coaching career at La Salle with two separate stints. He then moved on to be Penn’s assistant for a year than head coach starting in 1989 and ending in 2006. He then moved on to the head coaching position at Temple from 2006-2019. It is safe to say that Fran Dunphy has had plenty of experience with Big 5, and even A10 basketball.
Fran Dunphy has made a staggering 17 appearances to the NCAA tournament, plus 2 NIT appearances. It is worth noting that he has never brought a team into the Sweet Sixteen, but this is still impressive and consistent. He has an overall record 580-325, much better than Ash Howard’s record of 45-71.
How this impacts La Salle
We can talk all we want about Fran Dunphy’s history and accolades, but we must be asking the question, “What does this hire mean for La Salle?” First, I think the impact of having an alum has your head coach cannot be overstated. There are many reasons why this move makes sense for La Salle, and this could be the most important. Dunphy being an alum, a very prominent one at that, means that he can help raise support from previous alumni. This is especially important as La Salle will undergo their arena project in 2023. Fran Dunphy, in my humble opinion, will also be the most effective recruiter; both in getting some of the guys that have opened their portal back, and drumming up new recruits. If I am a basketball player in the Mid-Atlantic Region (transfer or incoming freshman) and Fran Dunphy calls, I’m at least answering the phone.
Dunphy is a guy who is consistent; he has only had 6 sub .500 head coaching seasons in 30 years. Compare that to Howard who has half as many sub .500 seasons in only 4 years. Dunphy has a lot of experience as a head coach, even in the A10; experience that Howard simply didn’t have. La Salle has basically hit rock bottom the past few years; it is hard for Dunphy to do much worse.
There is one thing to consider with Fran Dunphy, his age. Dunphy is 73 and probably doesn’t have many quality years of coaching left in him. Hopefully he can do as much for La Salle in say 2-4 years as he can. Then whoever succeeds Dunphy has a well-built program to work with, something Ash Howard didn’t really have.
Fran Dunphy: Good or Bad hire?
I believe that other than Matt Langel (which was a pipe dream for La Salle anyway) this is the best-case scenario. Dunphy can build the Explorer program in ways others couldn’t. He has connections and a lot of money and resources for La Salle could just be a few Fran Dunphy phone calls away. He also has experience, and a lot of it. Looking back to him dominating the Ivy League with Penn and having a lot of success in the A10 with Temple, it’s hard not to get excited about La Salle’s potential for the next few years. He may not have been the homerun hit or the high-risk high reward pick, but he was the safe pick to get La Salle’s program moving forward, which is what I think is one of the most important things for La Salle Men’s Basketball now. La Salle took a big homerun swing with Ash Howard and ended up striking out and setting the program back. Who knows what happens if they take another homerun swing and end up missing again. Out of all the available options I believe Dunphy was the best one to go with, and I am glad that they did.
Hopefully Dunphy can turn things around for the Explorers in the coming years.