March Madness Tests Friendship of Rival Coaches

The Long Friendship of Two Rival NCAA Tournament Coaches, Fran Dunphy and Fran MCCaffery

By Howard Goldin
Barclays Center in Brooklyn was the scene of college basketball at its most exciting on Friday. Eight teams, none of them local, drew a large crowd of 17,333 for the afternoon first round doubleheader. An equally large group of fans attended the evening doubleheader. Fans from nearby Philadelphia were especially attracted to the afternoon event as Villanova was in the opener and Temple in the second game.
The two second game coaches, Fran Dunphy of Temple and Fran McCaffery of Iowa have been friends for decades. Dunphy, older by about a decade, is synonymous with Philadelphia college basketball. He graduated from LaSalle, where he played on the basketball team, in 1970. He earned an M.S. in counseling at Villanova in 1979. He then returned to La Salle for two stints as assistant coach, 1979-80 and 1985-88. He then accepted the head coaching position at the University of Pennsylvania from 1989-2006. He has been at Temple as head coach since 2006-7. McCaffery graduated Penn in 1982 and was an assistant coach the season after his graduation. He has since had very successful seasons as a head coach at Lehigh, Siena and UNC-Greensboro before coming to the University of Iowa.
Each of the two reminisced about one another before their game on Friday.  Dunphy’s memories of McCaffery date to the latter’s high school years.
DSC00334Fran Dunphy“We go back very, very far. He was a little bit younger than I. I remember watch him as a high school basketball player…I can remember his dad being a Philly cop, and part of his chores at the end of his career were to take care of the Palestra. So I would see him all the time. His mom and dad were very terrific basketball fans and great Philadelphians. So it’s a terrific Philadelphia family. But we see each other often in the off-season,” said Dunphy.
McCaffery, the younger man, spoke with the highest respect of Dunphy as a basketball coach, “I’ve known Fran Dunphy for a very long time. I played against teams he coached in high school. He coached at my alma mater. Obviously, his legacy there is to the point where they could put his name on the court. His teams consistently perform in a certain way. They don’t beat themselves. They take care of the basketball. They rebound the basketball. They move the ball. They share the ball. All the things that, as coach, you want your team to do. So it’s really not a surprise that they consistently win wherever he’s coaching. And he’s been able to do it in a city that he loves, where he grew up, and where he lives.”
The #7 (Iowa) – #10 (Temple) seeds game that the two coached could not have been more exciting for the fans. The score was tied three times and the lead changed hands on eleven occasions. The game was tied at the end of regulation at 63.
It ended on a buzzer beater that was tipped in by Iowa’s Adam Woodbury to give them a 72-70 victory.
Dunphy remarked afterwards, “Every game is tough to go out on whenever you lose. Obviously, a buzzer beater is even more difficult.”
Iowa will meet Villanova, coached by another Philadelphia native and friend, Jay Wright, in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Sunday afternoon.


Howard Goldin is a frequent contributor to The Bronx Chronicle.

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