April 11, 2022 –
Over the past week both La Salle and Temple introduced new basketball coaches. For La Salle the men’s coach is Big Five legend and alum Fran Dunphy. While at Temple it is Diane Richardson as the new women’s basketball coach. At 20th and Olney the hiring reached back into the past, while on North Broad Street it is a step in a newer direction as former Towson coach Richardson takes over the program.
Both coaches know the desire to win again is a driving force behind the changes. And how they can become the face of the program.
“They didn’t bring me here to do anything new,” Richardson said. “They brought me here to take us back to the tradition of winning.”
“It was presented that I could possibly help La Salle University,” Dunphy said. “Time will tell if we have a successful program, the guys are doing well, the community is doing well and La Salle people think we are doing a good job. That will be very important to me.”
Dunphy will be coaching his third Big Five team. He is the all-time winningest coach in Big Five history as he led the Penn and Temple programs. And was the interim athletic director at Temple this past year. Dunphy also played basketball for the Explorers. He can be described as the face of the modern Big Five.
“My knucklehead buddies joke with me all the time saying maybe I can coach them all,” remarked Dunphy. “It’s just great being back and I am soaking it all in. The Big 5 is very important to me—it’s what I grew up doing. I went to the games. I got a chance to play there in college. I got the chance to have a key to the front door of the Palestra for 17 years. It means a lot to me. I hope the student body will appreciate that. I was them 50-some years ago. I am grateful to be back and grateful to represent them. I hope I do it the right way.”
Richardson comes from Towson where she led the Tigers to two postseason appearances. Prior to that Richardson was on the staff at West Virginia, George Washington, American, and Maryland, highly regarded programs, and is also a very successful high school coach. She is familiar with the competitive nature of the Big Five and is happy to be a part of it.
“I’m very exited,” said Richardson. “The coaches in the Big Five are friends of mine. But that’s going to change real soon.”
Both coaches also have a degree of success in fields other than coaching. Dunphy is a teacher in the classroom and hopes to continue that. Richardson is the founder and former COO of the American Security Corporation. She, too, is an athlete having earned a spot on the United States 1980 Olympic team as a sprinter.
“I have been in the classroom for the last 17 years at Temple, and I would like to do the same thing at La Salle if I can, hopefully starting in the fall semester,” Dunphy said. “It helps give you a vibe of the institution, and you are looked differently if you are not just locked in your office worried about men’s basketball, but you’re worried about every kid on campus, the faculty, you want to blend in with everyone. I was doing just fine, and now I have taken on this terrific challenge. That’s what life is all about.”
The transfer portal is now a large part of college athletics. Richardson takes over a team where none of the players eligible to transfer had done so at that time. Those Owls wanted to see who would be their new coach.
Dunphy inherits a team with five players in the portal, and is addressing the situation with his squad. Stay together is his message.
“Well as I said to the fellas the other night, I hope that we all stay together here,” Dunphy told the team. “If we all stay together, what I know about the makeup of the team and their talent level and skills is that I think we can be okay. We can be a pretty good team if we all stay together. I am also understanding of many of them being in the transfer portal, so we are dealing with that.”
What type of team will we be seeing?
“There’s good athleticism, there’s good skill level, and again it’s just getting them to buy in to the defensive end, because you hear so many times on the TV that defense travels,” Dunphy said about his Explorers. “You can go somewhere and still have really good defense, but you’re not always going to go somewhere and have really good offense. Not that it’s assured that you’re going to have good offense at home, but defense travels. It’s what you’ve got to hang your hat on and make it fun.”
Richardson’s teams at Towson played fast and were in the upper echelon of the CAA. She warned that the team will need to be in top physical condition because they were going to play defense and play at a fast pace. The intended identity was simply and well explained.
“We’re going to defend,” Richardson emphasized. “We’re going to push the ball in transition. We’re going to press. We’re going to press them from the bus. As soon as they open the door, we’re going to be there.”
Both coaches stress that academics is key to their programs.
“My first nod was to academics,” Richardson said about what most appealed to her about the position. “That’s the foundation for our student-athletes. The academics was very appealing to me. That and the tradition of winning.”
While they both face common situations, Dunphy also needs to focus on the proposed upgrades to the facility. Richardson does not have that on her plate at present.
Fran Dunphy returns, Diane Richardson has a new home. Coaches with a high degree of success on and off the court. Coaches who now face new challenges. Which approach works best is yet to be determined. Maybe both? The schools feel they made the right choice.
Written By: Glenn Papazian