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(Information in this team report is as of October 1.)
COACH AND PROGRAM
It's a whole new world on North Broad Street as former Penn coach Fran Dunphy moves from West Philly to North Philly to succeed Hall of Famer John Chaney at Temple.
The face of Temple University to many folks, Chaney helped put the Atlantic 10 Conference on the map, registering 516 of his 741 career wins as the head man of the Owls from 1982-2006 and taking Temple to the NCAA Tournament's Final Eight on five different occasions.
His 6 a.m. practices, match-up zone defenses, tough-as-nails non-conference schedule, his team's penchant for turning the ball over less than 10 times per game, and his unmatched storytelling at press conferences (almost never in PG-13 language) will be remembered in the City of Brotherly Love for decades to come.
Of course, Chaney was a lightning rod too -- whether it was his threatening of then-UMass coach John Calipari years back or the ugly "Goongate" episode in 2005.
While little that the larger-than-life Chaney did during his Temple career slipped under the radar, the one exception is that many people around the country probably didn't noticed how much the Owls program itself has slipped over the last five years (during which time the Owls were an NIT regular and finished just 2-4 games over .500 each year) -- making it the right time for change on North Broad Street.
Enter Dunphy, now the first man in the history to be the head coach at two Philadelphia Big 5 schools. Dunphy comes to Temple with Chaney's blessing. "This program is in very good hands," Chaney said. "Fran is America's best-kept secret as far as coaches are concerned."
Few question Dunphy's coaching ability. After all, he went 310-163 in 17 seasons at Penn with nine NCAA Tournament appearances. But Penn and Temple are separated by several differences -- the most notable being that Dunphy has never recruited with scholarships before. There was tons of speculation that Dunphy would hire a guy with big-time recruiting experience to be on his staff -- former La Salle head coach Billy Hahn, who was Gary Williams' ace recruiter at Maryland -- was a name bandied about. But,
Dunphy didn't go that route, bringing his Penn staff with him to Temple.
While Dunphy acknowledges he's in a different world recruiting-wise, he chooses to view it as a positive, not a negative.
"In the Ivy League, we were all going after the same 100 players," Dunphy said. "The pool of players [that he can now recruit] has increased a thousand-fold."
Dunphy will need to do well on the recruiting trail, because the Owls aren't anywhere near as talented as they used to be. In fact, Dunphy will start his first season on North Broad Street with four new starters as the two leading scorers from last year, 6-5 guard Mardy Collins (16.8 ppg) and 6-8 forward Antywane Robinson (12.7 ppg) having finished up their eligibility and two other 2005-06 starters, 6-5 junior swingman Mark Tyndale (10.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg) and 6-10 senior wide body Wayne Marshall (7.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg) being ruled academically ineligible for at least the first semester.
Collins, a late first-round pick of the New York Knicks, will be sorely missed. A two-time first-team all-league performer and the school's No. 4 all-time leading scorer (1,919 points), Collins led the Owls in scoring, assists and steals each of the last two seasons. Collins finished an amazing run of guards that Chaney coached at Temple, a list that included Mark Macon, Eddie Jones, Aaron McKie, Pepe Sanchez, Rick Brunson, Lynn Greer and Nate Blackwell.
With Collins gone, the new on-the-court leaders for the Owls were supposed to be Tyndale, Marshall and 6-5 senior guard Dustin Salisbery, but Dunphy will have to revise that blueprint for the first semester. The absences of Tyndale and Marshall will really be felt. Temple opens the season on Nov. 21 at Kent State and plays its seventh game on Dec. 16, the date final exams end. If the two players can get their academics in order, they'll be able to join the Owls just before Christmas.
"Certainly, from the standpoint of having to make do without the two of them, it's going to be interesting to see how we can make adjustments and compete at a very high level," Dunphy said. "But, we have to carry on and hopefully, find a way."
Dunphy's way will differ greatly from Chaney's methods of running nothing but isolations and clear-outs on the offensive end. Dunphy's team will play at a faster pace than Chaney -- we know, we know, most middle-school teams do, too. Dunphy's teams play a motion offense with the ball and players moving at all times. He prefers to play man-to-man defense with a match-up zone thrown in only on occasion.
The other major change in Year One of the Dunphy administration is that the Owls won't play the insane non-conference schedule that was their undoing in many of the last half-dozen seasons. One reason for the softening of the schedule, of course, was out of Dunphy's control. In order to join the Mid-American Conference in football, the Owls had to agree to play each MAC member in a home-and-home men's basketball series during the next five years and placed four games against MAC members on this season's schedule (Kent State, Buffalo, Western Michigan, Ball State).
With those four, 16 in A-10 competition and non-league Big 5 games against Villanova and Penn, Temple had room to line up only seven games. Of those, only three are against major-conference opponents (Cincinnati, Rutgers and Duke). In past years, all seven would have been against big-timers.
"The schedule is still a demanding one," says Dunphy. "We play six teams that went to the NCAA Tournament last year and five more that went to the NIT, plus we play Duke at Cameron Indoor and Cincinnati at a neutral site in Atlantic City. It'll be quite a challenge."
Especially if Tyndale, a spotty outside shooter (.320 3PT, .599 FT) who is an adept driver and strong rebounder for his size, and the 6-11 Marshall, Temple's best big man by far despite constant battles with his weight, aren't able to regain their eligibility after the first semester.
With that duo on the sideline, the Owls will be a perimeter-driven team, led by Salisbery, who has a good-looking release on his shot, but has been plagued by inconsistency the past few seasons, 6-5 sophomore Dionte Christmas (3.5 ppg, 1.6 rpg), 6-4 sophomore Semaj Inge (0.3 ppg) and a pair of freshmen in 6-2 point guard Luis Guzman and 6-4 swingman Ryan Brooks.
Salisbery (9.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg) is the most proven of Temple's perimeter options. He made 43 three-pointers last season, but shot just .326 from behind the arc. In 2006-07, he must attack the rim more rather than settling for outside shots all the time. On the defensive end, his long arms and excellent athletic ability make him adept at stealing the ball (41 steals in 2005-06).
"When we played against Temple, I was always impressed by Dustin Salisbery," Dunphy said. "With Mardy gone and Tyndale out for the first semester, he'll need to step up and be a leader."
Because last year's team was essentially the Mardy Collins show with co-starring roles for guys like Robinson, Tyndale, Salisbery and Marshall, younger players such as Christmas and Inge didn't really get a chance to show what they could do. Of the two, Christmas showed more flashes of star quality last season, averaging 3.5 points per game despite struggling with his shooting all season (.281 FG, .250 3PT, .587 FT). Inge appeared in just 18 games and made just 1-of-14 field-goal attempts and 2-of-8 free throws.
Suffice it to say, assistant coach Matt Langel -- a deadeye shooter for Dunphy at Penn in the late 1990s -- will be busy working with Salisbery, Tyndale (if he returns from his academic woes), Inge and Temple's other guards. It's hoped that Langel's tutelage, plus the fact that Dunphy won't peel the shot clock all the way down a la Chaney (resulting in many ill-advised and/or off-balance shots to beat the buzzer), will yield better results.
Guzman, one of only two true point guards on Temple's roster (the other being smallish 5-8 junior Chris Clark), will start at point guard from day one. The 6-2 Guzman was a three-year starter at Paramus (N.J.) High School. He averaged 17.0 points and 6.5 assists last season for Paramus High (where he was coached by former NBA player Tony Campbell). Guzman chose Temple after considering Dayton, Seton Hall and UTEP.
Guzman was one of three high school recruits to commit to play for Chaney -- the others being 6-8 forward Matt Shaw from Los Angeles and 6-7 forward Mike Scott from Chesapeake, Va. But only Guzman ended up coming to Temple. The 240-pound Shaw, who played at the same high school as former Boston College star Craig Smith and reminded some recruiting experts of Smith, asked for and was released from his commitment and is now at UNLV, while Scott didn't meet the eligibility requirements and is at a prep school.
Once Shaw bolted, Dunphy signed Brooks from Lower Merion, the same school that produced Kobe Bryant. An 11th hour recruit, Brooks averaged 17 points last season and teamed with Saint Joseph's signee Garrett Williamson to lead Lower Merion to the 2006 PIAA Class AAAA state title.
Rounding out Temple's backcourt will be 6-5 junior guard DaShone Kirkendoll (0.8 ppg. .241 FG, .211 3PT), a lefty whose shot was MIA last year -- are you noticing a theme here? -- and 5-8 junior guard Chris Clark (1.2 ppg. .389 FG). Neither appears to be an A-10 level at this point of their careers, but Dunphy will need to squeeze backup minutes from both, particularly from Clark at the point.
The frontcourt is loaded with question marks -- the biggest being whether Marshall has played his last game as an Owl. Marshall, who missed a handful of games at the start of last season because of dizzy spells, averaged 7.2 points and 4.0 rebounds last year.
If Marshall doesn't make the grade in time for the second semester, the Owls' frontcourt will be a gigantic question mark. Dion Dacons (1.2 ppg) is a serviceable inside player, a high-energy guy who gets the most of his ability. Despite giving up a couple inches to most A-10 power forwards, the 6-6 Dacons has proven to be a pretty good rebounder (2.3 rpg) off the bench. He'll be asked to perform a larger role this season, though.
In Marshall's absence, the minutes at the pivot will be divided between 6-10, 220-pound sophomore Sergio Olmos (0.8 ppg, 0.9 rpg) and 6-10, 300-pound sophomore Anthony Ivory (1.1 ppg, 1.1 rpg). The inside pair suffer from polar opposite problems -- Olmos is too skinny and has trouble holding inside position and rebounding in traffic, while Ivory is too hefty and therefore wasn't able to stay healthy and be a consistent contributor as a freshman.
BLUE RIBBON ANALYSIS
Dunphy inherits a tough situation at Temple. He succeeds a legend, but Chaney didn't leave his successor much to work with in his first season. Then, two of Dunphy's projected starters -- Tyndale and Marshall -- were ruled ineligible.
And while there are no questions about Dunphy's ability to X and O, there are questions about whether he was the right guy for the Temple. First of all, he's not a kid (57 years old) and he's only really recruited as a head coach at Penn with grant-in-aid packages, not in the rough-and-tumble world of full scholarships. None of his assistants have either. If he can master that (he's a smart guy, as are his assistant coaches), the Owls will bounce back sooner rather than later.
But that's a big "if."
On the plus side, Dunphy will have a much more well-conceived offensive plan of attack than Chaney, who became so obsessed with limiting turnovers that his offense became an easy-to-defense series of clear-outs for Collins the last couple seasons. And the Owls will be less predictable on defense too -- mixing man-to-man, some trapping defenses and some zone rather than playing almost all match-up zone. Another plus is that Temple's non-league schedule is much more manageable than in years past.
The X-factors are Tyndale and Marshall. If both of them return, Temple could be a middle-of-the-pack finisher in the A-10, maybe better. If one of them comes back from academic woes, then the finish will likely be a spot or two lower. If neither makes it back, then Dunphy's got big problems.
But, Dunphy is preaching patience to the Owls' faithful. He points to the building that he had
to do at Penn, where the Quakers were 74-84 in the six seasons pre-Dunphy. After a rough first season there (12-14 record), he righted the ship and was at, or near, the top of the Ivy League standings every year after that.
After not sniffing the Big Dance in half a decade, Temple rooters would gladly take that year-and-a-half of suffering for 15 years of dominance scenario.
For the most comprehensive previews available on all Division I teams, order the "Bible" of college basketball, the 2006-07 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, at www.blueribbonyearbook.com or call 1-866-805-BALL (2255).