If you read yesterday's DP, or followed Penn basketball in the 1980s, you probably know that Craig Littlepage and Tom Schneider preceded Fran Dunphy as the Quakers' head coach.
The two bridged the gap between Dunphy and Bob Weinhauer, perhaps the two most celebrated head coaches in the long history of Penn men's basketball.
But if you had never heard of Littlepage and Schneider before this week, there's a very good reason for that -- Dunphy's unparalleled success in 17 years as Penn coach.
For in that time, Dunphy made the darkest era of Penn basketball in modern times almost irrelevant.
Schneider and Littlepage combined for 91 wins, 93 losses, two Ivy League titles -- the best either could do in conference play was 11-3 -- and three winless Big 5 campaigns from 1982 to 1989.
It was during their tenures that Brown and Cornell won the Ancient Eight title, which was almost as surprising then as it would be now. But it goes to show how far Penn -- and Princeton -- had fallen at the time.
And you wonder why there is so much on the Palestra's walls about Penn's glories in the 1970s, 1990s and the current decade, but considerably less about the 1980s.
That bleak era came to an end on March 15, 1989, when Schneider resigned.
Among the many famous coaches who recommended that Rubincam hire Dunphy was Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, who was as influential back then as he is now.
Krzyzewski recommended Dunphy for another job 17 years later, when he told Temple athletic director Bill Bradshaw that Dunphy could win a national championship if he succeeded John Chaney.
"It was comforting to me that so many people felt that Fran Dunphy would be best for the University of Pennsylvania," Rubincam told The Philadelphia Inquirer after hiring Dunphy.
Now that Dunphy has moved on from Penn, there should be no question that he restored the glory to Quakers basketball.
He did so not just by winning 310 games and and nine Ivy League titles. He also won with his character -- the humility and class with which he represented himself, his team and all of Penn while he was here.
As great as those triumphs were, though, Dunphy's legacy at Penn was also defined by Schneider and Littlepage's failures. Because of that, the task Dunphy faced in making Penn a dominant program again was far from easy.
But in the words of Vince Curran, who was a player on Dunphy's first Penn team, Dunphy "through sheer force of will brought the program back to where it was."
Curran's words are worth remembering at a time when many recently minted Penn fans know of nothing but Dunphy's success.
"They shouldn't take it for granted -- it's tough," said Curran, who now analyzes Quakers games on the radio for WXPN-FM. "Dunph made it a lot easier than it really is."
As so many of my colleagues have said, I hope that current Penn athletic director Steve Bilsky realizes the magnitude of what Dunphy has done, and appoints a successor fully capable of continuing that legacy.
Jonathan Tannenwald is a senior urban studies major from Washington, D.C. His e-mail address is email@example.com.Comments powered by Disqus
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