In spite of the differences, Dunphy and Morris are still two of a kind. Both men are reminders that mandates to reach NCAA Tournaments can, in fact, be reconciled with equally strong directives about running a clean program and graduating players on time. And despite the amount of stress required to survive and prosper in the world of big-time college sports, the two men, whose teams clash Saturday afternoon at the Spectrum, have remained among the most decent individuals in the sport. Want proof? Just ask them. "What I will remember most about my relationship with Speedy," Dunphy says, "is that I don't know that there's a better person in coaching today. One of the kindest, caring, concerned, sympathetic people that I've ever been associated with." "I'm proud to consider Fran Dunphy a friend," Morris says. "If I ever need anything, if I ever need any money, I know I can go to him. And he would give it to me. He would give me the shirt off his back." They have been associated with one another ever since their days as rival high school coaches in the early 1970s, two native Philadelphians with an undying passion for Philly hoops. Dunphy, a basketball player at La Salle in the late 1960s, was already an assistant coach with the Explorers when Morris took over the head position in 1986. The La Salle athletic director suggested Morris hire a new set of assistants. He declined. Two years later, Dunphy did leave, accepting the keys to the Palestra as an assistant to Penn coach Tom Schneider. Anyone who has ascended through the ranks to become a head coach is a combination of his own philosophies and an aggregation of ideas from the various guys under whom he worked. In the two years they spent together, Dunphy learned a great deal from the manner in which Morris relates to his players. Dunphy says that often when a touchy issue comes up, a problem with a player for instance, he will think: "What would Speedy do?" "He's a very under control, teaching-oriented kind of person, and he relates to players very well," Dunphy says. "In two years I don't think I saw him yell at practice even once. That's the kind of thing I've taken away from working for him." Funny he would say that, because this is what Morris had to say about Dunphy: "He knows young people and relates to them very well?It's nice to think that maybe he learned something from me, but I learned just as much from him. I learned you don't have to scream and holler all the time to get your point across." And with those few words, the two men revealed themselves. Neither wants any credit for his own success. In a sport dominated by flashy, ego-driven players and coaches, Fran Dunphy and Speedy Morris stand out because of their genuine distaste for the spotlight. They want it for their players and for their friends, but not for themselves. Actually, there hasn't been a whole lot of spotlight to go around over on West Olney Street. After six consecutive NCAA appearances through 1992, Morris's Explorers have failed to reach postseason play for three straight seasons and, barring a major turnaround, will not make it this year either. Through 1992-93, his 24th year in the coaching business, Morris had suffered just one losing season. He may be on the verge of his third straight losing campaign this year. So the rumblings are there. Maybe time has passed Speedy Morris by. And people have been saying for two years now that if and when Morris goes, the perfect guy to replace him would be La Salle alum and ex-assistant Fran Dunphy. In addition to his history with the Explorers, Dunphy's home games would be in the Philadelphia Civic Center, just across Spruce Street from the Palestra. Wouldn't that be convenient? Both men dismiss the talk. Morris hopes to be at La Salle until he retires. And Dunphy has not lost faith in his friend. "All of us out there like to think we can coach a little bit," Dunphy says. "But it can't be done without good players. That's why they've been struggling. I think he can get it turned around. I wish them nothing but the best." For now, there is the matter of Saturday's game. Not surprisingly, they said the same things about going up against a close friend. "There's guys I'm really happy to go up against and beat," Morris says. "This won't be one of those guys." The goal will be victory, but for whoever wins the joy will be somewhat tempered. The best part of the day will come afterwards, when they meet and commiserate. Dunphy says when they see each other socially, they talk very little about basketball. They talk about life and family and friends. Somehow, that's only fitting.Comments powered by Disqus
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