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In collegiate sports, there exists no connection stronger than that with your alma mater. You love your school. You want your school to do well. You want what's best for it. "You're always going to have strong ties to your alma mater," said Fran Dunphy, a 1970 graduate of La Salle. "You feel terrific about your school." That doesn't mean you can't feel terrific about other places too. Dunphy probably had the chance to go home this week. But he knows he already is. Fran Dunphy's home is the University of Pennsylvania. He loves La Salle, and there is absolutely no reason why he shouldn't. The school gave him a chance to play there more than 30 years ago, and it gave him the chance to come back as an assistant coach years later -- an opportunity he used to work toward a successful head coaching career at Penn. In total, he spent seven years at La Salle as a student and as a coach. He'll be entering his 13th season at Penn next fall. Does he feel a similar kinship with this university? "Oh yeah, even more so. Penn gave me a chance, and I won't ever forget that." Dunphy said that La Salle never offered him its head coaching position and they never discussed specifics about the job that opened when his friend, Speedy Morris, was fired several weeks ago. But he did meet with Explorers officials three times. It's not difficult to see that there was interest from both parties. I don't know what happened during those three sessions, and I don't know what was going through Dunphy's mind from the time the job opened until he withdrew himself from consideration this week. All I know is what Dunphy said, and what he said is that while he loved La Salle, wanted what's best for the school and had great respect for the people there, he enjoys his situation here immensely. No one can blame Dunphy for his interest. It's the nature of college coaching that when an interesting job opens, you listen. It's even more interesting when that opening is at your school -- the place that got you started. Dunphy said that the meetings consisted mostly of listening to each other's philosophies. Could Dunphy have had this job if he wanted it? We'll never know for sure, but my guess is that if he did not willingly take himself out of the race, he -- and not former Maryland assistant Billy Hahn -- would have been standing behind a podium at the Tom Gola Arena yesterday afternoon. But it's all behind us now. Like he has for each of the past 12 seasons, Dunphy will be the man in charge when the Penn men's basketball team begins official practices in six months. The past few weeks have been confusing for many in the Penn program. Dunphy said he hoped the speculation was not a distraction to his team, but some of his players have said that while it was not a major hindrance to offseason workouts, they did think about it. All of that can end now. La Salle has a coach, and Penn has a coach. And there is no way Penn's coach is going anywhere. Yes, there's no connection as strong as the one with your alma mater, but Dunphy has one that is just as strong. Years from now, there is a good chance Dunphy will be inducted into the Big 5 Hall of Fame. During that ceremony, the emcee will talk about the skinny sixth man who helped La Salle's powerhouse 1968-69 team go 23-1 and gain national prominence, the same guy who averaged 18.6 points a game a year later. Then, he'll talk about the reasons for which Dunphy will be honored: his years on 33rd Street, his Ivy League championships, his career head coaching victories, his class and his dignity. That ceremony will take place at halftime of a Big 5 game. And if it happens to be Penn-La Salle, which squad would Fran Dunphy find himself rooting for? "That's a crazy question. I'll probably be like the President and sit on one side for the first half and the other side for the second half." It doesn't matter. What matters is he's on Penn's side now.

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