Taking over another man's team is hard enough. Winning is another story.
Joe Scott found that out two years ago at Princeton when he took the reins of the men's basketball team from John Thompson III, who left for Georgetown. Thompson left behind a squad that was stocked with seniors and was coming off an Ivy League championship season.
Fran Dunphy, who took the job at Temple earlier this week, is leaving behind a Penn team that finished 20-9 and won the league title this past season.
A successor has not yet been named, but whoever does take the reins, Penn fans have to be hoping their team does not face the same fate that befell Scott's Tigers two years ago.
This year's Quakers expect to have three dominant seniors and will return four of five starters.
Under the command of Scott, a 1987 Princeton grad and disciple of the legendary Pete Carril, the New Jerseyans won five fewer games in 2004-05. More importantly, they finished 6-8 in the Ivy League -- the first time ever Princeton fell below .500.
That, history has shown, is the worst-case scenario.
Since Dunphy was hired at Penn in 1989, 16 new coaches have come onto the Ivy League scene. Nine of those 16 posted better records in their first season than their teams did the year prior.
One coach who found immediate success was Dartmouth's Terry Dunn, who was hired the same spring as Scott at Princeton.
Dunn turned a Big Green team that finished with just three wins in the 2003-04 campaign into a competitive bunch the next year, going 10-17 and 7-7 in the Ancient Eight.
"The challenge here was to change the mindset of young men to compete at a higher level every night," Dunn said.
It didn't hurt that his roster had eight upperclassmen.
"We had four seniors who had been through the rigors of Ivy League play," Dunn said. "Their maturity level and experience were helpful."
Dunn's Green fell to 6-21 in his second go-round -- still an improvement over what he inherited.
For Scott, his second season showed mixed results. The Tigers went 2-12 against non-conference opponents but managed to regroup for at 10-4 Ivy run. Scott did not return calls for comment.
Princeton does, however, have a history of successful coaching transitions. Thompson won an Ivy title in his first campaign after taking over for Bill Carmody, who had departed for Northwestern. Carmody went 22-7 in 1996-97 on the heels of Carril, who had been an institution at Jadwin Gym for 29 years.
Those were three of the four new coaches since 1989 to take over winning programs. The other was Al Walker at Cornell, who turned a 16-10 contender with 10 league wins into an 8-18 flop with just a 4-10 Ivy mark. Walker spent just three years with the Big Red, compiling a 12-30 league record.
The other 12 hires came into programs under .500, many of them in complete disarray. The nine schools that improved won an average of 3.4 more games the next year.
Joe Jones at Columbia had such luck, winning eight more games than his predecessor, Armond Hill. Part of that could be attributed to a change in offensive philosophy. Jones instituted an up-tempo scheme, a stark contrast to Hill's slower system.
Dunn said that sort of change is often positive, but it makes comparing one situation to another difficult.
"You bring certain things with you wherever you go," he said. "You have your own philosophy."
Only time will tell whether the philosophy of Penn's new coach will spell success or not.Comments powered by Disqus
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