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Current Lafayette head basketball coach Fran O'Hanlon was an assistant at Penn from 1989-1995, working alongside Steve Donahue while coaching notable players, including recently dismissed Penn coach Jerome Allen.

Fran O’Hanlon has been the head coach of Lafayette men’s basketball since 1995. Before beginning his 20-year stint with the Leopards, O’Hanlon was an assistant at Penn from 1989 through 1995 along with recently hired head coach Steve Donahue. On the eve of coaching Lafayette in the NCAA Tournament against No.1-seed Villanova, O’Hanlon spoke to The Daily Pennsylvanian about Donahue’s hiring.

Daily Pennsylvanian: What is your reaction to the news that your former fellow assistant at Penn, Steve Donahue, was hired to take over the program?

Fran O’Hanlon: Well, I have two reactions. Coach Jerome Allen is one of my favorite people of all-time, I coached him and I love him dearly. I understand this is the business we’ve all chosen, but [Allen’s dismissal] was not easy for me. That being said, Steve Donahue was my assistant basketball coach in high school and my longtime friend, and there is no better basketball person than he is. He’s as good as anybody and it’s a tremendous hire for Penn. I’m happy for my friend and for Penn because they have somebody who is familiar with the Ivy League. He’s familiar with Penn, he’s done an awesome job as a coach and he’s terrific.

DP: Had you spoken to Donahue at all about his interest in taking the job?

FO: I talk to him a lot, but I didn’t talk about Penn basketball for various reasons. He knows what I feel about coach Allen, so we didn’t have those conversations. We talked about everything other than that. I certainly knew through other people, other friends that when coach Allen left, Steve would be one of the guys that Penn wanted to talk to. I left him a message, I’m sure he’ll get back to me but I’m guessing he’s being inundated with calls. It’s like family, we’re all family. Jerome, coach Donahue, me, [former Penn coach Fran] Dunphy. One of our family members happened to lose that job and someone else in our family got that job. It’s the business we’ve chosen.

DP: What do you think coach Donahue brings to the job that will make him successful?

FO: He’s got tremendous energy, tremendous people skills, he’s a basketball lifer and he has a great rapport with everyone around him. He forges great relationships with his players, has a great plan in place and gets his kids to play the way he wants him to play. He’s the whole package because he can recruit, he can coach and he’s an outstanding individual.

DP: Given all those skills, do you think coach Donahue was a no-brainer for the position?

FO: Being in the Ivy League and after his success at a place that traditionally was pretty bad and hard to win at, I thought it was a tremendous hire. Would Penn consider people like Andy Toole and Matt Langel, other guys who were in the family? I don’t know the extent of their interest in the job. I’m just thinking that the next person better be someone who is in the Philadelphia family and connected to Penn, and that’s exactly what Steve is.

DP: How important was it that Penn hired someone who understood not only Penn basketball, but Philadelphia basketball as well?

FO: I think it was paramount that that was the direction they take. To Penn’s credit, they did take that direction and did not fool around with it too much. They probably thought they would like to have someone with head coaching experience, so they got the whole thing. To have someone who has won in the Ivy League like Stevie has done, first as an assistant at Penn and then at Cornell, there are so many boxes you can check off with having him on board.

DP: Was there ever any interest on your part in the position?

FO: They never contacted me. There was no interest on their part. I think they knew who they wanted, they went after him and they got him. He’s a great choice.

DP: It hasn’t even been a full week since Penn finished its season. What do you make of the speed with which coach Donahue was hired.

FO: Once again, it goes back to what you just said. It’s a no-brainer. If you target someone from the outside, that would be my first call. If you hired the best search firm in the world and they did a really good job, I think that would be the first name they’d come up with. And Andy Toole, Leshawn Trice, Andy Toole and maybe Matt Langel would be right up there.

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