After three years away from the sidelines, former Penn men’s basketball coach Fran Dunphy is returning to the Big 5, taking the head coaching position at La Salle University.
Dunphy served as head coach at Penn from 1989-2006, accumulating a 310-163 record and reaching the NCAA Tournament nine times over his 17 years with the program. During the 1993-94 and 1994-95 seasons, Dunphy’s teams reached the AP Top 25, an honor Penn had not achieved since the late 1970s and has not repeated since. Dunphy's success with the Quakers pits him as arguably the most successful coach in Penn men’s basketball history and even in Penn sports history.
The move to La Salle will serve as the 73-year-old's third coaching stint in the Big 5, giving further credence to his nickname, “Mr. Big 5.” After his time at Penn, Dunphy acted as head coach at Temple University for 13 years, where he went 270-162 and reached March Madness eight times. He retired from coaching in 2019, but for a brief period beginning in 2020, Dunphy served as Temple’s acting athletic director.
At La Salle, Dunphy will replace Ashley Howard, who coached the Explorers for four seasons until his recent dismissal. Through his tenure, Howard’s team faced Penn three times, going 1-2 with their lone win coming this past December in a close 76-74 contest.
Coaching the Explorers also serves as a homecoming for the Drexel Hill, Pa. native, who played at La Salle as an undergraduate student and credited his history with the program as one of the reasons he opted to return.
“La Salle has given me so much over the years,” Dunphy said in a press release. “It gave me a chance to be a part of multiple teams as a student-athlete, an opportunity to form life-long friendships, and helped mold me into the man I am today. I can't wait to work with the young men on the team, re-introduce myself to the campus community, and to help my alma mater any way I can.”
While coaching at Penn in the 1990s, Dunphy, who was inducted into the Penn Athletics Hall of Fame in May 2017, set in motion the present iteration of Penn men’s basketball by hiring current head coach Steve Donahue as an assistant coach.
“[Dunphy] and [then-Penn assistant coach] Fran O’Hanlon allowed me to be a part of one of the most historic programs in the country at a young age and let me learn and grow, and that’s just really lucky,” Donahue said in 2019. “And I’m very fortunate to be in that situation, and I understand what a great opportunity it was, and I tried to take full advantage of everything I could to help him.
“Looking back, I realize how lucky I really was to be around a guy like that. He taught me so much and allowed me to be where I am today.”