Was invited to share a call with former Penn and Temple coach Fran Dunphy (thanks Pat Scanlon, Greenwich Country Day) this week. Coach Dunphy isn’t just a great coach, but almost universally regarded as one of the best people in the game, always willing to share his time.

Some of the notes I took from his talk –

  • One of the challenges when we take over as head coaches is we are generally “a lot more insecure when we are younger,” and therefore not as prepared to share responsibility with our staff, or give ownership to our players.
  • He noted that he used to take 2 1/2 hours to plan a 2 1/2 practice, before realizing if he shared the responsibility with his assistants his practice planning and practices themselves became more efficient.
  • When building a culture – show empathy and vulnerability (hard to do as a young head coach).
  • If he could do it all over again, he said he’d “pick 6 guys” who were veteran head coaches and pick their brain and listen to them.
  • He also said he would do more scrimmaging in practice.
  • He’d probably be less hard on players in front of the team, and do that more 1 on 1.
  • Load management is something we are “probably overdoing a bit.”
  • Against Princeton, his main key was “great ball pressure in the scoring area.”
  • “The really good guys in our profession hold their teams accountable for everything.”
  • “I was much more inclined to beat my team up after a win than after a loss.”
  • “Guys love to watch film when they make good plays. Your job is to get them to appreciate watching a bad play.”
  • He talked about how his favorite team of all-time was a Penn team that was beating Princeton at halftime 33-9 and ended up losing that game. After the game, he just pulled up a chair and told his team that it was his fault, and mentioned the things he could do better. After that, they went around the room and each player talked about what they could have done better that night. The team went on to win their next 4 league games on the road, won the Ivy Championship and went to the NCAA Tournament.
  • “Great teams stay together forever.”

The first time I met Coach Dunphy I was an assistant at Providence and he brought his team in to play Brown, and they practiced at our facility. So I set up the gym for them and introduced myself to him. He asked about where I was from, how long I had been at Providence, and started a conversation. I mentioned to him that my brother had graduated from Penn in 1992.

The next time I saw Coach Dunphy was in July when we were on the road recruiting. He sat down next to me to watch a game, and before I could say hello and re-introduce myself, he said “Hey, Walshy, how’s that genius brother of yours doing?”

He’s absolutely one of the best people in the coaching business.

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