“This is Where I Belong”

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They were not quite the Ten Days That Shook the World, but the events of the middle of August certainly had the followers of Penn’s and La Salle’s men’s basketball programs on the edge of their seats. At issue was whether Fran Dunphy, the winningest coach in Penn history, would move across town to take over at his alma mater, which had been rocked by rape allegations against two players that led to the firing of men’s coach Billy Hahn and women’s coach John Miller. There had long been whispers that Dunphy was interested in coaching the Explorers, and with the basketball program in disarray—and with an offer reported to be considerably higher than what he was making at Penn—many felt the timing was right for him to make the jump. The wait dragged on, until on August 18, Dunphy released a statement saying he would remain at Penn. He spoke recently to Gazette sports columnist David Porter C’82 about the factors that went into his decision. 

Can you share what was going through your mind up to the point when you made your decision to stay at Penn?

Each time I would think about it, I would say to myself, “There’s no way I could leave this program, because of the kids we have in it and the kids who have gone before.” And then I would do some more thinking and say, “It’s my alma mater, and they are seemingly in great need and maybe I can help.” So my thoughts wavered often during that 10-day period. And finally I just said, “I can’t make the move right now. This is where I am, this is where I belong right now.”

During your decision-making process, did you reflect on your legacy at Penn and on whether it might be time to make your mark at another program? 

Not necessarily. It’s not something you always have in the back of your mind, saying you need to prove yourself at another institution or any of those things. When you look back at what has gone before, it’s always about the guys that have played in your program. It’s the relationships that are out there that you feel so much of an attachment to.

The University as a whole has been very good to me. Philadelphia has been good, the Big 5 has been great. So there have been so many nice things that have happened. But I don’t know if you sit there saying, “I’ve got more things to conquer.” I could say I have more things to conquer here at Penn. You can always find a challenge. Every year there’s a new group of guys. To get back to the NCAA Tournament is always a wonderful challenge, and not an easy one.

How has your decision sat with you? Have you experienced anything resembling buyer’s remorse? 

I think I would have had it if I’d decided to go as well. I would have felt, “Did I do the right thing?” I think you always have second thoughts for a little bit of time, then that goes away. They hired John Giannini, and I’m hoping John will do a great job and I know he will.

What is your take on the situation at La Salle?

I think the reality is that what happened at La Salle could probably happen at most programs across the country. Sometimes young people make some decisions that they probably didn’t think long and hard enough about, and it was detrimental to them personally, detrimental to the university, detrimental to the victims, obviously. Nobody wins.

Hopefully what will come from the trials will be the truth. The problem is, no matter what happens in the trials, people have still gotten hurt and lives have been changed.

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