It’s a midday summer’s afternoon and Fran Dunphy already is excited while thinking about the 2012-13 season that still is more three months from officially beginning.
The Temple coach always feels that way, though. And it certainly can’t hurt that, on paper, the Owls look like a team more than capable of a 20-win season and NCAA tournament berth for the sixth straight season.
“The juices are flowing, they’re always flowing,” Dunphy told Philahoops on Monday. “As soon as the one year is over, you’re thinking about the next, whether it’s the recruiting process or tweaks how you’re going to play the game. It’s exciting every day when you have this job. I am the luckiest guy I know.”
The Owls are in a unique situation this season, on the verge of joining the Big East conference beginning in 2013-14 while playing as a lame duck in the Atlantic 10. Members of the A-10 since 1982, the Owls have won a league-best nine conference tournament titles, including three straight (2008-10) in Dunphy’s six years at the helm on North Broad Street.
“There are some bittersweet pieces to this,” Dunphy said. “The Atlantic 10 is an outstanding conference in basketball and certainly this year with Butler and VCU coming in, it hasn’t skipped a beat. It will be different. We’ve made some great friends, made some great relationships, and now we’ll have the opportunity to make more friends and more relationships with going into the Big East.”
Temple, the reigning A-10 regular-season champ, won’t have it easy as it seeks a 10th A-10 title in what is shaping up to be maybe the strongest A-10 in the league’s 37-year history.
“It’s always been an outstanding basketball conference and I think top to bottom it’s very well respected,” Dunphy said. “And now you’re adding two teams the caliber of Butler and VCU and it’s a very, very special basketball conference.
“The teams that emerge from the league going into the NCAA tournament will be very experienced, very tough-minded and very talented teams. We’re hoping like crazy we’ll be one of them but it will not be easy.”
Dunphy has many reasons to believe Temple will be in the mix, led by returning senior guard Khalif Wyatt. The 6-foot-4 Norristown native made headlines this offseason for being arrested last month in Atlantic City on charges of engaging in prostitution and resisting arrest.
The coach said the Temple administration is working together on disciplinary ramifications for Wyatt, who twice was benched last season for violating team rules.
“As I said to a number of people already,” Dunphy said, “whatever we do will pale in comparison to the embarrassment that he’s already felt, not only on a local level but nationally as well.”
While not condoning Wyatt’s actions, Dunphy offered some sympathy for his star.
“I wish we were all perfect; we’re not,” he said. “We all make mistakes. I’d like to tell you how perfect I am, but obviously that’s not true. He paid a dear price already.
“In the end, I think Khalif has learned a wonderful lesson about how life works. He’ll be fine and we’ll be OK. We’d like to move on from it. He’s paid a very dear price for his indiscretion.”
In addition to Wyatt, who averaged 17.1 points last season, the Owls will rely on seniors Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson, T.J. DiLeo and Scootie Randall to help fill the void for departed seniors Ramone Moore, Juan Fernandez and Micheal Eric. Besides the three graduated seniors, reserve guard Aaron Brown transferred to Southern Mississippi after two seasons at Temple.
To his veteran mix, Dunphy has many strong pieces to play with the likes of sophomore big man Anthony Lee, West Virginia junior transfer Dalton Pepper and sophomore point guard Will Cummings. Add in three heralded freshmen – 6-11 center Devontae Watson, 6-7 forward Daniel Dingle and 6-5 wing Quenton DeCosey – and the Owls look to be formidable once again.
“We do have that veteran leadership,” Dunphy said. “We are different but we do have a lot of fixtures. Losing Ramone, Juan and Micheal will make us look different, but hopefully we will play similarly.”
Not only will the Owls be tested in the A-10, but they will grill themselves with a difficult out-of-conference schedule that is Temple tradition. Temple will play Duke, Syracuse and Kansas outside of league play, with the Owls traveling to Lawrence, Kansas this season for the first game of a home-and-home series with the Jayhawks.
“We’re challenging ourselves greatly,” Dunphy said. “People ask me all the time, ‘Who does your schedule?’ I will say, ‘John Chaney.’ Because of the way he did things a number of years ago, it’s pretty much par for the course for Temple to be challenged with its non-conference scheduling. We’ve done a good job with it this year and we will continue to do so in the future.
“We have some great, challenging games and we’ll look forward to that. It helps us in recruiting and I think it helps in the overall sense of how good your program can be.”
Soon enough, Dunphy and the Owls will find out how good they are. In the meantime, the coach will continue his preparations for this season while looking toward the Owls’ move to the Big East.
“We are getting a little bit more attention from some kids because of the Big East name,” Dunphy said of recruiting, “but that doesn’t mean they’re going to jump to Temple. The competition out there is unbelievably fierce and there are some really great universities, great basketball programs.
“We think we’re one of them but we’re going to have to work like crazy to get kids to come to school here. We think we have a great product and a great future so we hope they will continue to listen and give us an opportunity.”
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