La Salle University Adds Joe Mihalich to Men’s Basketball Staff as Special Assistant

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

PHILADELPHIA – La Salle head men’s basketball coach Fran Dunphy has officially added La Salle alum Joe Mihalich ’78 to his staff as Special Assistant to the Head Coach, it was announced on Friday.

“We are excited to welcome Coach Mihalich back to La Salle,” Dunphy said. “I have known Joe for a long time, worked with him for three years on the coaching staff at La Salle under Lefty Ervin and Speedy Morris, and know what a high-quality coach and man he is. His vast experience and knowledge will benefit myself, our student-athletes, and the rest of our coaching staff tremendously.”

With nearly 40 years of experience on the sidelines, Mihalich rejoins the Explorers with more than 400 career wins under his belt in his 22 years as a head coach. A former player and assistant in the Blue and Gold, Mihalich is set to make his third stint to the La Salle men’s basketball program.

Joe Mihalich, Assistant to the Head Coach

“I can’t tell you how excited I am to be back at my alma mater,” Mihalich said. “The opportunity to work with one of my best friends in the college basketball world and another La Salle alum, Coach Dunphy, makes this all the more special. I look forward to developing relationships with our players, coaches, and staff members as we work together to create a championship culture at La Salle.”

Mihalich spent the last nine seasons at Hofstra, stepping down after seven seasons in charge of the men’s basketball program to become the special assistant to the athletic director. In his seven years at the helm of the Pride, Mihalich amassed a record of 141-92, including four postseason berths – two NIT bids and an automatic NCAA Tournament berth that never took place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In his second season at Hofstra, Mihalich improved the squad to a 20-14 record and a CBI first round appearance. In 2015-16, the Pride became Colonial Athletic Association regular-season champions with a 14-4 conference record in just his third season in charge. Mihalich tallied five winning seasons in his seven years as head coach at Hofstra, combining for a 53-16 record in his final two years that saw the Pride record back-to-back regular season titles and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament in 2019-20 after sweeping both the regular season and CAA Tournament Championship.

Prior to his time in Hempstead, Mihalich developed one of the most consistent programs in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, leading Niagara to 265 wins, five postseason appearances and earning three MAAC Coach of the Year awards in his 15 seasons inside the Gallagher Center. Mihalich was responsible for 12 winning seasons while with the Purple Eagles, becoming three-time MAAC regular season champions and two-time tournament winners.

Mihalich spent 17 seasons on the sidelines at 20th & Olney before making his jump to head coach, assisting at his alma mater under head coaches Lefty Ervin and Speedy Morris. Mihalich was part of eight postseason appearances and five NCAA Tournament teams while at La Salle and helped develop numerous players that would play professionally in the NBA, including Lionel Simmons, Tim Legler, Doug Overton, and Randy Woods.

Joe Mihalich grew up right near the campus of La Salle, starting his collegiate career as a walk-on on the 1974-75 team, making the NCAA Tournament in his freshman year. He would spend four seasons as a player with the Explorers before entering into the coaching field with his first assistant role at DeMatha High School in Washington, D.C.

The eldest Mihalich is joined in the coaching ranks by his son, Joe Jr., who is currently an assistant at the University of Pennsylvania.

Let Me Tell U ‘Bout My Bro… Mal Nichols

Jamal Nichols was finest player the Philadelphia Public League had to offer in 2001. He won the Markward Award as the Philadelphia Public League Player of the Year that season. He averaged 15.0 points and grabbed 13.5 rebounds per game his senior year at Ben Franklin High School. Now… I didn’t really know him while he was a schoolboy standout, but I certainly knew of him.

Jamal Nichols, One Umbrella Clothing

Nichols committed to play for Phil Martelli and the St. Joseph’s Hawks. Right after he committed, the late great John Hardnett brought him to see me. He told Jamal Nichols, “if you ever have any issues or questions about any school shit talk to Del.” With that, Mal was my youngin… Once he arrived on Hawkhill, Martelli asked me to “tutor/mentor” Nichols and a freshman guard from PG County named Delonte West. Big 5 HOFer Pat Caroll was the other member of that notable recruiting class.

My youngins…

Nichols, West and I met on average 2 or 3 times a week regularly… I kept my finger on their academic pulse while serving as a sounding board as they vented their intense basketball frustrations. Martelli’s Hawks were loaded, as a result, that was a tough year on the court for the rookies, Nichols, West and Carroll.

Martelli decided to redshirt Nichols. West and Carroll, while active, were trapped behind Big 5 Hall of Famer, Marvin O’Connor and PUB legend Naim Crenshaw. Nichols and West were not pleased with their predicament. Two or three nights a week, I had to hear “we bussing they ass Del… they can’t fuck with us. I don’t know why Phil won’t play us.”

“Man… y’all freshmen… Those guys are good… shut up! Wait your turn…”

Way beyond impatient, Nichols and West wanted to play ahead of established upperclassmen like Bill Phillips, O’Connor and Crenshaw.

Wasn’t gonna happen… Martelli wasn’t doing that…

“Chill out fellas…”

“Mannnn… fuck that…”

West begrudgingly waited his turn. So did Carroll. Nichols, however, went the JUCO route after being suspended for a semester. All three became really good college basketball players. West and Carroll are Big 5 Hall of Famers…

Nichols spent his one season at Riverside (Calif.) Community College where he averaged 17.4 points and 8.3 rebounds. The following year, he played at Globe Tech in New York, N.Y. where he averaged 24 points and 14 rebounds and was selected to play in the National Junior College Division I All-Star game.

Each and every step of the way, Nichols faithfully kept me abreast of his academic progress. Nichols is no bookworm, far from it. But he is highly intelligent… Wicked smart as they say in Boston… He always paid close attention to academic requirements at each stop and made sure he steadily progressed toward a Bachelors Degree. Basically, he didn’t fuck around… He piled up his credits…

After graduating Junior College, Nichols signed to play basketball at DePaul University for Blue Demon Head Coach Dave Leitao prior to the 2004-05 season. After one season at DePaul, a frustrated Nichols turned professional. He spent more than a decade playing in Europe and the Middle East.

After his playing days ended, Nichols settled down with his family and began working with students with significant autism support and emotional support needs. Nichols provided educational, behavioral and clinical services while helping students reach their full potential. His advancement in this field was hindered by his lack of a bachelors degree.

He never stopped thinking about completing his own academic journey. Frequently, we would discuss his son’s educational progress and placement. Ultimately, Nichols and his wife enrolled him at Friends Central. Like his Daddy, Nichols’s boy is wicked smart. Inevitably, the discussions would always wind back around to Nichols completing his bachelors.

The challenge was finding a path that could work with his intense work schedule and heavy family responsibilities. We explored Rosemont, Eastern, Cheyney, Arcadia, Cabrini and some other online programs trying to find an affordable path to completion of the bachelors degree. None of them worked financially.

Then one day, I suggested that he reach out to DePaul. That was the last school he attended. He played a full season and left in good standing.

“Maybe, they’ll let you finish there…”

DeWayne Peevy, DePaul University athletic director

“Hit up the AD and explain your situation… Brother came from Kentucky, I heard the he’s a good dude.”

In August 2020, DeWayne Peevy became the new DePaul University athletic director. Peevy has been Kentucky’s deputy director of athletics for the last six years and has been with their athletic department for the last 12 years. 

After a few raw and honest conversations, Peevy helped Nichols identify a path toward a DePaul degree. The two have formed a friendship. When the Blue Deamons came to town to get spanked by Nova, Peevy and Nichols met up and discussed his progress. It should be noted that, DePaul basketball has never wavered from their initial promise to take care of Nichols made nearly 20 years ago.

That’s all Nichols needed, an opportunity. Nichols has taken full advantage of the opportunity. Indeed, he was recently named to the DePaul University Dean’s List for the Spring Semester.

I’m not surprised… Not at all… Like I said, the young man is highly intelligent.

The game ain’t over… But it’s first and goal on the one.

Nichols is in “beast mode”… He’s handing that shit off to Marshawn… fuck that goal line slant pass!

Book it… That’s my lil’ Bro!

How Will Jalen Duren Do in the NBA?

Jalen Duren exploded on the scholastic scene in 2018 as a big, powerful young man who possessed an NBA center’s frame at 14 years of age. Duren was dominant from Day 1 in the highly regarded Roman Catholic program. He was truly fun to watch during the two years he spent at Broad & Vine. Time flies… Fast forward four years and now, Duren is all set to enter the NBA as a lottery pick.

Duren, still just 18 has declared for the 2022 NBA Draft and projects as a likely lottery pick with top 6-8 potential. So… How will he do against the big boys? Will he be a dominant NBA player? Will he be an all-star? Will he start right away? How does his game translate to today’s NBA?

At this point in his development, Duren doesn’t possess the offensive repertoire of a prospect like Gonzaga’s highly skilled Chet Holmgren. But… Duren is only 18 years old, 1.5 years younger than Holmgren and has ample time to refine and extend his offensive skill-set.

As it stands, his game on the offensive end consists primarily of banging it on opponents… with extreme force. Duren’s dunks reverberate throughout arenas unlike those of other players. Duren’s dunks hurt your feelings… They call the opponents manhood into question… They make opposing bigs wonder if it worth the effort require to attempt a block.

As early as the 9th grade, Duren was an imposing physical force who was too much to handle for most high school bigs. By the 10th grade, it was clear that he was a man amongst boys. With relative ease, Duren was able to cleanly and forcefully dunk everything around the rim. On the other end of the floor, he literally put a fence around the rim and rejected countless attempts to attack the basket.

For the 11th grade, Duren decided to challenge himself by playing at Montverde. Same shit… different gym… Playing and practicing against the finest high school players everyday, he continued to stand out. He continued to dunk everything around the basket. Possessing extremely long arms and big hands, Duren controlled lob passes and offensive rebounds with ease.

He decided to skip the 12th grade and suit up for Penny Hardaway and the Memphis Tigers for a year. Same shit… Different gym… Playing in and starting 29 games, Duren averaged 12.0 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 2.1 bpg and 1.3 apg. Again, relying heavily upon hard ass dunks in dude’s faces, Duren shot 59.7% from the field. He led the AAC in block and rebounds per game. Duren was named the the AAC Rookie of the Year, All-AAC 1st team and to the All-AAC Tournament team.

So what happens next year in the NBA? How will a 19 year old Duren fare against the best players in the world?

He will be able to rebound. Indeed, he may have been the best rebounder in college basketball and this is a skill that will translate to the highest level of play. Duren is an extremely quick leaper and protecting the rim is one of his biggest strengths. This skill will also translate… He is a patient defender and knows how to wait through pump fakes. Even when he is not able to actually block the shot, he alters them. Duren is a huge presence around the basket… Offensive players have to know where he is… His length and athleticism will make him a capable defender from Day 1.

Offensively, Duren doesn’t possess a varied repertoire of post moves. In a lot of ways, he is from another era… He’s a throwback, old-school 70s-80s big man capable of scoring around the basket on put-backs, alley-oops and on offensive rebounds. In the age of Joel Embid and stretch 4s and 5s, Duren did not make a single 3 point shot this past season. Indeed, he only had one 3 point attempt. Over the past couple of years, we have seen him working hard tp develop something resembling a mid range game. His jump shot form appears mechanically sound and, perhaps, he can hone a shot that will stretch out towards the 3pt line over time.

But for now, he’s just gonna continue to dunk that shit real hard on muthafucka’s heads on the offensive end of the court. He will play immediately at the next level because his rebounding and interior defense are so strong he will have to be on the floor. If he gets a reliable jump shot, the sky is the limit. If he doesn’t improve offensively he’ll probably be just another good $300-$400 million dollar 12-15 year NBA player.

Frank Martin, TaQuan Woodley & Rahsool Diggins #CamdenPhilly

College basketball recruiting has rapidly transformed… Nothing is the way it used to be… There is a full-blown NIL market in place. The NIL market is shaping a lot of the high major recruiting. Not surprisingly, Philly programs are lagging in the NIL space. Philadelphia, with 6 Division 1 programs, has always been a tough nut to crack…

Philly is different… Some programs seem to figure it out… Penn State came through and scooped up a lot of good players… Now, it looks like UMass and Frank Martin are making headway.

Frank Martin, UMass Head Coach

Penn State, under Pat Chambers and subsequently Micah Shrewsberry, has landed numerous Philly kids… D.J. Newbill, Lamar Stevens, Tony Carr, John Harrar, Shep Garner, Mike Watkins and most recently Andrew Funk and Jameel Brown have all committed to play for Penn State.

Penn State basketball? Pre-Chambers, that was not a thing in Philly…

Prior to Pat Chambers arrival in Happy Valley, one could not have even envisioned a Philly to Penn State basketball recruiting pipeline. After all, Philly is a hardcore hoops Mecca and Penn State is first and foremost, a football school. For the Nittany Lions, basketball is just a distraction, something to do ’til spring football gets underway… Right?

But it happened… Funk and Brown are the latest evidence of Shrewsberry’s maintenance of the pipeline. For me, the key was the first one… Newbill… He was an overlooked Philly guard… A high major talent that local programs undervalued. Drexel and Bruiser Flint made a HARD run at Newbill, none of the others were aggressively recruiting him… One day, Newbill pulled me aside and said, “Del, I know that’s your man and all… But I’m not going to Drexel.”

That was that… With little local interest, Newbill had to go out of town.

Georgetown, West Virginia and Marquette were the schools coming hardest for Newbill. He committed to Marquette and Buzz Williams, who proceeded to FUCK him over. He never even made it to the Marquette campus. Buzz ran Newbill off to make room for another kid. Newbill ended up playing one season at Southern Mississippi and making all-freshman in CUSA.

He transferred to Penn State. Chambers gave Newbill an opportunity to play high major basketball. Highly regarded and respected among his peers, Newbill’s arrival opened the floodgates from Philly.

New University of Massachusetts men’s basketball coach Frank Martin arrives in the A10 at at time when basketball recruiting is much different than it was when had his first head coaching job back at Kansas State. Martin seems to be running a play very similar to the one Chambers ran a decade ago.

“Recruiting has gotten really complicated because of the transfer portal,” the new UMass coach said. “It’s a complicated animal. At the end, whether it’s the transfer portal, or high school or junior college, you have to find people that fit. If they don’t fit, it don’t work.”

Like Chambers, Martin has staked out the Greater Philadelphia region as one of his primary recruiting grounds. Camden/Philly kids fit what Martin wants to do on the court. His first recruiting win at UMass came when former South Carolina power forward Ta’Quan Woodley (Camden) announced he was coming to UMass.

Like Newbill, Woodley is highly regarded and respected among his peers. From the moment he entered the scholastic scene as an athletic and rambunctious Neumann-Goretti freshman through his 3 year stint at Camden High, Woodley was one of the best players in the region. His teams very rarely lost. He was an elite post defender and rebounder with an exceptional basketball IQ. However, Woodley did exhibit some problematic social behaviors as a 14-15 year old. He tended to buck authority and confront peers early in his high school career.

However, by the time he was a senior, Woodley had emerged as a responsible, sage and mature team leader. Today, Woodley is a true gentleman scholar-athlete. Nonetheless, his reputation as a rabble rouser was hard to shake among locals. Rutgers, Seton Hall, Temple and St. Joe’s all passed on Woodley. Pat Chambers came to watch him go head up against Jalen Duren. Duren and Roman won that game, but Chambers offered Woodley a scholarship. Shortly threafter, Woodley committed to Penn State.

Then Chambers was gone… His racially insensitive comments to a player ultimately led to his dismissal. Woodley needed a basketball home.

As an SEC prospect, Woodley was considered undersized. His academics needed some improvement. He had a brush with the law. His daughter was on the way.

Frank Martin took Taquan Woodley sight unseen… Taquan never visited South Carolina. Frank never visited Quan. Frank understood that Taquan needed a basketball home.

“I’ll take care of him Del…”

Martin has taken care of him.

So much so that, after a productive freshman year at South Carolina, Woodley has decided to follow Martin to UMass… Days after committing, Woodley found out Sool Diggins was in the transfer portal. He immediately reached out to Sool.

“Hit me…”

Now… These guys know and respect one another… But it’s not like they weren’t best of friends in high school. Today, they are young men… They’ve been a lil’ bumped and bruised by the game. They have a better understanding of their personal situations. They have been through the recruiting process before. They are older much more experienced off the court.

Sool DIggins has dealt with Danny Hurley and UConn basketball for a year… He’s ready to lead a team… He’s THE PG, it’s his team… Sool told Quan…

“Ard ima hit you…”

Meanwhile, Frank quietly made his way into Philly and visited the Diggins family.

Couple weeks later…


College basketball recruiting is different. Taquan Woodley is a strong recruiter. He helped get this one done for Martin and UMass.

Respect Quan! Sool is an ESPN top 100 prospect.

Quan & Sool… #CamdenPhilly

Martin is demanding. Quan & Sool are gonna play big minutes.

#CamdenPhilly

The Big 5 today… Philly Stuff…

VillanovaKyle Neptune and Eric Dixon (Abington)… I’m gonna ride with those guys. Villanova smoothly transferred control of their blue blood Men’s Basketball program from Hall of Fame and 2-time National Champion coach Jay Wright to Fordham Head Coach and longtime Nova assistant Kyle Neptune. Neptune becomes the first Black Head Coach in the history of the program. Villanova made a strong statement with the immediate and seamless transfer of control to Coach Neptune. The University, the Athletic Director and Jay Wright clearly have full faith in Neptune. While I’ve always respected Nova basketball, I’ve never LIKED Nova basketball as much as I do right now. Dixon is my homie’s son… I see big, big things for E… I also look forward to seeing Nanna Njuko (Sanford) much more going forward. Incoming freshman, Cam Whitmore (Archbishop Spalding, MD) is one of the most explosive basketball athletes I have ever seen. I like Nova… I’ve never written those words before. It’s a new day in the Big 5… But somethings will be the same on the Main Line… Pass… Pass… Drive… look for open man… Pass… Pass… Post up… look for open man… Sweet 16, Elite 8, Final 4…

Kyle Neptune & Jay Wright

Temple – Aaron Mckie… Temple is coming… South Philly’s Hysier Miller (Neumann-Goretti) and Camden’s Zack Hicks (Camden Catholic) are important cogs in the Owl attack. Khalif Battle 21.4 ppg should return and bring some much needed punch to the offense. Damian Dunn 14.9 ppg is another double figured scorer. Nick Jourdain protects the rim and grabs rebounds. Freshman wing Jahlil White does just about everything well. McKie led the Owls to a 17-12 (10-7) record this past season. Jake Forrester (JR), Arashma Parks (RS SO), Tai Strickland (RS SO), Sage Tolbert (JR) and Jeremiah Williams (FR) have entered the transfer portal. Strickland (Georgia Southern) and Williams (Iowa State) have found landing spots. Temple is on the rise. If the Owls find an adequate big in the portal, post-season should be within reach for the Owls.

Monte Ross & Aaron McKie

La Salle – Fran Dunphy… Changing times in the Explorer program… Khalil Brantley, Jhamir Brickus, Jack Clark, Mamadou Doucouré, Brandon Dwyer, Tegra Izay, Sherif Kenney, Clifton Moorer, Christian Ray and Kyle Thompson entered the transfer portal. Clark (NC St), Kenney (Bryant), Moore (Providence) and Ray (Delaware) have found new homes. Coach Dunphy returns to a drastically altered college basketball recruiting landscape… There’s a full-fledged NIL fueled free agent sell-off underway. Meanwhile, La Salle basketball is in the midst of a total “down to the studs” rehab. The Explorers are looking to avoid the basement as they regain a foothold. I like Dunph to figure it out though.

Fran Dunphy

Pennsylvania – Steve Donahue… The Quakers were 12-16 overall but a respectable 9-5 in the Ivy League. Jordan Dingle 20.9 ppg is one of the most complete offensive players in the Big 5. Michael Wang, Bryce Washington and Jelani Williams entered the transfer portal. Washington and Williams will play at Hofstra and Howard, respectively. Lucas Monroe (Abington) is a key bench contributor for the Quakers. I look for Eddie Holland, III (Friends Central) to emerge as part of the rotation this season.

Jordan Dingle

St. Joseph’s – Billy Lange… The Hawks finished last season t-13th, coming in at 11-19 and 5-13 in the A10 conference. Entering his 4th season, Lange is 22-60 overall and 10-38 in the A10. The Hawks have lost 4 of the top 7 players from last year’s team. Jordan Hall has entered the NBA draft. Taylor Funk, Jack Forrest and Dahmir Bishop put their names in the transfer portal. All three have found new homes at Utah St., Bucknell and Florida Gulf Coast respectively. Ejike Obinna 12.1 ppg, 7.9 rpg, Erik Reynolds 12.1 ppg, 2.3 apg and Cam Brown 8.3 ppg. 4.3 rpg form a returning core for Coach Lange. Dayton transfer Lynn Greer, III (Roman Catholic) and Christian Winbourne (Gilman School, MD) will be expected to round out the backcourt. Vanderbilt SG Shane Dezonie 2.4 ppg, 1.6 rpg & 0.7 apg has transferred to Saint Joseph’s. A former top 100 prospect, he could be productive with extended playing time on Hawk Hill. The Hawks recently added Quin Berger (Westtown) to provide backcourt depth. The Hawks need to gel early and take a big step forward… They HAVE TO BE good this year.

Billy Lange

Arcadia All-American Da’Kquan Davis Commits to the University of Albany

April 11, 2022 – Da’ Kquan Davis a 6’1″ graduate transfer combo guard has committed to play for Head Coach Dwayne Killings and the University of Albany. An NCAA Division 3 All-American, Davis is known as a prototypical tough Philly guard that is driven for success. Davis collegiate accolades include: D-3 All-American, All Time Scoring Leader at Arcadia (1,825 points), Led Arcadia to 1st NCAA tournament appearance in school history, D3Hoops.com All-Region First-team, NABC Division-III All-District Team, MAC Commonwealth Player of the Year; becoming the first player in Arcadia history to receive the honor, Awarded All-MAC Commonwealth First-team.

Da’kquan Davis, University of Albany commit

At the scholastic level, Davis was a four-year member of the Roman Catholic High School basketball team. Roman won the Gonzaga DC Classic while Davis was a sophomore and junior. He helped the team win two Philadelphia Catholic League Championships, two State Championships and three City Championships. He was a second Team All-Catholic selection and named the MVP OF the Rotary Rounball Classic in 2016.

Davis formerly played for UAlbany Assistant Matt Griffin at Roman Catholic in Philadelphia. UAlbany has not shied away from recruiting non D1 athletes as last year Matt Cerrutti (Archbishop Wood/Lock Haven) joined the program and started every game on his way to be a 3rd team all America East selection, after competing at the D2 level.

https://twitter.com/verbalcommits/status/1512097221940244481?s=21&t=6Ngntt8WVsQUJ2ccyHaH8A

La Salle University Names College Coaching Legend Fran Dunphy as Head Men’s Basketball Coach

Immediate Release

Contact: Dan Lobacz, 607-237-5849

PHILADELPHIA – La Salle University has announced Fran Dunphy, a 1970 graduate and the all-time winningest coach in Philadelphia Big 5 history, as the 20th head coach in the history of its men’s basketball program. 

Fran Dunphy, La Salle Head Coach

Dunphy, a member of the Philadelphia Big 5, La Salle Athletics, Penn Athletics, and Philadelphia Sports Writers Halls of Fame, has amassed nearly 600 victories over his 30 years as head coach at Penn (1989-06) and Temple (2006-19). He is the only coach to oversee multiple Big 5 programs, and his teams have competed in 17 NCAA Tournaments.  

“During my time at La Salle, I have met many passionate alums who personify what it means to be an Explorer,” Vice President for Athletics & Recreation Brian Baptiste said. “Fran Dunphy is at the top of that list, and to be able to introduce him as the 20th head coach in La Salle men’s basketball history is an honor and privilege. In my conversations with Fran, he has made it clear that he still has a passion for coaching and a burning desire to help his alma mater. I know he’s excited to get to work and I know our student-athletes will benefit from having him as the leader of our program.”

As a dual-sport student-athlete at La Salle from 1967-70, Dunphy played both baseball and basketball for the Explorers, and was a member of the 1968-69 team that was coached by all-time La Salle great Tom Gola. The team finished that season 23-1 and ranked second in the final Associated Press Top 25 Poll. As a senior, Dunphy averaged 18.6 points per game and also led La Salle in assists. 

“La Salle has given me so much over the years,” Dunphy said. “It gave me a chance to be a 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.”

Following his playing days, Dunphy jumped into coaching and was an assistant on La Salle’s 1979-80 squad that earned a trip to the NCAA Tournament. Individually, Michael Brooks earned National Player of the Year honors and would go on to be drafted 9th overall in the NBA Draft by the Clippers. 

Dunphy then spent five seasons as an assistant at American University before returning home to join La Salle’s staff from 1985-88. During that time, the Explorers successfully recruited eventual National Player of the Year Lionel Simmons from South Philadelphia High School, advanced to the finals of the National Invitation Tournament in 1987, and won a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship in 1988.  

In 1989, Dunphy was named head coach at the University of Pennsylvania. Over the next 17 seasons, he would win 10 Ivy League titles, post nine 20-win seasons, and amass a total of 310 victories – the most by any coach in Penn history. The Quakers won 48 straight Ivy League games from 1992-96, and his ’93-94 team went 25-3, was ranked as high as No. 24 nationally, and defeated Nebraska in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. 

Dunphy’s head coaching career continued at Temple, as he took over for Naismith Hall of Famer John Chaney in 2006. The Owls advanced to the NCAA Tournament eight times in his 13 years, including a run of seven consecutive seasons from 2007-13. During his 13 seasons at Temple, Dunphy’s teams defeated nationally-ranked teams a total of 18 times, including victories over Duke, Kansas, Villanova, Syracuse, Connecticut, Florida State, West Virginia, Tennessee, Xavier, and Georgetown.  

“We are so proud to introduce Fran Dunphy as our head men’s basketball coach,” said William W. Matthews, III, Esq., ’90, Chair of La Salle University’s Board of Trustees. “Coach Dunphy is committed to excellence. He has demonstrated over his tremendous career that he knows how to develop players who achieve success on the court and in the classroom. As a La Salle alumnus, he knows our university’s Lasallian mission and embraces our program’s rich history, of which he was a part. Our entire university community wishes the best for Coach Dunphy and the program in the years ahead.”

In 2020, Dunphy transitioned into an interim athletic director position at Temple. Over the past two years, the Drexel Hill, Pa. native has been active with his alma mater. He was the recipient of an honorary degree at La Salle University’s 2020 Commencement ceremony at Lincoln Financial Field, and has broadcast numerous men’s basketball games on ESPN+. 

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Reclassifying in 8th Grade is Against PIAA Rules: The Case of Puff Johnson

I watched Puff Johnson play in the National Championship game Monday night and recognized him from a state championship game in 2019. Puff led Moon Twp HS to victory over a tough Archbishop Wood squad in the 2019 PIAA 5A State Championship. Puff was a bad boy… Puff averaged 22.6 points and 9.4 rebounds per game in the 2018-2019 season as Moon went 28-2 and won the PIAA Class 5A title. Puff had high major offers including North Carolina, Pitt, Arizona, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Pitt among others. He was the state’s Class 5A player of the year in all-state voting.

Puff Johnson, Moon Twp HS

Unfortunately, Puff never got a chance to defend his state championship. In June 2019, the WPIAL and PIAA ruled Puff ineligible for his senior season because he reclassified in the 8th grade.

The case of Puff Johnson is a cautionary tale. Pennsylvania parents must learn from his experience.

PIAA eligibility rules limit students to six seasons of a sport after sixth grade.

Let me repeat… Because this is some important stuff…

PIAA eligibility rules limit students to six seasons of a sport after sixth grade.

The WPIAL decided that Johnson reached that limit in the 11th grade because he repeated the eighth grade and played basketball both years, one at Rhema Christian School and one at Moon.

Now… Follow closely… Puff reclassified in 8th grade. Puff played middle school basketball while he reclassified. Those decisions rendered Puff ineligible to compete in the PIAA during his senior season.

Most parents, youth coaches and AAU coaches assume that reclassifying prior to 9th grade does not impact HS eligibility. This is definitively not the case, Puff Johnson reclassified in the 8th grade and lost his 12th grade PIAA eligibility. As a result, Puff had to leave his hometown HS in Moon Township. Basketball wise, Puff was fine. He graduated in 2020 from Hillcrest Prep in Phoenix, where he was coached by former NBA guard Mike Bibby. What he missed were things like homecoming, prom and graduation with his childhood friends and longtime schoolmates.

Parents must understand this rule.

In the Greater Philadelphia region, for the most part, it has not been rigidly enforced. But increasingly coaches and athletic directors exhibit a willingness to call foul and report perceived eligibility violations. It’s happening far more frequently. Parents of reclassifying students should understand that If their child’s eligibility is challenged, the student-athlete will be deemed ineligible in the 12th grade. Ineligible seniors can seek a waiver. Puff tried that route… His waiver application was denied.

Again… Because he played 8th grade basketball while reclassifying, Puff Johnson was PIAA ineligible.

This particular case ends well… It’s April 2022 and I watched Puff, a sophomore, play for Hubert Davis and North Carolina in the National Championship. The Tar Heels came up short, but Puff acquitted himself well.

Puff Johnson, North Carolina

The case of Puff Johnson provides a clear example for parents. They take heed and learn from what the PIAA did to Puff…

Someone wanted Puff gone for his senior year… Mission accomplished… Couldn’t beat Puff on the court, knocked him off with memos and emails.

The applicable rule for granting an extra year is Article VIII of the PIAA bylaws. Under these bylaws, a student can be granted a waiver for “illness or injury” or “severe and unusual personal hardship.”

The rule says that a waiver can be granted if “a student demonstrates that the student repeated a school year or semester for a reason beyond the student’s control, which produced severe and unusual environmental, social, and/or emotional conditions which, in turn, created a debilitating personal non-athletic hardship which would have prevented a reasonable student under similar circumstances from satisfactorily completing a school year or semester.”

The PIAA rule also says the waiver “may be granted if the student participated in no more than 25 percent” of the team’s regular-season games in the school year that was later repeated.

So… what’s the takeaway? What’s the lesson? If you want to reclassify in Pennsylvania and not worry about any potential PIAA eligibility issues, do so before the completion of 6th grade.

#FreeGame

Women’s Championship: Dawn Staley, Geno Auriemma, Phil Martelli & Philly Cheesesteaks

I can’t recall the exact day or even the exact year… It could have been 2014, 2015 or 2016… I do remember it was after Geno Auriemma had won one of, what seems like, 39 National Championships. I was hanging out with Auriemma’s homie, then St. Joseph’s Head Coach, Phil Martelli in his office on Hawk Hill.

Dawn Staley during the National Championship game against UConn

“Dawn bout to take this thing over Phil… She’s comin’….”

“Not while Geno’s still in the game Del… He’s got this thing wired…”

Now, I fully understood where Phil was coming from. After all Auriemma had long ago eclipsed Tennessee’s Hall of Fame Coach Pat Summit and ascended to the top of the women’s college basketball mountain where he stood all alone. He was absolutely dominant. He had led UConn to 17 undefeated conference seasons (including eight consecutive). Auriemma’s Huskies had six undefeated overall seasons, with 11 National Championships. He had the most titles in women’s college basketball history, and on eight separate occasions was named national Naismith National Coach of the Year.

At the time, Staley had led the Gamecocks to 3 Sweet 16s and a Final Four. While these were wonderful accomplishments, she was not in the same stratosphere as Auriemma. But I had a feeling. I had been introduced to Staley while she was dominating high school basketball by my friend Dexter Matthews.

“My young girl is the best thing out there…”

Matthews gave our Lincoln University crew and loud and clear heads up while Dawn was in high school. Staley was named the national high school player of the year following her senior season at Dobbins High School in North Philadelphia. From there, she ventured to the University of Virginia. She led Virginia to four NCAA Tournaments, three Final Fours and one National Championship game.

After graduation, Staley played in France, Italy, Brazil and Spain before joining the ABL and then the WNBA. She also won 3 Olympic gold medals and carried the flag of the United States during the opening ceremony of the 2004 games.

While still playing in the WNBA and participating in USA basketball, in 2000 Staley accepted the position of head coach at Temple. In her first season, 2000–01, Temple advanced to the WNIT. In 2001, 2002, and 2004, her teams won the A10 tournament and played in the NCAA tournament. Staley reached the 100-win plateau faster than any coach in women’s basketball.

On May 7, 2008, it was confirmed by Temple University that Staley would leave Temple for the recently vacated coaching position at the University of South Carolina. She left Temple with the best overall record of 172–80, along with six NCAA appearances and four A10 titles.

Staley and Imhotep alum Donta Scott during his official visit to South Carolina

So… When I saw her leading the Gamecocks to the Sweet 16 and eventually the Final Four, I knew should would eventually get a chip. I didn’t know when, but I knew it was coming.

So that day in Phil’s office, I laid down the gauntlet… Each and every time Auriemma and Staley square off, Martelli and I have a standing bet… and it’s a BIG one!

Every game a cheesesteak is on the line…

Last night’s Championship game was no exception…

Today, after capturing her second National championship in 5 years, Staley is sitting on the top of the mountain alongside Auriemma… Martelli and I will be visiting Marvin O’Connor’s Fresh Works located at 2101 Reed St, Philadelphia, PA 19146 in the very near future. Yo Phil… I like mines with American, (NO whiz) mayo, ketchup, fried onions and hot peppers!

Norf got another one!

Seeking Big 10 and National Championships, Evans Hires Willard to Lead Terps

(Camden, New Jersey) Damon Evans is the Barry P. Gossett Director of Athletics for the University of Maryland. Earlier this week, he turned the page on the Mark Turgeon era. Until the day he unexpectedly resigned after just 8 games, Turgeon’s record was good… 226-116 (.661) overall and 105-79 (.571) in conference. Under Turgeon, the Terps made 6 post-season appearances (5 NCAAs and 1 NIT) in 10 seasons. Again… this was good. For most programs, those are strong results.

But for Damon Evans they weren’t good enough.

He wants to take the Maryland Men’s Basketball Program in a different direction.

Damon Evans, Barry P. Gossett Director of Athletics for the University of Maryland

After 8 years in the Big 10, Evans is convinced that Maryland can make the DMV the focal point of Big 10 Basketball while pursuing another National Championship. While undertaking these ambitious efforts, Evans and the Terps will be fully supported by prominent Maryland alum Kevin Plank, founder/executive chairman and Under Armour, based in Baltimore, Maryland. Evans has also committed to breaking the ground on the $40+ million dollar Barry P. Gossett Basketball Performance Center in January.

Both Evans and his newly hired Head Coach, Kevin Willard, have made it clear that they intend to build a fence around the DMV in the pursuit of a National Championship caliber Men’s Basketball program.

Evans and Kevin Willard, Maryland Head Coach

This recruiting strategy makes a whole lotta sense.

As illustrated in Showtime documentary Basketball County: In The Water, since 2000, Prince George’s County has spawned more than 25 NBA players, more than a dozen WNBA players, and countless others that have impacted high major basketball programs across the country. Some of the most prominent and productive players in the NBA were raised in the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia area. Evans and Willard have committed to concentrating recruitment efforts in the DMV. NBA Guys like Carmelo Anthony, Victor Oladipo, Rudy Gay, and of course Kevin Durant, hail from the DMV. So does Michigan’s Hunter Dickinson and Terrance Williams II as well as Duke’s Trevor Keels and Jeremy Roach.

Maryland is determined to keep these kind of elite DMV players home.

Dr. Darryll J. Pines, Maryland President (l), Kevin Willard (c) and Damon Evans (r)

So, exactly how will Willard make inroads in the DMV? After all, he’s a Long Island native who played at Western Kentucky and Pittsburgh. He started his coaching career with the Boston Celtics under Rick Pitino. He followed Pitino to Louisville, where he spent six seasons as an assistant coach before taking the head-coaching job at Iona. In 15 seasons as a head coach at Iona and Seton Hall, Willard has been to five NCAA tournaments and won a share of the Big East regular-season title in 2020.

A solid resume, but very little DMV focus… at first glance, it seems a little disconnected from the stated strategy of local recruiting dominance. What gives?

Well… it seems that Evans and Willard have decided to allocate considerable human resources to this task. Recently fired Rhode Island Head Coach David Cox will be focused intently on the DMV while serving as a Maryland Assistant. Cox will be expected to used his deep connections in his hometown Washington, D.C., and the surrounding Mid-Atlantic region. In addition to Cox, Tony Skinn, a Takoma Park, Maryland product native deep DMV ties and Big Ten and Big East coaching experience is on the staff. These guys know their way around… These guys have deep DMV AAU/grassroots relationships… Sounds like a plan.

Willard and his sons with Kevin Plank (r)

It should be noted that Under Armour remains as firmly committed as ever to the University of Maryland and the Terp basketball program. Founder and Executive Chairman, Kevin Plank made it plainly clear that Under Armour continues to view the University of Maryland as an effective steward of the brand. Plank warmly welcomed Willard and committed to working closely together to help drive innovation and provide Maryland Basketball student-athletes with a competitive edge.
Damon Evans emphasized that Under Armour and Kevin Plank remain valued partners in Maryland’s quest to conquer college basketball from a based firmly rooted in the DMV. In every conceivable way, Under Armour remains a huge part of the Maryland Athletics family.

Rendering of Barry P. Gossett Basketball Performance Center.

Lastly, Evans announced that Willard’s players will work and train in the new Barry P. Gossett Basketball Performance Center. According to Evans, The shovel is hitting the dirt in January 2023. This dedicated basketball space will include a state-of-the-art strength and conditioning center designed to meet the needs of basketball student-athletes as well as technologically advanced meeting rooms for coaches. Evans and Willard are eager to avail these amenities to the finest players in the DMV and across the nation.

Rendering of Maryland strength and conditioning center

Evans parted ways with a “good” coach… The goals are clear… Evans and The University of Maryland are giving Willard everything he needs to develop and maintain a competitive edge in recruiting and attract the nation’s top talent. Willard has hired Cox and Skinn, they have to do better than just make the NCAA tournament. Evans expects Willard to position Maryland as a top-tier program. That means he expects Big 10 and National Championships.

Evans and Willard want to make the DMV the focal point of Big 10 Basketball.They want to shift the locus of of power from the midwest to the mid-Atlantic.

They have some really big goals… You have to put some “respeck” on their names…

Evans greets Howard Hudson, Hakim Hart and Donta Scott’s Grassroots coach with Philly Pride

They are on a quest to conquer and dominate the Big 10. The conference has existed for nearly a century as league of similar universities located primarily in the Midwest. Penn State joined in 1990, then both Maryland and Rutgers joined in 2014. The Big 10’s geographic footprint now spans from the Midwest to the Atlantic Ocean. This invasion has altered the college basketball landscape. Mid-major A10 programs like La Salle, St. Joseph’s and George Washington have been significantly impacted by arrival Big 10 basketball to the Mid-Atlantic region. With the hiring of Willard, the focus on the DMV, the additions of Cox and Skinn and the construction of the Basketball Performance Center, Evans and Willard are taking their shot.

The targets are crystal clear… Big 10 and National Championships… They are looking to displace Matt Painter and Purdue, Juwan Howard and Michigan as well as Tom Izzo and Michigan State.

Anything less will be considered a disappointment… A huge disappointment… Ask Turgeon.

“You come at the king, you best not miss.” Omar Little, The Wire.