DAYTON, OHIO —
The contrast between Indiana coach Tom Crean and Temple coach Fran Dunphy is the difference between a live wire and a python.
Personality-wise, the two coaches who will face off in today’s NCAA Tournament third round game at UD Arena couldn’t be more different.
But like a live wire and a python, they’re both lethal in their own way. All one has to do is look at their considerable track records for evidence of that.
Crean, of course, took Marquette to the Final Four in 2003, and has lifted IU from the ashes of NCAA violation purgatory to the pinnacle of the Big Ten Conference.
The world is the Hoosiers’ oyster as they have a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in a generation and all of the trappings (and expectations) that come with it.
Dunphy isn’t as well known to Midwest basketball fans, but he doesn’t have to apologize to anyone for his coaching resume. Dunphy took Pennsylvania from mid-level Ivy League obscurity in the early 1990s to 10 Ivy League titles in 17 seasons for the Philadelphia-based school.
He then succeeded John Chaney at Temple in 2006 and has led the Owls to four Atlantic 10 Conference championships. Dunphy has a career-record of 468-237, good for a .664 winning percentage, 60 percentage points better than Crean.
So revered is Dunphy in the City of Brotherly Love that he’s regularly crossed streets between Philly’s famed Big Five schools, which is virtually unheard of.
He played at La Salle and coached at Penn and Temple. He’s the only person who’s coached at more than one of the Big Five schools.
Dunphy does it with all of the panache of someone who just clocked out at your local bank branch.
The button-down Dunphy lumbers on the sideline with a grizzly-bear gait (and sometimes its growl), but once you get past his book’s cover, it becomes crystal clear that he’s a thinking man’s coach.
It was fascinating to watch Dunphy go about his press conference business on Saturday at UD Arena, especially in comparison to the frenetic Crean.
If lo-fi and droll is what you’re after, wait no more.
“These timeouts are — you could take a nap during some of these timeouts. They’re long. And for me, I don’t have that much to say. I’m not that interesting a guy,” Dunphy deadpanned when asked about player fatigue.
He was later asked if he was surprised about IU guard Yogi Ferrell’s quick start in the Hoosiers’ 83-62 second-round victory over James Madison on Friday.
“It didn’t surprise me because he’s the Freshman of the Year in the Big Ten, am I right,” Dunphy said.
He was then told Michigan’s Gary Harris won the honor.
“Oh? Was he? [Ferrell] was on the First Team All-Rookie Team? Is that what I read?” Dunphy queried. “Whatever. He can really play … so I’m concerned.”
Crean, on the other hand, was his usual bounce-off-the-wall self.
All you need to know about Crean’s loquaciousness is that he spent several minutes talking about a game (Florida Gulf Coast’s Friday second round upset over Georgetown) that he admitted he had only seen the score for.
But Crean — who has never coached against Dunphy at IU or Marquette — has an enormous amount of respect for his Sunday counterpart.
“I don’t know him great, but we have some mutual friends and he’s just an excellent basketball coach,” Crean said.
“Watching his teams now, you just see they’re not going to get surprised. They’re not going to beat themselves. They’re going to have an answer for everything. There’s a poise under pressure. I think that all stems from him,” he added.
In their way, both teams reflect their coach.
Crean is all rah-rah for the press and cameras, but he does it not only to project a certain image, but also, to keep his Hoosiers from having to do the same. He allows the Hoosiers’ players to be all-business. And they were on Saturday.
Dunphy’s more cerebral approach rubs off on his Owls. There was no demonstrative awe on the part of Temple’s players on Saturday. They were calm, showed respect to the Hoosiers, but not without having confidence in themselves.
The coaches might appear different, but really, all they do is take a different path to the same destination, usually, a winning one. Watching them match wits will add to a fascinating Sunday at UD Arena.
Todd Golden is sports editor of the Terre Haute Tribune-Star. He can be reached at (812) 231-4272 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Please follow him on Twitter @TribStarTodd.