On the way to his teams seventh Ivy title, Fran Dunphy reaches a milestone. By David Porter
A few words on Ivy League coaches: They are rarely, if ever, named Wink, Dink, Tubby, or Lefty. They dont moonlight as pitchmen for sneaker companies or lip balm. They dont get sued for slapping their secretaries, or fired for roughing up students in restaurant parking lots. All of this can make it awfully hard to get noticed beyond the musty corridors of the Ancient Eight, out there in SportsWorld where you are only as marketable as your latest peccadillo.
About the only bad thing anyone has been able to dig up on Penn mens basketball coach Fran Dunphy is that his practice routines may have been a tad too rigorous when he first took over in 1989. But no matter. Wins and league titles (231 and seven, respectively) have a way of getting even a coach as low-key as Dunphy noticed, particularly when the former number places the 54-year-old Philadelphia native as the winningest coach in Penns long and rich basketball history.
Dunphyor, rather, his team, as he habitually points outearned victory No. 228 on March 1 in New York against Columbia, putting him ahead of Lon Jourdet C13 (227-143 from 1914-1920 and 1930-1943). The win came near the end of an extraordinary four-week stretch run in which Penn won its last 10 games with the specter of elimination from the Ivy League race looming each time they stepped on the court. Not surprisingly, Dunphy downplayed his personal achievement, saying that the only reason I have the record is because Ive been around longer than anybody else. Heaven forbid he should mention that his career winning percentage (.642) is better than Jourdets (.614).
While Quaker fans sweated out every minute of those 10 games, Dunphy managed to exude an other-worldly sort of calm. After a potentially devastating loss at home to Columbia on February 2, he told his players in the locker room how lucky they were to be able to play college basketball, at Penn, in the Palestra, in a game like this one, and that their destiny was in their hands. Gradually, the team began to mirror his resolve. Playing with no margin for error for an entire month, the Quakers mowed down opponent after opponent, avenging road losses to Yale and Harvard with wins at the Palestra, exposing Princetons numerous weaknesses in two routs, and receiving an assist from the Tigers when they upended Yale at Jadwin Gym to help create the first three-way tie in league history. A climactic, 77-58 win over the Elis in a playoff at Lafayette College on March 9the site of previous playoff games in 1980 and 1981was highlighted by a brilliant 21-point, 15-rebound performance by junior Koko Archibong.
With Princeton suffering through a rebuilding season, Yale provided the Quakers with their stiffest competition in the league. An over-achieving, physical team that posed the biggest challenge to the Penn-Princeton domination of the league in 14 years, the Elis won the first leg of the series on February 8 in New Haven, holding junior guard Andrew Toole without a field goal. At the Palestra two weeks later, Toole led Penn with 20 points, including five late free throws, in a 72-63 win in a game in which the Quakers trailed until three minutes remained. For older alumni in attendance on March 9, Lafayettes gym brought back chilling memories of Princetons 54-40 rout of the Quakers in the 1981 Ivy playoff, but those demons were quickly exorcised as Penn raced to a 23-8 lead and never took its foot off the gas pedal in its most thorough performance of the season. A lackluster 82-75 loss to California in the first round of the NCAA Tournament did little to detract from one of the more exciting seasons in recent memory.
Junior forward Ugonna Onyekwe swept the individual post-season honors, joining teammates Archibong and Toole on the Ivy first team and winning Ivy Player of the Year and honorable mention All-America awards.
It is an unfortunate fact that Penns mens track team labors in relative obscurity for most of the season, as several athletes have a good chance to earn All-America status at the NCAA outdoor championships May 29-June 1 at Baton Rouge, La.: senior triple jumper Tuan Wreh, who had the ninth-best jump in the nation (51 feet, 7 inches) as of the beginning of April; sophomores Alan Chubb, a 7-feet-tall high-jumper (and basketball center), and Brian Chaput, whose 232 feet, 6 inches javelin throw was third-best in the country this spring; and 800-meter All-American Sam Burley, a junior.
Burley may be the most intriguing of the bunch. His seventh-place finishes at the 2001 NCAA outdoor championships and 2002 indoor championships are the best performances by a Penn athlete since Robin Martin C00 finished third in the 800 meters in 1998. That Burley is even in West Philadelphia at all is something of a story. Coming out of Cheyenne, Wyoming, as a multiple state champion at the 400 and 800 meters, Burley was all set to attend the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springsuntil he paid a visit to the campus.
They told me, Come down anyway, you might as well use your [allotted] visit, Burley recalled recently. When I got there I realized it wasnt for me. They make you clean your room, which is not a big deal, but if theres dust on the top of your mirror, you get in trouble. I said to myself, Is this the kind of thing thats going to help us win a war?
Penn was the only other school he applied to, and one visit was enough to sell him. Not knowing Penn was in the Ivy Leaguea fact that apparently gets lost in translation west of the Mississippi (or the Allegheny, perhaps?)was not a deterrent. Now, the junior is almost as busy off the track as he is on it, with a double major in environmental science and biological basis of behavior and a minor in English. And the only dust Burley has to worry about is what his competitors wind up eating as he leaves them in his wake.
On a chilly, windy Saturday at Franklin Field in early April, Burley demonstrated his prowess against 11 other runners at the Quaker Invitational. After running in the middle of the pack for 500 meters, he started his trademark kick and broke ahead at the beginning of the backstretch. A La Salle runner tried valiantly to keep up with him, but Burley, looking like Secretariat in the final furlong of the Belmont, breezed through and won easily by 40 meters.
If you put 12 guys in a room and asked someone to pick the guy who would be an All-American, theyd probably pick him about 11th, Penn track coach Charlie Powell said. Sam just looks like a guy off the street until you see him run. Hes as tough as nails, and he hates to lose. You may see him lose some races early in the season because hes working on different things, but when it comes to the big meets he finds a way to shine.
At last years NCAA outdoor championships, Burley made a tactical error by waiting too long to unleash his blistering kick; in the indoor meet, he made his move at the right time, with about 300 meters to go, but collided with another runner who was making his move, nearly fell, and lost enough momentum to thwart his chances at a higher place. Both races were won by South Carolinas Otukile Lekote, each in about 1:46. Burley has already run 1:48 this season, and he and Powell both feel he has a chance to run in the 1:46 range. The experience of running in an NCAA final should also help him weather the pressure this time around.
Sports columnist David Porter C82 is the author of Fixed: How Goodfellas Bought Boston College Basketball and also wrote this issues cover story on sports in the Gazette over the past century.
FEB. 11 - APR. 7
Womens Basketball (12-15)
Mens Indoor Track
Womens Indoor Track
Mens Lacrosse (6-3)
Womens Lacrosse (5-4)
Mens Heavyweight Rowing
Mens Lightweight Rowing
Mens Tennis (6-6)
Womens Tennis (6-4)