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Winners and Winningest

On the way to his team’s 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 don’t moonlight as pitchmen for sneaker companies or lip balm. They don’t 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 men’s 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 Penn’s long and rich basketball history.

Dunphy—or, rather, his team, as he habitually points out—earned victory No. 228 on March 1 in New York against Columbia, putting him ahead of Lon Jourdet C’13 (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 I’ve been around longer than anybody else.” Heaven forbid he should mention that his career winning percentage (.642) is better than Jourdet’s (.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 Princeton’s 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 9—the site of previous playoff games in 1980 and 1981—was 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, Lafayette’s gym brought back chilling memories of Princeton’s 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 Penn’s men’s 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 C’00 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 Springs—until 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 wasn’t for me. They make you clean your room, which is not a big deal, but if there’s dust on the top of your mirror, you get in trouble. I said to myself, ‘Is this the kind of thing that’s 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 League—a 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, they’d 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. He’s as tough as nails, and he hates to lose. You may see him lose some races early in the season because he’s working on different things, but when it comes to the big meets he finds a way to shine.”

At last year’s 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 Carolina’s 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 C’82 is the author of Fixed: How Goodfellas Bought Boston College Basketball and also wrote this issue’s cover story on sports in the Gazette over the past century.


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Copyright 2002 The Pennsylvania Gazette Last modified 4/28/02

SCOREBOARD

FEB. 11 - APR. 7

Men’s Basketball (25-7)
Penn 62, Princeton 38
Penn 78, Harvard 51
Penn 100, Dartmouth 62
Penn 82, Brown 63
Penn 72, Yale 63
Penn 51, Columbia 47
Penn 78, Cornell 53
Penn 64, Princeton 48
Penn 77, Yale 58
California 82, Penn 75

Women’s Basketball (12-15)
Harvard 59, Penn 55
Penn 64, Dartmouth 60
Penn 72, Brown 66
Yale 78, Penn 69
Penn 87, Columbia 78
Penn 69, Cornell 68
Princeton 66, Penn 65

Men’s Fencing
Penn 14, Princeton 13
Columbia Multi-meet, 1st Place
IC4As, 2nd Place
IFAs, 2nd Place
NCAAs, 9th Place

Women’s Fencing
Princeton 14, Penn 13
Columbia Multi-meet, 1st Place
IC4As, 2nd Place
IFAs, 2nd Place
NCAAs, 13th Place

Gymnastics
Towson Invitational, 4th Place
Ivy Classic, 4th Place
West Chester, 1st Place
ECACs, 6th Place

Men’s Indoor Track
Heptagonals, 2nd Place
IC4As, 8th Place
NCAAs, 7 Place

Women’s Indoor Track
Heptagonals, 9th Place

Men’s Squash
ISA Championships, 10th Place

Women’s Squash
Howe Cup, 9th Place

Men’s Swimming
Cornell & Princeton, 1st Place
EISLs, 8th Place
ECACs, 7th Place

Women’s Swimming
Ivys, 6th Place
ECACs, 27th Place

Wrestling (10-4)
Penn 20, Central Michigan 15
Penn 23, Princeton 13
Penn 21, Lehigh 12

Baseball (6-19)
Eckerd 8, Penn 3
Penn 10, Eckerd 9
Penn 18, Merrimack 11
Rhode Island 8, Penn 4
Temple 9, Penn 8
Rollins 17, Penn 1
Penn 6, Rhode Island 5
Temple 8, Penn 0
Maine 18, Penn 7
Rollins 10, Penn 7
Lafayette 13, Penn 5
Lehigh 6, Penn 3
Lehigh 13, Penn 4
Hartford 9, Penn 3
Penn 3, Hartford 2
St. Joseph’s 13, Penn 6
Princeton 4, Penn 1
Princeton 5, Penn 4
Princeton 7, Penn 4
Princeton 8, Penn 4
Brown 2, Penn 1
Penn 14, Brown 12
Yale 10, Penn 3
Penn 8, Yale 4
Drexel 12, Penn 4

Men’s Golf
St. John’s Invitational, 15th Place
East Carolina Invitational, 23rd Place

Women’s Golf
William & Mary Invitational, 11th Place

Men’s Lacrosse (6-3)
Penn 7, Notre Dame 6
Penn 11, St. Joseph’s 2
Penn 7, Bucknell 5
Penn 15, Lafayette 7
Yale 11, Penn 5
Penn 7, Harvard 5
Cornell 7, Penn 4
Princeton 18, Penn 4
Penn 10, Dartmouth 7

Women’s Lacrosse (5-4)
Penn 10, James Madison 9
Penn 14, Lafayette 5
Yale 17, Penn 10
Temple 12, Penn 8
Cornell 9, Penn 8
Loyola (Md.) 17, Penn 3
Penn 16, Columbia 7
Penn 8, Delaware 7
Penn 8, Harvard 6

Men’s Heavyweight Rowing
Penn 6:06, Georgetown 6:10
Harvard & Navy, 2nd Place

Men’s Lightweight Rowing
Rutgers meet, 2nd Place
Princeton 5:58.6, Penn 6:04.1

Women’s Rowing
Yale & Columbia, 3rd Place

Softball (11-21)
Fordham 6, Penn 4
Penn 6, Fordham 2
Penn 4, Wagner 3
Wagner 9, Penn 4
Penn 3, St. Xavier 2
Manhattan 10, Penn 4
Maine 7, Penn 0
Penn 5, IUPU-Ft. Wayne 0
Wagner 6, Penn 1
Colo. State 4, Penn 0
Liberty 5, Penn 0
Penn 9, Bowling Green 1
Toledo 2, Penn 1
Stetson 3, Penn 0
Tenn. Martin 13, Penn 1
George Mason 4, Penn 3
Monmouth 2, Penn 1
Penn 3, Troy State 1
Penn 3, Lafayette 2
Penn 5, Lafayette 4
Delaware 5, Penn 1
Delaware 3, Penn 2
Penn 1, La Salle 0
Penn 9, La Salle 1
Princeton 2, Penn 0
Princeton 4, Penn 2
Penn 8, Rider 4
Rider 8, Penn 5
Cornell 3, Penn 1
Cornell 18, Penn 0
Columbia 1, Penn 0
Columbia 2, Penn 1

Men’s Tennis (6-6)
Penn 6, Richmond 1
Penn 7, St. Joseph’s 0
William & Mary 6, Penn 1
Old Dominion 6, Penn 1
Army 4, Penn 3
Penn 7, Davidson 0
Charleston 5, Penn 2
Penn 6, St. Bonaventure 1
Penn 6, Navy 1
Princeton 4, Penn 3
Penn 4, Yale 3
Brown 5, Penn 2

Women’s Tennis (6-4)
Penn 4, Virginia 3
Penn 4, Maryland 3
VCU 7, Penn 0
UC Irvine 4, Penn 3
Fresno State 6, Penn 1
UNLV 7, Penn 0
Penn 5, Temple 2
Penn 7, Princeton 0
Penn 4, Yale 3
Penn 7, Brown 0