By Peter Gleason
Dayton has a special place in Temple coach Fran Dunphy’s heart.
But tonight’s visit to play Belmont is special because of its urgency.
It’s a one-and-done First Four.
The Owls coach is retiring after the season, and whenever Temple (23-9) is finally finished, Dunphy will hand the program over to Aaron McKie, a former Owls star who is now an assistant coach.
Dunphy coached 17 years at Penn before replacing John Chaney at Temple in 2006 (above). The pass-the-torch moment could come tonight against Belmont (26-5), or it could come deeper in the NCAA Tournament. With all the uncertainty, there’s no time to feel nostalgic.
”To be honest with you, I think the nostalgia will hit me sometime in mid-April when I was going to go on a recruiting mission and I don’t – things like that,” Dunphy said. ”But I think at this point you’re so busy and so caught up in what is happening in the moment. So you don’t have much time or desire to think about yourself in this situation.”
The bigger concern is trying to figure out how to slow a Belmont team that averages 87.4 points per game and gives up 73.9. The Bruins got an at-large bid after losing the Ohio Valley Conference title game to Murray State. They present an unusual matchup on short notice.
‘‘We’re in a cram session,” Dunphy said. ”I was never a good student, so I didn’t do a lot of cramming back in the day. That’s what we’re doing now. You don’t sleep too much and you’re fired up.”