Call it the Philadelphia connection.
The first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament at Barclays Center in Brooklyn will have a definite Philadelphia flavor.
Iowa (21-10), the No. 7 seed, meets No. 10 seed Temple (21-11) on Friday in a first-round game beginning at 3:10 p.m. Two Philadelphia guys — Temple coach Fran Dunphy and Iowa’s Fran McCaffery — will match up against each other.
Dunphy was born in Philadelphia, graduated from La Salle University and won over 300 games as the coach at the University of Pennsylvania. He’s in his 10th season at Temple and has won over 200 games with the Owls. McCaffery was also born in Philadelphia and was a player and assistant coach at Penn. McCaffery later became the head coach at Lehigh and Siena, leading both schools to the NCAA Tournament.
Dunphy talked about his friendship with McCaffery on Thursday afternoon during the media availability at Barclays Center.
“Well, we go back very, very far,” Dunphy said. “ . . . I remember watching him as a high school basketball player. Very, very impressed with how good of a player he was. He went away to college for a year and then came back to the University of Pennsylvania.
“ . . . I can remember his dad being a Philly cop, and part of his chores at the end of his career were to take care of the Palestra. So I would see him all the time. His mom and dad were very, very terrific basketball fans and great Philadelphians. So it’s a terrific Philadelphia family. But we see each other often in the offseason.”
McCaffery said Philadelphia basketball folks share a bond.
“There’s a family feel there, and everybody that kind of came up that way looks out for each other,” McCaffery said. “We spend time with each other at the Final Four, and it’s gone on for years and years.”
It won’t be the first time Dunphy and McCaffery have coached against each other. McCaffery said he faced Dunphy when he was coaching at Siena. He spoke about his admiration of Dunphy.
“I’ve known Fran Dunphy for a very long time,” McCaffery said. “I played against teams that he coached in high school. He coached at my alma mater. Obviously, his legacy there is to the point where they could put his name on the court. I was happy to see him get the opportunity to move over and coach Temple. It’s been a great experience for him.
“But you look at his record. He’s averaged, I think, 21 wins for a very long period of time. It’s really hard to do. And he’s been able to do it in the city that he loves, where he grew up and where he lives.”
To add to the Philadelphia flavor, the winner of Iowa-Temple could meet No. 2 seed Villanova in the second round on Sunday. Villanova coach Jay Wright was born in Churchville, Pennsylvania, which is about 45 minutes from Philadelphia, and graduated from Bucknell University in Pennsylvania.
Wright said the Philadelphia coaches who came before him and the Big Five schools (Pennsylvania, Saint Joseph’s, Temple, Villanova and La Salle) helped shape him as a coach.
“I think it’s the Big Five because Fran, Fran and myself, in the era that we all grew up, when we were kids watching coaches and watching basketball, Jack Ramsay, Rollie Massimino, Paul Westhead, all these guys, Jack McKinney, Chuck Daly, all these coaches in the Big Five to us, they were Mike Krzyzewski, Tom Izzo,” Wright said.
“ . . . Obviously, I’ve learned a lot, I’ve read a lot. But at that time, you looked at Jimmy Lynam and those [coaches]. They were your idols, and they were great coaches, and they coached — they never had — rarely had the best players, maybe John Wooden did. So you learned how to coach and take pride in coaching without the best players.”