VILLANOVA– Two familiar faces roamed the sidelines at the Finneran Pavilion on Monday night to kick off the College Basketball season, but in roles that they were new to.
Fran Dunphy is no stranger to head coaching. His 580 career wins signal that. He’s no stranger to the Big Five either, having coached Penn and Temple. He’s no stranger to La Salle as well, having played there.
But being the head coach at La Salle is a new role to him.
Having not coached since the 2019-19 season, Dunphy might’ve been a little rusty, but overall, it’s nothing he’s a stranger to.
“I’m sure I was rusty in some things I did, my assistants will tell me some things, it was great, great fun, great to be out there, I love being with the kids everyday.”
Dunphy’s La Salle return was spoiled by another return, that one belonging to Villanova Head Coach Kyle Neptune, who made his Villanova head coaching debut on Monday night as well, with his team coming out victorious 81-68.
The shoes are massive enough to fill after legendary coach Jay Wright retired after last season, but Neptune doesn’t make a big deal about it.
“I get all the hype,” Neptune said. “First game, Big Five game, brand new coach’s first game, all that stuff, going into the game and just being apart of this program for so long, everyone has a unique resolve by playing and coaching for each other so when you do that and think that way, there’s nothing to be nervous about.”
Helping lead the way for Villanova was the duo of Caleb Daniels and Eric Dixon, who combined for nearly half of Villanova’s 81 points (Daniels 24, Dixon 20).
Being without Justin Moore who is still recovering from his Achilles injury he suffered in the Elite Eight last season, those two are going to need to be heavily relied upon until his return.
For La Salle, Josh Nickelberry stood out, dropping 22 points and draining five three-pointers.
Moving forward, these faces are familiar, but the roles are different, and it should be a fun story to follow.
“You miss the juice, you got agita all day long when the ball goes up,” Dunphy said. “It’s just awesome watching the kids play hoping they do good things out there.”