On Wednesday night, a men's basketball coach took to the podium and talked about the challenges of not only playing a basketball team, but a tradition and a program.
The coach was Mike Krzyzewski. The program he spoke about was Temple.
After the Owls stunned the No. 5/No. 3 Blue Devils, 78-73, the winningest coach in NCAA Division I history lauded the team that vanquished his with toughness, discipline and more than a few well-placed shots.
"They've won the Atlantic 10 three of the last four years," said Krzyzewski. "We're playing a team that's. … it's not a team we're playing, we're playing a program. Temple's always had a program with John (Chaney) and now with (Fran Dunphy). You're playing a tradition here. You're not playing a team.
"It's always had good kids with John and with Dunph who bought into that tradition. Temple has one of the rich traditions in college basketball, and Dunph has continued to do that. So they're going to get good kids that believe they can win, and they do win."
Dunphy spent much of the week leading up to the game talking about the honor of bringing Duke to Philadelphia, about his admiration for Krzyzewski, a former teammate in the military. He reiterated his statements after the big win – the Owls' first over the Blue Devils in the last 10 meetings.
"The quality and success of that program and what Mike has done. … it's an incredible basketball program," said Dunphy. "And to come out on top is really very, very nice for a lot of people, Temple folks, Philadelphians and our team and program. They are a magnificent basketball program, spectacular school and we were privileged to play them tonight."
Temple is sixth all-time in NCAA Tournament wins though lacks the national championships and litany of Final Four appearances compiled by the Top 5 (Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas, Duke and Syracuse).
So the Owls' success is sometimes overlooked, even though there have been many nights like Wednesday where a favored opponent fell, and Chaney took five teams to the Elite Eight - a few times failing to reach the Final Four because of a Krzyzewski-led Blue Devil squad.
After the game, Dunphy talked about the tradition at Temple – but not the men's basketball program, the school itself. The Owls rode the subway to the game at the Wells Fargo Center as an homage to the school's blue-collar roots.
"We did that the last time we played here, and the reason we do it is that's Temple," said Dunphy. "Over the course of Temple's lifetime, people would ride the subway to school, get out of the subway and go to class and get back on the subway to their part-time jobs to afford the education they got and then go home.
"For us it's a tribute to all those Temple people who have done that for so many years. That's who we are. We just wanted to let people know we appreciate what Temple University is all about."
After the game, the current crop of Temple students rushed the court to celebrate one of the biggest win of the Dunphy era.
"That's a tribute to what Duke University is all about, what Mike Krzyzewski is all about, what he has built at that institution," said Dunphy. "What you want is what happened at the end. I know our kids aren't supposed to rush the floor and I feel badly about that, but that's the kind of program Duke is. … That's when you've arrived as a basketball program, when the (opposition's) students rush the floor."
Students have rushed the floor for wins over the Owls – a Dunphy-coached Penn team prompted a similar response just over a decade ago, and Charlotte students spilled on to the floor just two years ago. Certainly Duke sees the reaction more than most, and while no one is suggesting Temple is in Duke's class, as Krzyzewski noted it is a program that is still held in high regard.
After a lull at the end of the Chaney era, Dunphy has led the Owls to four straight NCAA Tournaments and last year helped the program post its first tournament win in a decade. Wednesday night's victory showed Temple is continuing to solidify its place among the best programs in the country.
If anybody doubted it, they only needed to ask Krzyzewski.
"It's an honor for us to play against this University and that coach and his team," he said.
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