The last 33 years, including many of the most satisfying in his illustrious basketball career, the recently retired head coach of Lafayette College Fran O’Hanlan has diligently followed all the rules. This will include an unofficial one, which he was finally allowed to fire, thanks to a benevolent assist from Jay Wright.
“It was simple,” O’Hanlan said Monday. “I always told my players, ‘Wear whatever you want, but you don’t have to wear anything from another college.’ I didn’t want to see them in “Dukes” or “North Carolina” or anything like that.
“When you’re at Lafayette College, you wear our outfit.”
Reasonable. Fair. In terms of team building it was both inspired and a must. And according to team builders, O’Hanlan was one of the best, sending Leopards to the NCAA tournament three times, twice without a scholarship.
Former Monsignor Bonner coach O’Hanlan spent 27 seasons at Lafayette, after six years as Fran Dunphy’s assistant at Penn, when he felt it was even more important to follow his dress code. This is because he was a graduate of Villana, one of the best players to ever wear blue and white. But the Big Five was the Big Five, and there could be no confusion as to which issue of Palestra he would find most amusing on game nights.
So at Penn, he wore red and blue, in season and out of season. And in Lafayette he wore burgundy and white in season and out of season. Of all the plays he had ever developed, she was one of the least complex.
But then, after his last game of Lafayette, there was an exchange of text with Wright.
“He congratulated me on my retirement,” O’Hanlan said. “So I texted him and said, ‘Well, at least now I can start wearing Villanova gear again.'”
Five days later there was a roar on O’Hanlan’s porch.
“Giant Care Box,” he said. “There were 12 to 14 Vilanova shirts.
“It was very cool of him to do that. Jay is just a cool master. And in terms of public relations, he’s doing a great job. “
As for basketball, Wright is also good and it will be him in New Orleans this weekend who will be coaching the Wildcats in the Final Four. Although O’Hanlan has been to numerous Final Four, where the National Basketball Coaches Association holds its annual convention, he had no plans to attend this year. He speculated that he and his wife Nancy would be too busy preparing their home in Leahy Valley for sale pending a permanent move to another home in Avalon, New Jersey.
Again, there was correspondence from Ethan Avenue.
“They just sent it out,” O’Hanlan said. “They are going to give one ticket to the Final Four to anyone who has played for Vilanova and wants to go. This is certainly a great offer. Jay perfectly connects the past with the present. “
O’Hanlan himself did this well, remaining connected generations later with the players he coached at Bonner between 1986 and 1989.
“I went to see Tommy More,” he said. “Before closing the school, Boner was one of our competitors along with the Western Catholic. But my time at Bonner was fantastic. We won the league in my second year. (Current Penn coach) Stevie Donahue was my assistant coach. We had Brian Daly (former St. Joseph’s star and Archbishop Carol All-Delko) dad Ryan Daly. It was a bunch of suburban kids and we beat Roman and Neumann, then we beat North in the championship.
“My training time in high school was as good as ever. These kids are still staying in touch with me. Earlier we said: “Today we will win, we will go together forever.” And we did. They were always with me, often coming to Lafayette for games. I love those guys. And all these years we kept in touch. “
O’Hanlan also kept in touch with Vilanova even after the years of Penn and Lafayette. Respect for the program is great, and a real pleasure from the fact that it has helped develop a tradition that continues to grow.
“When I was a junior, we were in the top 10,” he said. “When I was a senior, we were in the top 10. In my senior year we went to the top eight. The next year, after getting rid of me, they went to the finals. “
In 1970, O’Hanlan was selected in a draft in the eighth round with both the 76ers and ABA Miami, Florida, and played a year in Florida before spending a long career as a security guard overseas. Then there was a season when he was an assistant to the Temple women’s team before Boner, then Penn, then a 361 win at Lafayette.
However, at the age of 73 he passed the full circle for a member of the Hall of Fame Vilanov.
“I wasn’t going to go to the Final Four this year,” Fran O’Hanlan said. “But now there’s Vilanova in it, so I’m reviewing it.”
He will have something to wear.
Contact Jack McCaffery at email@example.com.