When Temple rolled into Cole Field House for last week's East Regional, assistant coach Jim Maloney gave the Owls a history lesson about "friendly" baskets, quick-read shot clocks, and knowledgeable fans.
"He told us all about this place," Temple point guard Vic Carstarphen said during one break in the action. "It's all he talks about."
You could excuse Maloney if nostalgia hung heavy during the Owls' short holdover in College Park. This was where Maloney had worked as Lefty Driesell's top assistant at Maryland in the early '70s. It was where he had started to hammer out a reputation as one of the top X-and-O men in the college game. It was, back then, home.
And Temple's two victories felt like "home games" to Maloney, who is now John Chaney's first assistant.
"It wasn't emotional, but it was a good feeling to remember the good times," Maloney said later. "The people at College Park are a class group. I felt very comfortable."
Comfortable enough to direct the team's bus driver across campus. Comfortable enough to tell his players they would like these baskets. "They were always good to us when I was here," he explained.
Maloney's words rang prophetic when Temple, a 43 percent field-goal shooting team during the season, shot an unconscious 65 percent in a first-round victory over Purdue. The Owls shot 53 percent for the two games, and their 77-64 win over Richmond vaulted them into the Sweet 16 for the second time in four years. They play Oklahoma State at the Meadowlands on Friday.
In two days at Cole, there were a lot of familiar faces for Maloney. There was Jack Heise, a longtime Maryland booster, and Jack Zane, Maryland's ticket manager. There was Len Elmore, the CBS color man at courtside, and Maryland assistant Billy Hahn, both of whom he helped recruit.
"He was very good on the offensive side as a coach," said Elmore, who often served as a baby sitter to Maloney's children in those days. "He really explains the nuances of offensive
basketball. He was an ex-player, and a very good one, so it was not lost on him the temperament of players. From an offensive standpoint, he was a big help to me because I wasn't offensive-minded.
"He was a funny guy with a great sense of humor. Back then, he loved to talk about his time at Niagara with Calvin Murphy."
Maloney had been head coach at Niagara University, and had recruited the diminutive guard. After three years, though, he was fired and moved to Maryland to work under Driesell.
"He was my X-and-O man," Lefty said. "What I liked about him is that he was always talking basketball, always thinking basketball. He's an excellent teacher. He's a basketball junkie."
In 1973, after four years at Maryland, Maloney couldn't resist the chance to return to his hometown of Philadelphia and work under new Temple coach Don Casey. He's been there ever since, staying over when Chaney arrived in 1982.
The fact he remains an assistant says more about his priorities than it does about his coaching ability.
"I had opportunities to be a head coach, but it wasn't what I was looking for," said Maloney, 52. "I always felt I wanted stability for my family."
And now that his five children are virtually grown, Maloney
admits he would consider a head coaching job. But he won't jump at anything.
"It would need to be a good school," he said. "I've waited for my own reasons. But I'm not running around looking for a job. It's something that just comes up."
Head coach Maloney?
"If he got an excellent recruiter, and they let him do what he does best, he'd make a fine teacher," Elmore said.
"I always thought he had his fill of it at Niagara," Driesell said, "but I certainly would recommend him."
At Temple, Maloney refines the Owls' 2-3 matchup zone defense and works with the guards. Says Chaney, "I depend on him as a strategist and innovator. He is second to none. Jim is the finest tactician in the country."
This Temple team, Maloney says, is better than the 32-3 squad that was ranked No. 1 in the nation for nine weeks in 1987-88. "We think you win championships with defense," he said. "And now our offense is kicking in."
If the Owls (23-9) beat Oklahoma State Friday, they figure to get North Carolina in the East Regional final on Sunday. There's at least one man who thinks Temple can do it, too.
"I really believe Temple is the team that can beat Carolina," Elmore said. "It's a question of destiny. The determination is there. They're used to playing six or seven guys. They'll control the tempo. It's a long shot to an extent, but if anybody can do, it's them."