I think he was. TC by default has functions keys button bar visible at the bottom with "F8 Delete":http://www.ghisler.com/picture.htm
That (and remapping Fs) was the first thing to change by me few years ago. Since then I've been giving a chance for other filemanagers from time to time and the speed was always main issue. The longest try I gave to DO but it didn't win with my nerves.
I know that DO on Amiga was really powerfull but it's features were never resurrected again. In my opinion they should change the name of it because it is nothing like before.
And what "UNIX roots"? AFAIK Total started as NC clone but even DOS Navigator (now open source) had the same keyboard configuration. Both of them were written for MS-DOS. After all even Midnight Commander is described as NC copy according to the Wikipedia article
BTW Why should I bother with other manager when TC works for me very good? Because it's ugly or behaves different from explorer? Well... I want it this way. That was the first reason why I started to looking for something else.