Requiem for the Quakers

The Ancient Quaker laments the departure of ring-less Zack Rosen, the greatest Penn player he's ever witnessed. (Photo Credit: thedp.com/thebuzz)

Once again, we were lucky enough to hear from IHO commenting veteran, The Ancient Quaker. This time, the AQ closes the door on an exciting season of Penn basketball and evaluates the state of the program going forward. We hope you have a dictionary handy. The author of this piece is not affiliated with Ivy Hoops Online, but we always welcome and encourage commenters, outside contributors, and readers to share their opinions and thoughts. 

By The Ancient Quaker

I am OK. Thank you for your concern. Aside from a badly lacerated tongue and a rather embarrassing public loss of sphincter tone (both #1 and #2), I have been given the necessary intravenous anti-convulsives and all grand mal seizure activity has mercifully ceased. It feels good to be no longer foaming at the mouth and flopping on the floor like freshly landed mackerel. Although I am technically still post-ictal, I thought it only fair that I relate my feelings regarding Penn’s losing the Ivy title.

I hate to break this to the Tiger faithful (especially you Mr. Edentulous), but it is a well-known fact

among Pennsylvanians that there has always been an undercurrent of Quaker-envy rife within the Princeton campus. It’s true. For example, former New Jersey Governor Tom Kean ‘57 secretly insisted on calling the Governor’s mansion “The Palestra” instead of the more unwieldy Drumthwacket. Before he became the notorious Client #9, during his undergraduate years, a young Eliot Spitzer ‘81 preferred the sobriquet “Client Q” while in the company of the cashmered, kilted, stiletto heeled hos who trolled the darkened recesses of Nassau Street. And finally, in order to curry favor with the Penn admissions office, a teenage Brooke Shields ‘87 petitioned director Randal Kleiser to change the name of her 1980 motion picture from The Blue Lagoon to The Red and Blue Lagoon. She cleverly maintained the name change was not at all Quaker-related and was instead a reference to the now infamous scene regarding her incipient menses.

In my infinite optimism,  I hopefully thought that this insidious but nevertheless vibrant and subversive sentiment, along with the skill of the team and the vociferous contingent of Penn fans in attendance, would somehow come to the fore and help propel The Quakers to victory, but alas no. Princeton did what any good rival would do to their most hated adversary. I would expect nothing different and they deserved to win. Let it be known that The AQ is as gracious in defeat as he is insufferably obnoxious in victory.

Of course I could analyze the seeds of this disaster from a Penn perspective—three games in four nights, hopelessly poor shooting, Tyler Bernardini’s late season foot injury, Zack Rosen proving that he indeed puts his shorts on one leg at a time—but there is no point. Even if Penn had won, it would have been hard to imagine them beating a talented, rested and immanently motivated Harvard squad four days later in the boon docks of Connecticut. Instead I prefer to look toward the future and, as I see at least, the future for Penn Basketball is indeed bright.

Attendance: Penn had the highest average attendance in The Ivy League this year, almost 5000 per game. Jerome Allen has managed to make the team relevant again and it shows. Even while on spring break, Quaker fans filled Jadwin Tuesday night and were as repellent and profane as always. My compliments to you all.

Recruiting: The incoming recruiting class is reputed to be either 1 or 2 in The League and with it comes a much needed blue chip center. [Ed. Note: ESPN shows the Quakers with four commits ranked in the high 80″s including a 6″10″, 265 lb. big man from Washington.] (Disclaimer: I am not at all the primary source for the above ranking. If I am incorrect my apologies in advance and please no hate mail/comments.) In addition, Henry Brooks, Steve Rennard and Fran Dougherty showed marked improvement as the season wore on. These pieces along with an experienced Miles Cartwright and Greg Louis returning from injury should hopefully keep the team competitive next year.

Jerome Allen is the Coolest Coach in The Ancient Eight:  Tell me, what do you get when you cross a 6’4”, “tat” covered, Philly playground legend, Ivy League NBA draft pick who sports custom made, hand crafted, $5000 Italian suits like he’s walking down the runway in Milan? You get Coach Jerome Allen, The John R. Rockwell Men’s Basketball Coach of the University of Pennsylvania. (I have no idea who John R. Rockwell is but I think his name is pretty cool too.)

Look at the coaches around the Ivy League and what do you see? Well, James Jones is good for the occasional humorous quip or two (but his brother was funnier.) There’s always Mr. Disingenuous up in Cambridge and then five other mostly forgettable guys who look like your high school math teacher. Can’t you just see Mitch Henderson in his polyester suit and burgeoning hockey puck-sized chrome dome whipping out the chalk and drawing equations across a blackboard?

“OK people, open your ‘Geometry in Society’ textbooks to page 67, “The Isosceles Triangle….”

Then of course there’s Jerome Allen. He’s Michael Jordan, George Plimpton, Samuel L. Jackson, William F. Buckley (if he were a liberal), James Bond and 50 Cent all rolled into one. The Dude is bad. But most of all he has now proven he can coach. Penn was picked at best fourth behind Yale and as low as sixth just above perennial cellar dwellers Dartmouth and Brown. However, when the season ended, the Quakers missed being Ivy League Champions by a mere 10 points. No one, not even yours truly, saw them finishing second. Coach Allen was able to get the most production out of a relatively small, mostly young, and frequently injured team. What’s more, they just received their first postseason (post-Miller) tournament berth. Not too shabby.

A few weeks ago I sat behind the Penn bench while Coach Allen paced up and down the sideline in a pair of A. Testoni alligator shoes. On this evening, he was resplendent in his navy blue Letterman’s Sweater with the big red “P” over the left breast. When Penn fell suddenly behind by five points he exhorted his team by pounding his chest over the big red “P”.

“C’mon, this is what you’re playing for, this is what you’re playing for!”

I ask you. Who wouldn’t want to play for a guy like that?

Zack Ewing: If there was ever a heartbreaking coda to this season it is Zack Rosen. Over the years, The AQ has seen many great Penn teams and Penn players, but I think none greater than Zack Rosen. It is difficult to forget the image of him weeping after his pathetic 6-22 team defeated then-#21 Cornell. It wasn’t just his superlative skill on the court which put fear into the heart of the opposition, it was his indomitable will to win.  He literally carried the team on his back for the entire season. If anyone deserved an Ivy League Championship ring, I know friend and foe alike would have to agree it was Mr. Rosen. He was indeed “The Chosen.”

In life, timing is everything and although it was not his fault, Zack’s timing was undeniably poor. Not only did he come to Penn in the midst of the Glen “Oh, did I destroy your basketball program?” Miller era, but his arrival also coincided with the emergence of unusually strong Cornell and Harvard squads. If Mr. Rosen were to have a basketball conspecific in my mind, it would have to be the former NBA great Patrick Ewing. Ewing unfortunately came into the league at the same time as arguably the greatest player in basketball history, Michael Jordan.

Thus the Knick center eventually ended his career with entry into the Hall of Fame but without a championship ring on his finger. In terms of the Quakers” immediate future, I also see another parallel: The Ewing Theory.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this concept, the Ewing Theory was created in the mid-1990s when it was discovered by an ESPN writer that Patrick Ewing’s Georgetown and Knick teams did better when he either was injured or missing extended amounts of playing time because of foul trouble. The theory has basically two postulates: first, a star athlete receives an inordinate amount of attention and fan interest and yet his team never wins anything. Second, when the same athlete leaves the team (injury, graduation, retirement, trade), the remaining players excel beyond all prior expectations. Time and time again, it has been proven at both the collegiate and professional levels. For example, the year after losing Rick Pitino, Ron Mercer and Derek Anderson, the 1998 Kentucky Wildcats win the NCAA title. When quarterback Trent Green tears his ACL, an Arena League unknown, Kurt Warner, steps in and leads the 1999 St. Louis Rams to a Super Bowl victory. And finally, the 1996 New York Yankees win the World Series the year after All-Star Don Mattingly retires.

Believe it or not, we’ve even seen a brief flash of the Ewing Theory this year in the Ivy League. When star guard Noruwa Agho went down with a knee injury early in the year, there was much mourning in Morningside Heights. The team, I as well, thought their season was over even before it started. However, Brian Barbour stepped up and Mark Cisco did his best Wilt Chamberlain impersonation and the Lions went on a tear during their nonconference schedule, at one point going 11-1. Kyle Smith looked like the second coming of Adolph Rupp. After his team smoked Swarthmore in December 104-42, couldn’t you just hear him say to himself, “Hey, what’s the big deal?  This head coaching gig isn’t so hard.” Then of course, Columbia quickly reverted back to being the Columbia that we all know and love and ended the Ivy season where the they usually do, near the cellar.

OK so predicting the Quakers’ future without Zack Rosen utilizing The Ewing Theory may be a bit fatuous, but the program is clearly moving in the right direction. As Coach Allen says, building a champion is “a process and it takes time.” Nevertheless, with his genuine love for the game and winning pedigree, I am confident that The Cathedral will soon see another championship banner being raised to its rafters in the near future. The CBI is nice, but at the University of Pennsylvania it’s about winning the Ivy League Championship.

Despite the loss Tuesday night I can honestly say this has been one of the most entertaining and enjoyable seasons of Ivy League basketball in quite some time. With Harvard as strong as ever, Columbia returning all five starters and Brown as a sleeper team, next year the league looks to be even more competitive. So as I, The AQ, look toward the future, I wish to leave you with a brief Biblical aphorism. I admit that I don’t actually read the Bible, but I’m sure Mr. George Welch believes with all my prior “moralistic” preaching that I wrote it. (I did attend the book party however.)

“Adversity creates perseverance, perseverance builds character and character fosters hope.”

Whatever you do in life or whomever you root for come next November, they are indeed words to live by.

Stay Red and Blue my friends,

The AQ

2 thoughts on “Requiem for the Quakers

  1. I posted this in reply to another article but I want to make sure the AQ sees this. Bilsky’s explanation of how he managed two home games in the CBI reported by Mike Kern on philly.com on 3/16. Well done, Penn supporters. Great exposure for the League and for the Quaker program. Hope to see you Wednesday at The Palestra, I guess.

    • Thanks for your comment.
      Agreed, I think Bilsky did a good job for a change. The AD paid $80,000 total to host both games. It shows a commitment to the team going forward which I am happy to see.
      Yes, Wednesday at The Palestra would be amazing.

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