Send him out, Jerome?

Jerome Allen is suddenly on the hot seat in Philly after the Quakers' disappointing start and a changing of the guard in the Athletic Department at Penn.
Jerome Allen is suddenly on the hot seat in Philly after the Quakers’ disappointing start and a changing of the guard in the Athletic Department at Penn.

Thanks to the Big Ten Network, the TV transmission of the Quakers’ embarrassing blowout loss to Iowa should now be somewhere in the vicinity of the sun’s Oort Cloud, just a few hundred billion miles behind the transmission of their mostly noncompetitive loss to Penn State just a few days before. Courtesy of these electrometric waves moving at the speed of light, Penn’s hoops futility will now be preserved for eternity. There is apparently a reason why it is so quiet in space— as on Earth, nobody up there wants to see the kind of dysfunctional brand of basketball that the Quakers have been playing.

Last year, there were potential excuses aplenty as to why the team wasn’t winning and they were not at all unreasonable given the circumstances: the team was young, there was little depth, star players were injured, and most of the assistant coaches had left for other programs. On the other hand, this was supposed to be the year that Jerome finally put it all together with “his” guys. This was supposed to be the year the Quakers took that “next step” back to respectability. This was supposed to be the year they would once again challenge for the Ivy title. But instead of commensurate team growth and maturity what have we seen? The exact same thing as last year: too many turnovers, too many fouls, lackadaisical defense, bonehead passing, poor overall team play, terrible rebounding, wildly inconsistent scoring, far too much Henry Brooks, and most disturbing of all, the absolutely inexcusable apparent lack of desire.  Here are some of the post-game quotes following the loss to Lafayette, a formerly 0-5 team:

 “We need somebody that wants to defend, that’s all they want to do.”

“We just didn’t have the mentality for [rebounding] today… They imposed their will and we didn’t really show up. They did a great job on rebounds today.”

“We get a possession where there’s two guys locked in and the other three guys are out to lunch.”

I ask you: Are these the comments of a championship team? Better yet, are these the attributes of a championship team? Aside from the blowout win over Niagara (which at this point I consider to be nothing more than an aberration), a generally bad team aside from Antoine Mason, these remarks unfortunately have already become a recurring theme both last year and throughout this young season. Unlike his Ivy coaching colleagues namely, Messieurs Henderson, Martin and Smith for example,   Jerome is somehow not getting “the message” through to his now more seasoned charges.

So what are we to think of the Quakers at this juncture? There are several possibilities. Either: A) the players are not nearly as good as was originally thought, B) they are, but Jerome has not been able to get the maximum effort from them, or, C) a combination of both.  At first, in my disgust, I am tempted to say “C”, but I actually do think there is sufficient talent (besides Tony Hicks) on the team. Therefore, in my view, the answer has to be “B”.  (Disclaimer: I generally suck at multiple choice.) There is very little noticeable change, in any dimension, from last year’s 9-22 squad. Therefore my only conclusion is that the coaching staff is clearly not doing the job in preparing the team to play.

There are those who disagree, however. On November 23rd after the Iowa loss, Riley Steele of the Daily Pennsylvanian wrote:

If there’s no change in the fortitude of this team by the time Ivy League play rolls around, I don’t think Jerome Allen should be fired. The players who haven’t lived up to their end of the bargain should pay the price.

In my mind, this is extremely flawed thinking. This is not the NBA. There are no free agents or trades. This is mid-major college basketball in the Ivy League where “non-scholarship” 18 to 22-year old student athletes do their best to juggle a frequently brutal course load and the year round demands of their sport. Thus, there may be only one way to go…

Although I have never met Jerome, I like him.  I always have. I want to see him succeed not just for the program’s sake, but for himself. A former homegrown star with an NBA pedigree and tutelage under two of the sport’s greatest coaches, namely Fran Dunphy and Larry Brown, he seemed to be the logical choice to coach the Quakers following the G.M. (I still can’t say his name) imbroglio. (Choosing then assistant Mike Martin, although he is fast becoming the “it” guy in the Ivy coaching world, would retrospectively have been a better choice, but at the time, the basketball program had just been down “the Brown Road” with disastrous results.) Thus, given this great resume, why all the current stagnation in team potential? As ESPN Radio’s Colin Cowherd accurately points out in his recent book, “proximity to greatness does not equal greatness.”  For this he gives the example of Magic Johnson’s abject failure as the coach of the Lakers despite being a disciple of both Pat Riley and Phil Jackson. I’m sure Magic loves the Lakers just as much as Jerome (Red and Blue Letterman sweaters notwithstanding) loves his school, but it is easy to see how this scenario is replaying itself on a much smaller scale.

There is still time to get the team on track but I am much less confident that this is possible given the current situation. What’s more, a perfect storm is beginning to gather against The Coach. Athletic Director Bilsky, Jerome’s de facto protector, is retiring in June, the alumni are already restless, the team is listless, and Villanova (who just beat #2 Kansas) is on tap for Wednesday night. I hope I’m wrong, but this game has all the makings of another epic ass kicking, another humiliation that Penn Basketball can ill afford. Should this season continue on its present downhill trajectory, it appears that Jerome will be hard pressed to escape its sad outcome–even if he’s moving at the speed of light.

Stay Red and Blue my friends,

The AQ

 

10 thoughts on “Send him out, Jerome?

  1. Well, the Lafayette loss was certainly the low point of the season for the Quakers.

    Given the multiple choice in the above article, I will point to choice “C”. The team seems to have a core of 7 players getting significant minutes – Dougherty, Nelson-Henry, Jackson-Cartwright, Hicks, Lewis, Brooks and Harrell. Each game there is an 8th player who gets double digit minutes, but it seems to be a different player each game. Unfortunately, only the first four players mentioned have shown the ability to have meaningful and/or consistent output on either side of the court over the last year plus. That lack of proven talent and thin bench, I would assume, falls on the coach.

    I’ll leave the idea of whether of not the coach has the proper grasp of game plans and strategy for others with much more knowledge than I have. If that problem does exist, then the coaching staff should assume responsibility.

    With that stated, one cannot put all the blame on the coach for the team, collectively and individually, not playing hard and focused for 40 minutes. There are basic lapses that occur throughout each game that are hard to watch. Also, there are a large number of unnecessary fouls that occur.

    I can appreciate the idea that more talented teams, like Iowa, Villanova and Penn State, can beat Penn. However, teams like Temple and Lafayette are at or below Penn’s level. A more focused and determined effort from the entire team for the entire game should have given the team wins in both of those games.

    For now, there is certainly reason for pessimism, however, I’ll try to look at the long-term picture. The main thing that matters for Penn and its staff is the Ivy League schedule. With four solid players, there should be enough talent to be competitive with the rest of the league. I can only hope that the players and the coaching staff will be working on playing strong for the entire 40 minutes, decreasing the turnovers, getting to the line with more frequency, and limiting fouls. If that cannot happen, then the results will speak for themselves and the decision regarding a new coach and staff will be an easy one for a new AD.

    • Well thought out and argued Mr. rb. The team to me, unfortunately, looks very much like GM’s teams–lost. This IMO points to a lack of coaching. Rebounding and protecting the ball, all problems that plagued the Quakers last year, have not significantly improved either. It is also amazing that with almost 20 players on the roster, the bench is so ridiculously impotent.

      I agree that the power conference teams are tough to beat and most Ivy teams would also struggle mightily is this regard, but there is a palpable lack of confidence when you watch Penn play. Princeton on the other hand, looks extremely confident –like Dunphy’s teams used to look. Interestingly, I never worried when I heard a halftime score during the Dunphy era. I always knew the team would somehow come together and pull out a win. Now, if the Quakers get behind by more than 4 points in the second half I pretty much think the game is over.

      Don’t get me wrong I’m a Jerome fan, but something has to give.

      • AQ-

        I didn’t get a chance to write back the other night, but better late than never.

        You made understandable and, most likely, correct points. The Villanova game certainly backed up a lot of your comments.

        Maybe, just maybe, Hicks, DNH and Bagtas can try to turn things around with or without the present coaching staff.

        • Sorry I didn’t see your comment until now–my apologies.

          Well….the Wagner game should have showed you something (or nothing as the case may be). They are as I’ve described them and appear to be getting worse not better. You just knew they would come apart in OT. In short, they don’t know how to win. It’s almost as if having the lead scares them. With a team like this you expect growth, not regression.

          It’s going to be a long embarrassing season.

  2. When Nixon answered the knock at the door and found Barry Goldwater he knew he was finished. Losing the AQ probably means the same thing for Jerome Allen. I must suggest that losing to Lafayette is no disgrace, however, but, like being poor, it’s damned inconvenient. The “It” coach is right across the Delaware, although Martin might well have done a good job in Philadelphia. He’s got Brown on the right track, for sure. rb is right, talent will show up in the Ivy League and Penn has plenty of it. Talent sometimes wins with mediocre coaching. Just look at the champions….

    • Nice Mr. T. All good points. But Penn is playing not to lose while Yale, Brown ,Columbia and your Tigers play to win. They have talent for sure but they looks like a missile with no guidance system. The Ivy is deep so the Quakers will have their problems.

      BTW, who exactly is across the Delaware?

  3. Sadly, the Red and Blue had another bad outing last night against Villanova. That loss puts the current streak at 11 against the Wildcats.

    Even though there was little thought that the Quakers would win, there was hope that it would be a competitive game. However, another uninspiring start by Penn saw Villanova open up with an 11-0 run. With 8 minutes left in the first half, the lead was 31-9.

    While Captain Miles Jackson-Cartwright scored 14 in the first half and 3 more within the first three minutes of the second stanza to try and keep the game in reach, he completely disappeared in the last 17 minutes. He had 0 points and only two shots taken over that time.

    The team continued its fouling ways, committing 29 fouls that sent the Wildcats to the line 40 times (making 31 of them). This makes 6 of the first 7 games with 20 or more fouls and the fourth with 25 or more. There were also 24 turnovers leading to 26 Villanova points.

    Early foul trouble limited Tony Hicks night, leaving him with the shocking total of 1 point.

    There were some bright spots, though, in that gloomy Main Line evening. The Quakers held Villanova without a point for the first 7+ minutes of the 2nd half and without a basket for the first 9+ minutes. Even though the Penn offense was not much better, they did eventually get the lead down to 8 with 7 minutes left. The Quakers also won the rebounding battle. By far, however, the best thing about last night was the first start for Freshman PG Tony Bagtas.

    Bagtas did not make the trip to Iowa a few weeks ago and had logged only 19 minutes in 4 of the team’s first 7 games. Allen gave him the start against the #14 team in the country and he did a very good job running the team. Early on he was shaky and ended up with 5 turnovers, but overall he remained calm, found his composure and often beat the Villanova press. He ended up playing 36 minutes, scoring 7 points, handing out 9 assists and only picking up 1 foul.

    After the game, Villanova’s coach Jay Wright stated that they did not watch Bagtas on film, but was very impressed with his performance. Now that other teams will be aware of the young point guard, Penn fans can only hope that Bagtas earns the right to stay as the starting Point Guard and grows in his confidence. His development could be a huge issue as the team eventually moves into league play.

    We’ll see what happens when the Red and Blue come home to the Cathedral to take on Wagner. Fingers crossed for a full 40 minutes of effort, less than 20 fouls, less than 20 turnovers, a return of Mr. Hick’s shooting touch and capable floor leadership from Mr. Bagtas.

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