We’re counting down the top 10 moments in each Ivy school’s history as part of our Ivy League at 60 retrospective. Brown is next because a championship program has to start somewhere…
A win isn’t always just a win.
Brown supporters found that out on Jan. 8, 1982, when the Bears upset Penn at Marvel Gym, 76-75.
The two programs couldn’t have been farther apart that day. The Quakers had won four straight Ivy titles under coach Bob Weinhauer and would go onto win a fifth at season’s end. The Bears, meanwhile, were winless at 0-11 and in the middle of a seventh straight losing season, their third season with at least 20 losses in that span.
But on a Friday night in January, the Bears started to turn their misfortunes around at Penn’s expense. After Brown surrendered an early 6-0 lead, the Bears finally regained a 60-59 advantage late in the second half, gearing up for a scoring seesaw between the two teams down the stretch. Junior Ira James sank two free throws late to with 19 seconds left to extend Brown’s lead to 76-73, and the Bears hung on for the win.
“I hate you,” Weinhauer said laughing to his old friend and Brown coach Mike Cingiser, a former All-Ivy star for the Bears himself (’62), upon shaking hands after the game. “How did you do this?”
The magic continued the next night as Brown knocked off Princeton, 58-53, a stunning sweep of the Ps for a program looking to return to relevancy. The Penn upset was the first proof that such a return was possible under Cingiser, and the coronation ultimately came with Brown’s 1986 Ivy title – its only one to date – four seasons later. The 1981-82 Bears finished just 5-21, but they did the dirty work in forging a brighter future for the program.
Read more on Brown’s upset of Penn in this outstanding Brown Alumni Magazine piece by Joe Dobrow, statistician and public-address announcer for the Bears before graduating in 1985.