Let me begin by offering coach Steve Donahue and the entire Quakers team an unconditional retraction. After their loss to Princeton two short weeks ago, it appeared their inconsistent play would keep them out of the Ivy League Tournament – to which I said, “Well, that ends that.”
Well, that ends that.
Penn’s season is officially over less than halfway through the Ivy schedule. Ironically, if not for the Ivy Tournament, the team probably would have been out after the first weekend. It has been quite a rugged six games through the Ancient Eight for the Quakers. The Ivy League is known for smart people, and it seems the Ivy coaches have effortlessly figured out how to neutralize the one-dimensional nature of the young Penn players. Thus what had begun in Philadelphia as a campaign of hope and promise has now ended in abject disappointment.
It is simply a rite of passage. A youngster at holiday meals joins his or her cousins, friends and siblings at a tiny, uncomfortable makeshift table with mismatched chairs. There they eat their meal on paper plates using plastic cutlery while in engaging prepubescent inanities. A tsunami-like fluid spill is also almost a certainty at some point in the repast. The adults, on the other hand, sit regally above them at the family dinner table. They sup the best dishes prepared for the day on fine silverware while reminiscing about holidays gone by in peaceful, civilized tones. Most importantly, the grown-ups are free to ignore the chaos transpiring next to them whilst they serenely enjoy their meal. It is therefore a juxtaposition of two worlds: one, dignified and graceful, and the other, utter chaos and irrelevance.
Well, a Penn grad has finally ascended to the highest office in the land. Although most would argue that this is indeed our rightful place in the world order, our man in the White House is not quite what we, or anyone with a liberal arts education, expected. The Ivy hoops season is also a bit of a surprise (yawn), in that no one expected it to be this bad. There’s a frontrunner that keeps blowing late leads despite their aura of inevitability and too many blah contenders looking to get their act together by January.
For the first time in years, there appears to be no dominant team among the Eight. The favorites, HYP, have all had their early problems and the bottom half of the league is as bad, if not somewhat worse, than anticipated.
So without further ado, I give The AQ’s Special Post-Election Ivy Power Rankings. “It’s going to be yuge!!”
So far I believe most Penn hoops fans should be encouraged. There are many positives to take away from this young season both from within the team and from the status (bad) of the Ivy League. So let’s take a peek at them both, shall we?
It comes in many forms. Caterpillar to chrysalis to beautiful butterfly: Whether it’s an insect, person, business, or athletic team, it is a necessary transformation for survival. No entity on the planet is exempt: evolve or perish.
This will be a curiously critical year for Quaker Basketball because it will show whether Steve Donahue, with his first true recruiting class, can be competitive in the increasingly upwardly mobile Ivy League. Evidence of institutional growth, something that consistently eluded Jerome Allen’s teams and consequently vexed and frustrated the Penn fan base, will soon be on full display as the season progresses. True, the Quakers will be a young squad (11 of the 19 players will be either freshmen or sophomores), but that should not significantly mask whether they will be able to take that next crucial step back toward Ivy hoops relevance. Of course, there will be growing pains but I, unlike the perpetually lugubrious Penn Basketball message boards, am unusually sanguine about this team.
Following our countdown of the top 10 moments in each Ivy school’s men’s basketball history this summer, Ivy Hoops Online is delighted to continue celebrating the 60th anniversary of modern Ivy League basketball by honoring the top 60 players in Ivy hoops history (in no particular order). For the next entry in our Ivy 60 for 60 series, we cover one of the greatest players in Penn basketball history:
It is impossible for me to think of the ’79 Final Four Team and not think of Tony Price first. If a team could have a soul, a heartbeat or a center of gravity, it was Mr. Price. I don’t mean to disparage any of the other amazing players from that most magical of Quaker squads, but Tony Price was perhaps the most clutch player I think I have ever seen. When the game was on the line, he just refused to lose.
A high-school All-American from Taft High School in the South Bronx, Tony Price was no stranger to hitting the game-winning shot. In the 12th grade, down one point with three seconds left, Tony hit the winning jumper to give Taft its second New York City Championship. In the 1970s, New York basketball was everything, and Tony was named the Best Schoolboy Player in Gotham.
“Hey AQ, where have you been?” The question has arisen this season from many emails and tweets. First, for those of you who have missed my pithy, yet pedantic,and occasionally puerile persiflage (800 Math, 790 Verbal), my apologies, and no, I have not retired. Instead, I have merely taken a step back to observe the rapid reshaping of the Ivy hoops landscape. Overall, this brief offseason has been arguably more tumultuous than the season itself. Yale captures the league outright for the first time in 54 years and then bags a tournament win over Baylor. Princeton does their “I got this. Oops, no I don’t!” routine in the NIT. Kyle Smith, after winning the CIT, triumphantly leaves Columbia (“Thank you and good night!”) as perhaps the torchbearer of a strange, new breed of Lions coach — a winning one. (I am hoping that they lose the secret formula for this perverse brand of eugenics, no doubt developed in some arcane lab on the Morningside Heights campus, before that institution actually gets used to victory.) Paul Cormier, after two straight ROYs, abruptly gets canned in Hanover which only proves that you can never go home again especially if that home is in New Hampshire, on the Dartmouth campus and you’re hired as its basketball coach. And Bill Courtney, well…even the muskrats at the bottom of the gorge could see that one coming.
So what about my beloved Quakers?
Hope is a powerful thing. There is the hope for that coveted job, that special girl/boy or, at one time in high school, hopes that the school of our dreams would take us. Hope is especially important this season in Ivy hoops, just ask Columbia, Yale and Princeton. For Penn fans when it comes to Quaker basketball, there have been hopes of the quixotic variety since 2007. Each year since then, however, our optimism has often been punctured by the harsh realism of what we all knew would eventually transpire nonetheless – that is, until now.
The Quakers, as young and undermanned as they are, once again “looked good” this past weekend as they split the back-to-back with Brown and Yale. Sure, they lost to a better team, but just like last week on the road at Columbia, they hung in there for a solid half of basketball against a more experienced and deeper squad.
Not good enough, you say?
During Rex Ryan’s final season with the New York Jets in 2014, there was often so much chaos on the field I remember TV color analyst Cris Collingsworth lamenting that he often had “no idea what the Jets were doing.” For the past few years, I could say the same thing about the Quakers: the fouls, the turnovers, the fistfights, the lack of spirit and, of course, the confinement sentencings. After this weekend’s games, it appears Steve Donahue appears to have at least restored our dignity.