2015-16 IHO Powerless Poll

Ben Franklin AQ 3Now that Harvard has been vanquished by North Carolina, Ivy basketball is officially over for the summer.  Since no one is still playing, you could say we are all equally impotent—or are we?  Thus, I give you the first annual IHO Powerless Poll. Naturally, as is my custom, I will rank teams according to how I view them from most feeble to strongest.

8. Cornell: Now that Shonn Miller is headed to some Power 5 school, the natural order of the Ivy will magically be restored and the Red can return to their rightful place at the bottom. Yes, Bill Courtney did make a nice recovery from the disaster that was the 2013-14 season, but success in Ithaca is as fleeting as the four days of summer that town is allotted each year. Look out below.

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Steve Donahue nails the little things, bigger things may come

Steve Donahue rocks the red and blue tie at his introductory presser Tuesday. (timesunion.com)
Steve Donahue rocks the red and blue tie at his introductory presser Tuesday. (timesunion.com)

It had to go off perfectly.

The hiring of Steve Donahue as Penn’s next head coach was the second major decision that M. Grace Calhoun had to make since coming on as Penn’s athletic director, and it will prove to be – for better or worse – the defining decision of her tenure. And thus, everything had to be perfect.

After all, people had their doubts. Former coach Jerome Allen had left the fan base with a bad taste in its mouth, from his questionable hiring by former athletic director Steve Bilsky, to the questionable manner in which he was dismissed by Calhoun just weeks ago.

In the same way that people surrounding the program feared that the administration had done its due diligence, those same people had a wealth of questions about Donahue. To the naysayers, the pros – his years as a Penn assistant, his three-year run of Ivy League dominance that included him leading a Cornell team to the Sweet 16 – are overshadowed by the cons.

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Steve Donahue is safe, and Penn won’t be sorry

Steve Donahue won three Ivy championships at Cornell. Few coaches share such a rich Ancient Eight pedigree. (Reuters)
Steve Donahue won three Ivy championships as head coach at Cornell from 2008 to 2010. Few coaches share such a rich Ancient Eight pedigree. (Reuters)

“You are better safe than sorry,” Penn Athletic Director Grace Calhoun said at her Tuesday press conference … in an alternate universe.

But that’s what most people are thinking: Steve Donahue was the safe hire. The safest of safe hires. For those people, Calhoun may as well have introduced him as he sat encased in bubble wrap.

But does safe mean it’s the wrong hire? If you think so, I’ll just refer you to the aphorism in my lede.

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Penn to hire Steve Donahue as next head coach

Dick Jerardi of the Philadelphia Daily News reported this afternoon that Steve Donahue will become the next head basketball coach at Penn, replacing Jerome Allen, who Donahue coached at Penn as an assistant, a position he held from 1990-2000.

The Springfield, Pa. native was an assistant coach at Monsignor Bonner High School near Philadelphia under current Lafayette head coach (and fellow former Penn assistant) Fran O’Hanlon from 1987 to 1988 before serving as an assistant at Philadelphia University from 1988 to 1990. Donahue’s Ivy and Philly ties stretch way back.

But of course, Donahue is best known throughout the Ivy League for head coaching Cornell from 2000 to 2010, making the NCAA tournament in his final three seasons in Ithaca, including a Sweet 16 appearance in 2010. Donahue finished 146-138 (.514) at Cornell, which did not finish with a winning record in Ivy play until Donahue’s fifth season.

Donahue moved on to Boston College in 2010 but struggled mightily with recruiting in Chestnut Hill, going just 54-76 (.415) in four seasons as head coach there before getting fired in 2014.

Donahue’s teams are known for motion offense, which worked with great success toward the end of hs run at Cornell and even at BC, where Donahue’s defenses repeatedly failed him.

The move was perhaps the easiest for Penn Athletic Director Grace Calhoun to make because current Penn assistant coach Nat Graham also served under Donahue at Boston College and Cornell in that same capacity.

Calhoun used Fogler Consulting to assist with the head coaching search.

The news comes just nine days after it was reported that former Penn coach Jerome Allen would be fired after five and a half seasons at the helm, and just six days after Penn’s 2014-15 season finale.

Who could/should be Penn’s next head coach?

My big board for Penn’s vacant head coaching position, a mixture of what I think Penn Athletic Director Grace Calhoun’s current ranking is and what the ranking should be:

10. Louis Orr (Siena head coach 2000-01, Seton Hall head coach 2001-06, Bowling Green head coach 2007-14)

Lifetime record: 201-201 (.500)

Wanna succeed against Tommy Amaker? Hire Tommy Amaker’s successor. Louis Orr, one half of the “Bouie & Louie Show” at Syracuse in the late ‘70s, took over for Amaker at Seton Hall in 2001 when the latter left for Michigan. Orr was actually the more successful coach for the Pirates, making one NIT appearance and two NCAA appearances in five years. In 2006, he was inexplicably fired after taking the Pirates to the NCAA tournament, and they’ve never made it back since. Then again, neither has Orr, who finished 101-121 in seven years at Bowling Green. The 58-year-old Cincinnati native has no Ivy or City 6 experience, but he’s got loads of experience and would provide instant credibility on the recruiting trail, especially in New Jersey, a frequent target area for Penn recruiting. Still, he’s an outsider on nobody’s radar.

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How Princeton poured it on at the Palestra

Mitch Henderson improved to 74-46 (.617) as Princeton's head coach with the Tigers' regular season-closing win over Penn. (goprincetontigers.com)
Mitch Henderson improved to 74-46 (.617) as Princeton’s head coach with the Tigers’ regular season-closing win over Penn. (goprincetontigers.com)

Last night’s swan song for Jerome Allen did not follow the script his legion of admirers hoped to see. The ousted coach surely went out the door with class, appearing on the bench in his Penn letter sweater, evoking memories of his heroic exploits on the court, a dramatic statement of loyalty and roots.

The standing ovation, a spontaneous reaction to his introduction as head coach for the final time, while surely not unexpected, provoked an emotional response. Allen sat hunched over while the applause cascaded over him, self-consciously fiddling with his left ankle, gathering himself.

His boss, new Penn Athletic Director Grace Calhoun, sat across the court from the team bench, occupying a prominent seat on press row, very much in charge. I sat in Calhoun’s seat for the women’s game, courtesy of her. She did oust me for the men’s game, but it was better for her to be visible.

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Jerome Allen will always be a winner

Stay classy, Jerome Allen.  (philly.com)
Stay classy, Jerome Allen. (philly.com)

What I do is not who I am.

That was an important distinction for Jerome Allen to make in his final press conference as Penn’s head coach, and the dichotomous night provided all the evidence one needed to believe the statement came from Allen’s heart.

During pregame warm ups for their contest against Princeton on Tuesday, Allen’s players came out not in Penn gear, but in black t-shirts. The players returned to the locker room, and when they came back out, they had changed from blank black shirts to navy blue ones – Penn blue – with the number 53 (Allen’s number when he played for Penn) on the back of each one.

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Thank you, Jerome

Jerome Allen won his final 43 Ivy games as a player for Penn from 1992-95, but he lost 103 games since taking over as Penn head coach in Dec. 2009.
Jerome Allen won his final 43 Ivy games as a player for Penn from 1992-95, but he lost 103 games since taking over as Penn head coach in Dec. 2009.

Although I feel compelled to write something about our head coach being fired, there is little I can add that hasn’t already been said elsewhere.

A stellar man of character, universally loved on campus, superb athlete and Penn hoops legend (probably the finest Ivy League player I’ve ever seen), who was to resurrect our program following the Glen Miller disaster. Objectively, the results never materialized. Why? Who knows? It is impossible to speculate. Perhaps outside of the team’s inner sanctum, no one will ever know. Regardless, I don’t think anyone would argue that he was given more than a fair chance to succeed.

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Penn coach Jerome Allen fired – why the Allen era didn't work

Jerome Allen ultimately couldn
Jerome Allen ultimately couldn”t successfully come full circle as Penn”s head coach after a wildly successful run as a player for the Quakers.(usatoday.com)

As ESPN”s Jeff Goodman first reported, Jerome Allen has been fired from his post as Penn’s head coach, an inevitable, Shakespearean ending to a marriage that saw much more sickness than health over Allen”s tenure. The writing had been on the wall for seasons, and after he coaches on Saturday against Cornell and Tuesday against Princeton, Allen will relieve his post. The Daily Pennsylvanian reports that M. Grace Calhoun informed the coach that he had been relieved of his duties on Monday, following his squad”s third-straight weekend in which the Quakers were swept.

Allen’s time as Penn’s head coach was a tragedy indeed. For starters, on a personal level, anyone who knows Allen personally speaks to his high character, that he is a wonderful person who people trust. And Jerome Allen, the man – who came from a rough part of the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia, who has a family and kids – just lost his job after continually coming up short for years, which is never an easy thing to endure for anyone.

But now that the story of Jerome Allen, the coach, has come to its end, he deserves just as much sympathy as he does criticism.

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Lenses on Penn basketball’s expenses

There has been much talk in the past several years, particularly this season, about how much or little support Penn Athletics has received from the university.

It must be noted that the problem for Penn Athletics isn’t the inability to spend. According to data from the Office of Postsecondary Education, Penn’s annual expenses since 2004 – the start of Amy Gutmann’s presidency at Penn – average out to 30,644,364, the highest average in expenses in the Ivy League in that span:

Average Annual Athletics Expenses Since 2004

  1. Penn 30,644,364
  2. Yale 27,483,608
  3. Princeton 19,230,050
  4. Harvard 18,707,094
  5. Columbia 18,703,370
  6. Dartmouth 18,673,655
  7. Cornell 18,589,023
  8. Brown 15,175,837

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