The Tigers that season went 25-3 and 13-1 in Ivy play, beating No. 2 UNC at fabled Carmichael Arena. They blew out the second-best Rutgers team ever, led by All-American Bob Lloyd and Jim Valvano, on the road and came within a hair of beating Carolina again, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, losing 78-70 in overtime, after beating West Virginia in the first round. They came back to blast a very strong St. John’s team in the Regional consolation game, rising as high as No. 3 in the polls and finished No. 5.
We’re counting down the top 10 moments in each Ivy school’s history as part of our Ivy League at 60 retrospective. We covered Penn now because Steve Donahue knows what’s up:
— Steve Donahue (@Coach_Donahue) July 5, 2015
For those who did not experience it, the 1979 Penn Final Four season is almost indescribable. It was a once in a lifetime moment that happened to last two weeks. As students, our time in Philly was indelibly shaped by the completely unexpected rise of the Red and Blue to national prominence. School spirit was at an all-time high, and people who otherwise knew and cared little about college basketball were swept up in the mania that those few weeks in March brought. USA Today ranks it as the greatest Final Four ever and it is still, 36 years later, one of the highest-rated in terms of television viewership. This is because it not only changed our lives, but it changed the panorama of college basketball in America forever.
The ‘78-79 campaign started out like most for the Quakers in Bob Weinhauer’s second year as head coach. The team had finished 20-8 in his rookie season and was well on its way to repeating as Ivy League champions. The Quakers deftly handled their nonconference schedule, losing only to Iowa in two overtimes and getting blown out by San Diego State, 110-86. Then in late January came the Georgetown game at the Palestra. It was a nationally televised contest, a rarity for an Ivy League school, on a freezing Saturday afternoon. (Let’s face it, the networks certainly weren’t going to give it Brown or Cornell). The Cathedral was packed. Georgetown was ranked 10th in the nation and featured All-American guard Eric “Sleepy” Floyd and forward Craig “Big Sky” Shelton. (They just don’t make nicknames like that anymore. Tony “Big Float” Hicks? Nah.)
We’re counting down the top 10 moments in each Ivy school’s history as part of our Ivy League at 60 retrospective. Penn is next because Quakers are your Friends.
Before he was the head coach of the Dream Team, or his two NBA Championships with the Detroit Pistons, or his 1994 induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame, before he was “Daddy Rich” and Dennis Rodman’s online casino surrogate father, Chuck Daly was the most successful head coach (by percentage) of the Penn Quakers. From 1971-77, he complied a 125-38 record which included a 74-10 Ivy League mark. His 1971-72 team finished 25-3 and advanced to the NCAA East Regional Final, eventually losing to Dean Smith’s North Carolina Tar Heels.