I love a man with a plan. The first few games of 2015 for the Penn Quakers have undoubtedly shown that first-year Penn coach Steve Donahue has a system. He is also doing his best to implement that system with young players that are not necessarily the best fit. The early results are therefore quite predictable: a few wins, a few competitive losses, a few bad losses and one game in which they were predictably “Cornelled.”™ (Cornelled: adv. A punishing, demoralizing and humiliating loss where a team surrenders 100 points or more.) So, despite their weak schedule, not a horrendous start for the Quakers.
Like many, I was a bit shocked that Jerome Allen has not placed on ESPN’s “10 Best-Dressed Coaches List.” Anyone who has seen the man up close knows his elegant sartorial choices are beyond reproach.
I was equally shocked when this very forum expended more than 51 minutes of last week’s On the Vine podcast discussing Ivy League basketball and spent exactly two seconds on the Quakers. In fact, after discussing six other teams, host Peter Andrews at one point says, “There’s only one other team that we haven’t talked about, Dartmouth.”
Shame on you gentlemen…
These two incidents, albeit small, point to one thing: the current irrelevance of Penn basketball. Both mainstream and social media blather on and on about everything from the overall strength of the league to the beauty of the Yale offense, to the disappointment of the Brown defense, to the burgeoning diameter of Mitch Henderson’s bald spot.
But nothing about Penn.
In his first post for Ivy Hoops Online, former Daily Pennsylvanian Sports Editor John Phillips weighs in on what this season means for the future of Jerome Allen and Penn basketball.
It is Penn coach Jerome Allen’s favorite mantra: The next game is the most important, because it’s the next time we play.
For the four-plus seasons Allen has served as Penn’s coach, however, that has rarely been true. There have been plenty of meaningless games played under Allen’s eye for the Red and Blue. He carries a 56-85 record into this season, so the next games on the schedule haven’t mattered much where winning is concerned.
But even when the team was going a combined 17-42 over the last two seasons and some were calling for Allen to be fired depending on his team’s performance during a stretch of bad games, Allen’s mantra proved to be false as well. Due to a long list of reasons, or what some would consider excuses, Allen’s struggles have been given a free pass. After superstar Zack Rosen left the team, Penn’s struggles were framed as natural following the departure of such a strong presence. Then, last year, after Allen’s team showed a stark lack of discipline throughout the season, Allen made a culture change in the locker room that led to Julian Harrell and Henry Brooks, two of the most talented players on Penn’s roster, leaving the team. So despite the struggles that Penn faced on the court in 2013-14, the Quakers were still granted a reprieve, supporting the argument that each “next game” Allen’s squad faced last season was in no way the most important.
Nothing lasts forever. Of what was once a powerful 500-year-old Republic, all that remains now of the Roman Empire are some weathered boulders scattered across Italy in the form of decaying monuments. And what has become of Britain’s Empire that once stretched to every continent on the planet? It has been reduced to a token naval force and an army of T-shirted, potbellied, Guinness-fueled, vomiting soccer hooligans who now invade neighboring lands in the name of “Man U” instead of Her Majesty the Queen.
Therefore it should not be a shock to Quaker fans that the era of Quaker hoops dominance is now effectively over. Having ruled admirably over the Ivy League for almost 30 years (along with Princeton—an effete and supercilious France to our noble and righteous England), the torch has now been passed to upstart Harvard. (The powerful but crass and cultureless “America” if you will in my little imperial scenario.) What was for years our birthright (at least we thought it was) is now handily out of reach for the foreseeable future. Since our last championship in 2007, The League has been effectively turned upside down with Harvard, Columbia, Yale and, most likely, Brown at the top. Twenty years ago, no one could ever have imagined this anymore than they could a bunch of ill-equipped colonists defeating the most powerful Domain in the history of civilization.
“You don’t want to lose to a team that doesn’t play well, that isn’t well coached, that doesn’t play with class…..Penn plays hard, is well coached, and they play with class.” -Princeton’s Basketball Coach, 2014.
Unfortunately, the above quote was referring to Penn’s 2014 Ivy Champion women’s basketball team. In the span of four short years, Mike McLaughlin has remarkably turned the women’s basketball program from worst (2-26) to first– in almost the same time frame that Jerome Allen has managed to coach the men’s team into the Ivy cellar.
In my opinion, none of the attributes quoted above can be used to describe the Quaker men. Even watching the NCAA Tournament, it looks like other teams are playing 21st Century hoops while Penn is now mired somewhere in the Mesozoic Era. The turnovers, the fouls, the loss of poise, and the lack of hustle and awareness have made them impossible to watch. Just as disturbing is the complete lack of growth, discipline, and maturity, particularly among the second and third year players. Here is a brief laundry list of recent events.