Penn all-time moment No. 2: The almost perfect 1971 season

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 Corky Calhoun somehow lived up to his mindblowingly awesome name. 

There will never be another season like it in the Ivy League. Despite Harvard’s perennial chest pounding, Yale’s unrequited dreams of glory and Princeton’s … well, whatever they do, no team will ever go undefeated for an entire season (on the men’s side, anyway).

In 1970-71, the Quakers went an astounding 28-0 before finally losing to cross-town rival Villanova (a team they beat earlier in the year) in the Eastern Regional Final, 90-47.  Regardless, they dominated their competition throughout the season, beating Ohio State, Utah and Syracuse, winning both the Ivy and Big 5 titles (the Quakers scored 103 and then 102 points on consecutive nights vs. Harvard and Dartmouth), winning 61 of their previous 65 games and achieving a No. 3 national ranking.  They are therefore considered by many as the greatest Quaker team of all time.

Upon graduation, many of the players went on to the NBA. Dave Wohl was a third-round pick for the 76ers and played seven years in the league. Corky Calhoun was selected fourth overall by the Phoenix Suns in 1972, the highest-ever selection of an Ivy League player in the NBA Draft. Phil Hankinson was a second-round pick played two seasons for the Boston Celtics, winning a NBA title in 1974. Of course, both Steve Bilsky and Craig “Hey, I recruited Ralph Sampson” Littlepage are well-known to Penn fans as the former university athletic director and head basketball coach respectively.

Their 1971 coach, Dick Harter, believes that they were the very best team the Ivy League ever produced, “Flat out, no doubt about it.” It would be hard to argue otherwise. The 1979 Final Four Team went farther but had more losses and was not as balanced, while Princeton’s Bill Bradley teams often devolved into a one-man show. (Think Jordan and four guys named “Montgomery.”)

Although its magical season unfortunately ended with a resounding “thud” rather than historical glory, one loss should never diminish what this special Quaker team accomplished.

It will never happen again, but it happened at Penn.


Stay Red & Blue my friends,

The AQ

5 thoughts on “Penn all-time moment No. 2: The almost perfect 1971 season”

  1. I am a Princeton grad, but i rememeber that Penn team. I hope my classmates don’t kill me, but they really were a great team. The AQ is right. Bradley tended to dominate games with his amazing talent. That 1971 group probably was the best Ivy team ever.

    Great series AQ! (I hate to admit that.)

  2. Don’t be ashamed Orange and Black one. Your good taste reveals your humanity.

    The AQ

  3. Absolutely awesome team. Tremendous starting lineup, but not much drop-off when subs enter red game. They substituted in waves. Opponents experienced “shock and awe,” never a let-up. Overwhelming talent backed by outstanding coaching. They rarely had a close game.

  4. I played for Jim Wolf in high school. He taught m e to be a post player from the 3 forward position. Central League in suburban Philly.

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