O Tannenwald

Jonathan Tannenwald’s been an insightful reporter on Ivy League and Big 5 basketball for Philly.com, and before that, The Daily Pennsylvanian, for 15 years. He’s been a guest multiple times on our On the Vine podcast and he’s been a generous resource, mentor and friend to many at The DP, Penn’s student newspaper, over the years.

Tannenwald announced on Twitter Friday that later this summer, he will become the Philadelphia Inquirer’s lead soccer writer and officially out of the rotation of the company’s college sports writers. As a result, he’ll be putting his @pretzel_logic Twitter feed, site of more than 76,000 tweets since May 2008, on hiatus likely around July 20, along with the bulk of his college sports coverage in general.

Even though we’re not worthy of such recognition, Tannenwald (a memorable guest on several episodes of On the Vine, once in an impromptu appearance) thanked the Ivy Hoops Online crew for our coverage in his hiatus announcement, and I thought it only right to return the favor.

So here’s a woefully incomprehensive but hopefully interesting sampling of his work covering Penn and Ivy basketball in the past 15 years:

“W. Hoops tops Dartmouth for Ivy League Crown,” The Daily Pennsylvanian, Mar. 16, 2004

Before the highs of the Mike McLaughlin era and frustration of the Pat Knapp era came the 2004 Ivy championship for Penn, which conquered both the Big Green and the rim of the Palestra’s west basket.

“Ivy coaches not about to count out Quakers,” The Daily Pennsylvanian, Nov. 16, 2004

Penn was not favored to win the 2004-05 Ivy championship, as this article attests. But it did anyway, making the most out of Tim Begley and Ibrahim Jaaber in the backcourt, as Yale coach James Jones highlighted as being a preseason point of interest in this piece.

“John McAdams, 1941-2005,” The Daily Pennsylvanian, June 16, 2005

John McAdams, public address announcer at the Palestra for 24 years, died in 2005 at 64, and tributes for what he meant to the Penn community abounded, from the Penn basketball world and well beyond.

“Memories from a half century of hoops,” The Daily Pennsylvanian, Dec. 2, 2005

Longtime Big 5 fans should already know the main characters in this piece but should nevertheless appreciate the portraits that shine through here. What I’ve always appreciated about The Daily Pennsylvanian is that it’s a chance for student reporters to educate their fellow students about what’s going on campus, plain and simple. A lot of students got a golden opportunity to learn quite vividly about the Big 5, perhaps for the first time, from this piece.

“Dunphy leaving Penn with title was a factor,” The Daily Pennsylvanian, Apr. 12, 2006

Arguably the biggest inflection point for Penn men’s basketball in the past 15 years was Fran Dunphy’s departure for Temple in the spring of 2006. At this point, John Thompson III, mentioned in this article as a point of comparison with Dunphy, was about to embark on a Final Four season at Georgetown. (Tommy Amaker was a season away from being fired by Michigan.)

And Dunphy is naturally still at Temple, becoming the all-time winningest coach in Big 5 history in February 2016.

“Villanova-Penn aftermath,” Philly.com, Dec. 3, 2008

” … why do you think there wasn’t a full house last night?” The decline in student interest in Penn basketball was a main focus of The Daily Pennsylvanian during my time there (2010-14), and it’s easily been one of the most coverage-worthy dynamics of the program in the 2010s. Chronicled here, though, is an early sign of present-day student apathy starting to creep in to as the program was noticeably faltering.

 “An in-depth look at Ivy League television rights,” Philly.com, Feb. 10, 2012

Does what it says on the tin. The Ivy League’s TV and viewing situation has changed substantially since, so it’s worth diving back into the history contained in this piece to appreciate what the league has now with regard to television rights and what it could still benefit from going forward.

“After many years away, Ibrahim Jaaber returns to Penn,” Philly.com, Jan. 25, 2016 

Ibrahim Jaaber is a very special person, and his return to the Palestra after several years away is documented in depth here, featuring, of course, the characteristically thoughtful perspective of Jaaber himself.

“Ivy League to introduce conference basketball tournaments,” Phily.com, Mar. 10, 2016 

“(W)e’re just going to evaluate and see how things go.” It should be noted that Jonathan Tannenwald had been one of many ardent anti-tournament folks up to (and beyond) this point. Ivy League Executive Director Robin Harris had other ideas and explains them here. This was a simpler time, when the Palestra was just an inaugural tournament welcome site and tiebreakers were only a twinkle in Matt Howard’s eye.

“Here are the Penn-Columbia tiebreakers for the 2017 Ivy League men’s basketball tournament,” Philly.com, Feb. 28, 2017 

Ah, here we are. Nothing like finding out what the conference tournament tiebreakers with one weekend left to play. Nevertheless, the umpteen different scenarios are explained diligently here. In the end, Columbia got swept by Brown and Yale, and Penn beat Harvard after losing to Dartmouth, exactly how nobody thought it would happen.

“Ivy League basketball tournaments to return to the Palestra in 2018,” Philly.com, May 12, 2017  

For some, this makes even less sense than the totality of those tiebreakers. But it brings us to where we are now, with an Ivy League agenda and Penn programs that are demonstrably different from when Jonathan Tannenwald started covering them 15 years ago.

Regardless of how you feel about Penn or what you’ve thought of some of his opinions over the years, no one can deny Tannenwald’s contagious passion for Ivy and Big 5 sports coverage. His longtime commitment to that coverage is something we can all be thankful for.

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