Ivy Hoops Online announces the next entry in Ivy 60 for 60, our series running through 60 of the greatest players in Ivy League men’s basketball history after a hiatus to continue celebrating six decades of modern Ivy League basketball. An Ivy 60 for 60 for Ivy women’s basketball will follow.
Ron Haigler was the first great player of what could be called the “Penn Dynasty 2.0” (the Chuck Daly Era).
Dick Harter and his assistant, recruiter extraordinaire Digger Phelps, established Penn as both an Ivy dynasty and national power with their late ’60s recruiting of Dave Wohl, Steve Bilsky, Corky Calhoun and Bobby Morse among others. In 1971, after a 28-1 season during which Penn was ranked No. 3 in the Associated Press and reached what would now be considered the Elite 8, Harter and Phelps moved on to Oregon and Fordham, respectively. Future Hall of Fame coach Chuck Daly was hired to replace them and he was greeted with a very deep pool of talent led by future NBA player Phil Hankinson. These players were followed in short order by Bob Bigelow, John Engles and Ron Haigler.
Haigler was the dominant player in both the Ivy League and Philadelphia’s Big 5 between 1972 and 1975. He was the Ivy League’s first Player of the Year in 1975 and two-time Big 5 Player of the Year in 1974 and 1975, going on to become a member of the Big 5 Hall of Fame. The 6’8″ power forward was a prolific scorer, accumulating 1,522 points during his career, the second-highest total in Penn history at the time of his graduation. Haigler averaged 18.7 points and 10.3 rebounds per game for his career and is also one of only five Penn players to score more than 600 points in a season (605 in 1974-75). In addition, Penn won the Ivy championship in each of his seasons as the team’s leading scorer. Penn also achieved a No. 8 AP ranking in 1973 and a No. 9 ranking in 1975.
As such, Haigler was the leader of the Ivy League’s most heralded program (Penn, 1897-2019) at the epicenter of its most dominant period in history (1970-1979). This is a singular accomplishment that places Ron Haigler squarely in the pantheon of the greatest players in Ivy League history. In addition, Haigler and Penn’s dominance of Big 5 competition, a field that includes Villanova, Temple, St. Joseph’s and La Salle, is also a truly historic accomplishment. After being drafted by the Chicago Bulls, he enjoyed a sojourn to the European League, followed by a long coaching career.
Paul Hutter is author of The Golden Age of Ivy Basketball: From Bill Bradley to Penn’s Final Four 1964-1979, which can be found on Amazon here.