Kasper | Comparing Fran Dunphy and Jerome Allen
March 20, 2013, 8:50 pm·
Carolyn Lim | DP
The great and powerful Fran Dunphy did not win an Ivy League championship until his fourth season as the Penn men’s basketball head coach. What’s more, Dunphy also did not inherit a program in utter shambles — that is, he did not inherit Glen Miller’s program.
And yet, we know how the story ends: Dunphy goes on to win 10 Ivy League titles in 17 seasons and secure more victories than any coach in Penn’s illustrious history.
The ending to Jerome Allen’s tale is yet to be written, but the coaches deserve comparison, if for no other reason than because Dunphy’s success represents the lofty expectations of the program. After all, only one coach separates Allen and Dunphy’s shifts at the helm. And alumni have not forgotten days of old when Allen played for the Quakers under Dunphy’s tutelage and led the squad to three consecutive Ivy League titles.
Additionally, Dunphy and Allen are both accomplished players that pursued coaching careers and Penn represents their first collegiate head coaching positions. And while we’re listing general similarities, why not include that they both attended business school while competing in the Big 5 — Dunphy at La Salle and Allen at Penn.
Even late into his career with the Quakers, Dunphy had the occasional down year. After securing six conference championships in eight seasons, the Quakers logged a 12-17 record in 2000-01 and went winless in Big 5 play. Fortunately for Dunphy — and Penn fans — six Ivy titles goes a long way toward some job security and Dunphy continued on to capture four more championships before departing to coach at Temple.
During that 2000-01 season, however, some fans surely called for Dunphy’s head. It comes with the territory of a program that has an established tradition of winning.
The looming question Athletic Director Steve Bilsky must ask, simply put, is Jerome Allen a Fran Dunphy or a Glen Miller? Despite the disappointments of this season, will Allen eventually hang banners from the rafters in the Palestra? Or will his team sink deeper and deeper into the depths of mediocrity?
While Dunphy and Allen have similar backgrounds in certain respects, their paths diverge in others. Dunphy spent 18 years on the coaching circuit, primarily as an assistant, before coming to Penn. Meanwhile, Allen had approximately an eighth of that coaching experience, with virtually nothing beyond his time as a volunteer assistant for the Quakers.
Allen was presumably hired despite such limited coaching experience in part due to his attractiveness as a recruiter. Surely Allen was the prime example — at least prior to the rise of Linsanity — of an Ivy League product turned NBA talent. If he has seen that path through, perhaps he can take some other players down it as well. And recruiting one NBA-caliber player can make all the difference in the Ivy League.
Just in this season’s freshman class, Allen reeled in at least two high quality recruits in Tony Hicks and Darien Nelson-Henry. But before it’s all over, Allen’s qualities as a recruiter may not be the only factor that plays into his success, or lack thereof.
In his 18 years of experience before becoming Penn’s coach, Dunphy developed into something more than just a glorified shadow of his playing days. He became a strategist that left behind whatever talent he had on the court to pursue a challenge of a completely different nature.
Dunphy did not win an Ivy League championship until his fourth season at the helm. But suffice it to say that without evidence of progress — evidence of Allen developing some Dunphy-esque intanglibles — not even the legacy of Jerome Allen the player will be great enough to save Jerome Allen the coach or Penn’s basketball program.
KENNY KASPER is a sophomore philosophy major from Santa Rosa, Calif., and is a former associate sports editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian. He can be reached at dpsports@theDP.com.