Rosenstein | Bilsky made right call wrong way
December 15, 2009, 3:19 am · Updated December 14, 2009, 12:00 am·
One thing is ringing loud and clear after today’s events: Glen Miller was not the right choice as Fran Dunphy’s successor.
Not even close.
In the media teleconference this afternoon in which Athletic Director Steve Bilsky discussed his dismissal of Glen Miller — the term “fired” was never used and seemed to be purposefully avoided — the most glaring conclusion was that Miller could not handle the uniquely challenging duties of being the Penn men’s basketball coach.
Bilsky repeatedly emphasized the necessary community-building and leadership skills of the person who holds that role.
“In a way it’s an ambassadorship of the school to the world, both alumni and not. And it was really that lack of what Penn represents — in addition to the wins and losses — that disappointed me and led me to the conclusion to do this,” Bilsky said. “It’s just the general sense that I think of us as a community-building activity, that students can come to the Palestra and watch their team and be proud of it.”
He implied — but wouldn’t outright admit — that Glen Miller simply didn’t have those qualities and indicated that was his main reason for firing Miller, moreso than the wins and losses.
“The leadership really is not only about leading a team of student athletes, which is obviously most important, but it’s also about being a representative of the university to all these constituents and being one of the most prominent people at Penn,” Bilsky said.
That reasoning makes sense, and a Penn basketball legend like Bilsky understands it as well as anyone, so he deserves credit for recognizing Miller's biggest flaw and making that the basis of his decision.
But while Bilsky makes a worthy point in noting those essential characteristics that Miller lacks, he refused to admit that choosing Miller back in 2006 was the wrong decision.
Asked whether hiring Miller was the right move, Bilsky simply offered that he wasn’t going to “crystal ball-gaze” and mentioned that Miller “brought great qualities to the program.” He added that Miller was experienced in the conference and coached competitive teams against the Quakers when he was at Brown.
Those arguments are old and stale. That response was simply repeating the same mistake he made four years ago, even in the midst of a discussion of the real problems with Glen Miller.
It’s understandable that Bilsky didn’t want to directly state Miller’s shortcomings and throw salt on his wounds. But he just fired the guy. Isn’t that about the time when you stop the whitewashing and admit your mistakes?
Even after mentioning “community-building” at least four or five times and insisting that it’s “incumbent on the person who has this job to have those skills and … to generate goodwill and enthusiasm,” Bilsky still wouldn’t respond to questions about Miller’s personality and his effectiveness in engaging the Penn and Philadelphia communities.
“I’m really not here to talk about Glen, per se. I’ve said what I want to say about him,” he noted before throwing a few more empty praises at Miller’s work ethic and basketball IQ and saying “really my thoughts now are about going forward and supporting Jerome.”
“Again, I’m not going to really talk about what Glen did and didn’t do,” he added later. “I’m just going to say that’s an important quality for this person to have, to generate enthusiasm and hope and faith and goodwill.”
There’s no point in beating around the bush. All Bilsky did by denying his mistake in hiring Miller was make himself look worse. If he really wanted to point to the future, he needed to answer these questions and be done with it. Avoiding the tough statements won’t put this dreadful era in Penn hoops lore to bed.
NOAH ROSENSTEIN is a junior political science major from Hollywood, Fla., and is Sports Editor and Online Managing Editor-elect of The Daily Pennsylvanian. His e-mail address is email@example.com.