Jerome Allen tapped as new coach
March 31, 2010, 5:14 am · Updated March 31, 2010, 12:00 am·
Interim no more.
On Wednesday, Athletic Director Steve Bilsky will formally name Jerome Allen as the John R. Rockwell Head Coach of Penn Men’s Basketball at a 2:30 p.m. press conference at the Palestra.
The news of Bilsky’s announcement spread quickly throughout the basketball community Tuesday afternoon.
Allen personally called his All-Ivy point guard Zack Rosen to share the news.
“We were expecting it, we were hoping for it, and it’s a blessing,” Rosen said. “Now, we’ve gotta move on from here. It’s done.”
For Rosen and the rest of the Quakers, moving forward after their worst Ivy League record since the 1967-68 season means continuing with practice every morning at 7 a.m.
Junior forward Jack Eggleston, who received word of the decision from teammate Tyler Bernardini during class, reiterated the importance of focusing on the present.
“It’s good to just have the issue finally resolved,” Eggleston said. “This is our guy and this is what we’ve got going forward and we’re ready to get things going.”
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Allen has served as Penn’s interim head coach since Dec. 14, when former coach Glen Miller was fired after beginning the season 0-7 — the worst start in program history.
As the interim coach, Allen piloted Penn to a 6-15 record, winning five Ivy games, as the Quakers concluded the season 6-22 overall. The Red and Blue tied with Brown and Columbia to finish fifth this year in the Ancient Eight.
The bright spot on Allen’s 21-game resume was a 79-64 upset of then-No. 22 Cornell at the Palestra — the Big Red’s only Ivy loss heading toward a Sweet Sixteen bid.
Despite the win, Allen’s position was by no means solidified. While the season was progressing, Bilsky was searching for the next permanent Penn coach. As the search intensified over the last two weeks, the players anxiously awaited a decision.
“I invested a lot of mental energy in this — I probably shouldn’t have, but I did,” Rosen said. “I was rooting for Jerome. We really didn’t know much about the situation.”
Eggleston added that he had heard names of several possible candidates for the job. “I don’t think I was ever 100-percent sure that Jerome was going to be named head coach, but I thought that was probably the likely decision.”
Though Bilsky interviewed nine candidates for the job, he eventually chose the home-grown Allen. The athletic director stressed during the search that the Penn spirit would be a defining quality of the next coach.
As a Philadelphia native and one of the greatest players to ever pound the Palestra’s hardwood for the Red and Blue, Allen represents just that.
“Jerome’s talents and accomplishments in life are noteworthy and familiar to the Penn community,” Bilsky told Penn Athletics. “What isn’t as well known, until you spend time with him, is the humility that coincides with his pride. It is the combination of these qualities, plus his vision to return Penn to glory, that makes me so pleased to name him the John R. Rockwell Head Coach of Men’s Basketball.”
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Meanwhile, across the Schuylkill at Temple, former Penn coach Fran Dunphy also received a phone call from Allen just after 2:30 p.m.
“I can’t say that I gave him any great advice,” the Owls coach said. “He doesn’t need my wisdom. He’s a pretty savvy guy and understands exactly what he’s getting himself into and the nature of the position. He’ll do quite well.”
Dunphy is just one of Allen’s many supporters. Throughout the season and after, Rosen vocally backed Allen for the job. His comments were echoed by basketball recruits and prominent alumni — especially those who played with the coach during his collegiate career and before.
“You play with him, and he’s always been the coach. I think his experience as a point guard and also playing professionally under a lot of good coaches, I think that showed through this year,” former teammate Eric Moore said.
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Allen attended high school at nearby Episcopal Academy, where his Churchmen won four consecutive Inter-Academic League titles. In 1991 he came to Penn, where he was a four-year starter under then-coach Dunphy.
The Quakers won undefeated Ivy League titles each of his last three years at Penn, and Allen received Ivy Player of the Year honors in his sophomore and junior years.
He left Penn without graduating, instead pursuing a professional career that took him to the Minnesota Timberwolves as a second-round draft pick. In his two years in the NBA, he also played for the Indiana Pacers and the Denver Nuggets before heading to Europe to play professionally. Allen moved between several teams across the pond before finally calling it quits as a player-coach for Snaidero Udine in Udine, Italy last year.
Allen was hired by Penn as an assistant basketball coach in August 2009, and while serving in that role he also finished his academic requirements, graduating from Wharton that same year.
As the 19th head coach of Penn, Allen joins the likes of Chuck Daly, Bob Weinhauer and Dunphy atop the storied Quakers program. But if he wants to match his former coach’s legendary 310 career wins at Penn, Allen will have to take one step at time — and that starts with 7 a.m. practice tomorrow.