Rounding out Dan Dougherty's inner circle
Prolific Philly high school coach backs former player Jerome Allen
March 25, 2010, 5:44 am·
Several current Penn basketball players and incoming recruits have already endorsed Jerome Allen for the head coaching position.
But if Allen is hired, it would be particularly special for one man who has been teaching math and coaching high school hoops at nearby Episcopal Academy for over 30 years.
If Allen gets the Penn job, Dougherty can boast that he coached half of the City Six head men.
Dan Dougherty has seen Allen, Drexel coach Bruiser Flint and Temple coach Fran Dunphy pass through the Episcopal program during his tenure.
“I’m proud of the three of them” Dougherty said. “They’ve proven themselves. They’ve come out of our program, have had successful college careers and then went on to be successful coaches, so I think it says a lot.”
The fact that the three coaches are all still in the Philadelphia area, he says, is a compliment to hoops in the region as well.
With Allen a top candidate for the Penn position, Dougherty, who has followed Allen’s performance as interim coach “extensively” this season, had some compliments to pay to his former teenage star.
“I thought he did a commendable job,” Dougherty said. “I think that it is the hardest task, to take over a coaching job midway through the season.”
In fact, Dougherty says that he thinks Allen has proven himself enough in his 21 games at the helm — he took over Dec. 14 after Glen Miller was fired — to be the man for the job.
The Episcopal coach said he’s spoken with his former player twice since Allen’s return stateside after playing in Europe for about a decade.
Their most recent chat was on the night Allen was named interim head coach when, according to Dougherty, he picked up the phone at 11 p.m.
“He just wanted to know what my words of advice would be to him for the first day, and I told him to be himself,” Dougherty said.
“Just to be Jerome Allen, because Jerome Allen came on his own from North Philly, to a private prep school, to an Ivy League college to professional ball by being Jerome Allen and not imitating anybody.”
Their initial conversation occurred after Allen was named a Penn assistant last summer. Two days before, assistant men’s lacrosse coach Brian Dougherty — Dan’s son — was also hired.
“The two of them were my backcourt in 1991 here at Episcopal,” the father said.
It just so happens that Brian and Jerome led Episcopal to the Inter-Academic League championship — the school’s fifth in as many years — during that 1991 year.
The younger Dougherty said that the teenage Allen was a strong presence on the court and in the locker room.
“I wouldn’t go as far as to say I pictured him being a coach when we were 36 years old, but he just got it,” Brian said. “He just got everything about playing and understood the game, and I think he really learned a lot from my dad too.”
Brian admitted that for the first 30 seconds of their reintroduction last summer, he didn’t recognize his own teammate. Since then, he says he stops by Allen’s office once or twice a week just to check in.
Like his father, the younger Dougherty also expressed how difficult it was for Allen to step in as head coach halfway through the season.
“That situation could have ended in disaster,” he said. “I think he did a great job.”
As to whether or not Allen deserves the title of head coach permanently, Brian said that he’s earned at least a shot.
Critics say Allen doesn’t have the necessary coaching experience to turn around a wallowing Division I team after only one season as a collegiate coach, but Dan says that with a team of reliable assistants, his former guard should be successful.
“Coaching is a united job; you work with your assistants,” he said, in both recruitment and the scouting of opponents.
But even if Penn Athletics chooses to go in a different direction in the head coaching search, Dougherty may still be able to claim that he coached three of the six men at the head of the major Philadelphia programs.
Lafayette coach Fran O’Hanlon, who is also rumored to be among the candidates to fill the Penn coaching vacancy, also has ties to Dougherty.
“[O’Hanlon] played for me, when I coached at Villanova.”