Flegenheimer | Thanks for nothing, Glen
March 29, 2011, 1:24 am · Updated March 29, 2011, 12:00 am·
An old friend of mine, having the foresight to attend a perennial men’s hoops superpower, spent his spring break covering the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden.
Naturally, I put in a request.
“If you see Glen Miller,” I pleaded, reaching for my wallet as incentive, “ask him how it feels to bring in the only Penn recruiting class since Prohibition without a tournament appearance.”
The math may have been fuzzy, sure. But at least I’m not bitter.
Glen Miller, for the uninitiated, is the director of basketball administration at the University of Connecticut. For three years and seven games before that, he was Penn’s head coach, with hobbies including dramatic jacket removals, fan alienation and blaming his own players in post-game press conferences.
As fate would have it, the new gig has landed Miller a cushy courtside seat this month for UConn’s epic conference tournament championship and improbable run to the Final Four. Which means, for the last three weeks, Miller’s grinning mug has been appearing on a television set near you.
There he is, sharing a man hug with Jim Calhoun! Look, he and Kemba Walker have a cool team handshake! Good golly, that Miller sure knows his way around a fist-pump!
I’m happy for him. Miller was always hospitable to local media and the Penn commun— sorry, my computer might self-destruct in protest if I finish that sentence. And who around here could have known Miller’s hidden talent was celebrating?
But here’s the problem, Quakers’ faithful: It should have been us.
Not in the Final Four, of course, but playing somewhere meaningful in this most meaningful month of college basketball.
See, that was part of the deal. The admissions recruiter told me so five years ago, when I — a wide-eyed New Yorker still harboring dreams of following Patrick Ewing to Georgetown — was informed that the Red and Blue “just flat-out win the Ivy League championship. Every year. It’s what they do.”
That spring, when the Quakers gave third-seeded Texas A&M; all they could handle in the NCAA tournament’s opening round, I boasted to friends that they could have their Yales and Columbias: I’d be the one with the best plans every March until graduation.
My classmates on the current team were likely given similar assurances — first from former coach Fran Dunphy, then from Miller — and they’d probably tell you they shoulder a healthy share of the responsibility. But anyone who has seen Jack Eggleston paint the Palestra floor with blood, sweat and spittle would require some melon-sized cojones to ask for an apology.
So where does that leave us, graduating seniors? Blaming Miller is always viable — and as a therapeutic exercise, I recommend it highly — but even this obscures the broader truth about the Penn experience for so many in the Class of 2011: this stuff matters.
Athletics weren’t the reason I came to Penn, but they certainly earned a nontrivial place on the “pro” side of the list. For all the laudable successes of the football team, women’s lacrosse and a handful of other outstanding programs in recent years, I’m betting there aren’t many high schoolers out there — with enrollment decisions due in just a few weeks — citing Penn’s athletic prowess as the tiebreaker it used to be.
Maybe some prospective students will survey the wreckage of their NCAA brackets for inspiration.
Kentucky seems like a nice place. Those Butler fans look like they’re having a good time. I hear the Commonwealth of Virginia is lovely this time of year.
And rumor has it, there’s this new UConn assistant who gives the best high-fives…
MATT FLEGENHEIMER is a senior economics major from New York. He can be contacted at dpsports@theDP.com.