Homecoming for Toole at the Palestra
Robert Morris coach not sure about what to expect in his return to Penn
November 18, 2011, 1:11 am·
Ryan Shadis | DP
When coach Andrew Toole leads his Robert Morris team into its matchup with Penn on Saturday night, it will mark exactly 10 years since he took to the Palestra floor for the first time as a member of the Red and Blue.
The game will be the first ever meeting between the Colonials (2-0) and the Quakers (2-1), and Toole, now in his second season at the helm, will take on his alma mater for the first time.
“I’m not really sure what to expect about where my emotions are going to be,” Toole said. “It will be nice to see a lot of people that mean a lot to me, but at the same time, it’s about the current players on the roster.”
Toole played for Penn from 2001-2003 after transferring from Elon College following his sophomore year. As is required for all transfers, he sat out the ensuing season, but then helped guide the Quakers to two Ivy League titles.
“I think it will be something special for [him] to go back,” Colonials assistant coach Matt Hahn said. “I know Penn is very special to Andy, being a part of tournament teams there and all the tradition.”
Currently the youngest head coach in Division I basketball at 31, Toole said he knew fairly quickly — as his playing days were winding down — that he wanted to go into coaching.
“For 18 of the first 22 years of my life, all I did all day was go and try to become a basketball player,” he said. “So when I was done playing, I didn’t just want to leave the game.”
Despite being the head man at Robert Morris, Toole said Red and Blue haven’t stopped running through his veins.
“I root as hard for Penn, and I hope that they have as much success as any team in the country,” he said.
For this reason, he knows it won’t be easy on Saturday night.
“I’ve talked to [Fran] Dunphy about him coming back and playing Penn now as Temple’s coach and how difficult that is,” he said. “A lot of coaches don’t like to play games like this because there is an emotional attachment.”
But once the game tips off, all of the storylines will fade into the background, and the focus will shift to business as usual.
“There’s a lot of things that we’re going to have to worry about,” Toole said. “[Penn coach] Jerome Allen and his staff, they do a great job.”
Allen also praised Toole’s team, saying he’s expecting good things from the team coached by another member of the Penn family.
“They’ll be a well-coached team. I think they’ll play hard,” Allen said. “They’ve done fairly well over the last few years, and I’m sure coach Toole will have them ready to play.”