In an effort to boost the transparency of the men's basketball program, Penn Athletics hosted its first annual "town hall" meeting with coach Glen Miller yesterday at the Inn at Penn.
In his opening remarks, athletic director Steve Bilsky said that the meeting had been planned since last summer as part of an effort to open up the team to its most loyal supporters - season-ticket holders, former players, parents and alumni - and was not a result of the team's 10-18 performance this season. Over 750 people were invited, including over 300 students, but only about 75 people showed up - mostly parents with just seven students. (The event was not open to the media, but some Daily Pennsylvanian reporters were invited as season-ticket holders.)
Before fielding questions, Miller expressed his gratitude for the passion shown by the team's supporters and acknowledged that he shares their disappointment with the results of this year.
He also conveyed confidence about the team's prospects for 2009-10, stemming from what he sees as extremely productive weightlifting sessions this spring. His optimism also rests on the return of injured players like juniors Darren Smith and Andreas Schreiber, who he said have both returned to limited action in practice.
The first question posed to Miller concerned recruiting, and he said he was pleased with the team's three recruits: Carson Sullivan, a 6-foot-2 guard from Charlotte, N.C., who is considered the best incoming freshman; Bryan Fitzpatrick, a versatile 6-7 swingman from Connecticut; and Malcolm Washington, a 5-10 guard who is the son of actor Denzel Washington and a "fireball" who "might surprise us," according to Miller.
Sullivan was intensely recruited by a familiar foe, but "We beat out Princeton is what it came down to," Miller said. He added that the team is still looking to add a true big man.
Miller also expressed enthusiasm about the development of the Class of 2012, saying that he still has high hopes for Mike Howlett and Larry Loughery, and that Zack Rosen and Rob Belcore have each added about 10 pounds of muscle. (When asked if the team was outmuscled at times this season, Miller conceded that was true.)
Concerning his expectations for next season, Miller was optimistic, stating that Penn's yearly expectations - to win the Ivy League title and advance in the NCAA Tournament - are not unreasonable. The coach reiterated the disappointment of this season and said that the team "has a chip on its shoulder."
Miller was asked about his repeated claims that this year's team suffered from a lack of senior leadership and whether he thought the injuries to this year's junior class might cause similar problems next year. In response, Miller defended his both this year's seniors and next year's ones.
Another questioner asked how Miller planned to solve the team's deficiencies in the paint and beyond the three-point arc. He did not answer the question directly but said that the team will work on both issues in their summer leagues. Miller expects up to eight players from this year's team to stick around this summer - an all-time high for the program, he said - which is a good sign, because staying on campus for a summer league is rare for players in non-scholarship programs who have to pay for their own accommodations.
The parent-dominated room was concerned with live online streaming of Penn games. Belcore's parents, Len and Deb, were particularly adamant about the issue. Len complained that he could not watch a single game in its entirety, among other concerns he had about the University's commitment to its athletic programs.
Bilsky chose to respond to this question. He acknowledged the technological problems and attributed them partly to the outdated accommodations in the Palestra. He noted that renovations to the Palestra are in the works and that he would invest any amount of money to improve its technology but would not discuss details of the renovations.
One of the last questions concerned the various players who either decided not to return for a fifth season (like Tommy McMahon) or decided to transfer (Harrison Gaines and Remy Cofield). Miller was asked specifically about Gaines' comment that "Glen Miller wasn't the coach for me." Miller responded that kids inevitably transfer because they aren't a good fit, and that's what he thinks happened with Gaines. "A coach never wants to see a kid leave the program," he said, saying he was very disappointed that Gaines transferred. He considered the transfers when he re-evaluated his approach after the season - as he does every year - but would not get into specifics about his conclusions from that evaluation.Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.