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Zack Rosen did the best he could to be the “savior” for Penn basketball, eventually becoming Penn’s all-time leader in assists, games started and minutes played.

Credit: Raven Willis

Our new series “Remembering Penn basketball” lets former Daily Pennsylvanian sportswriters and notable Penn men’s hoops fans give their greatest memories of the program. The first installment features former sportswriter Andrew Todres (C’ 09). (A joking moniker that has held up through the years, “DPOSTM” is short for Daily Pennsylvanian’s Only Section That Matters.)

I covered the men’s basketball team during a transitional, embarrassing period that most fans of the program have been actively trying to forget. But that didn’t make covering the team any less exciting or thrilling – in fact, what probably gets lost in the narrative of the Miller years is how tempestuous his relationship was with DPOSTM.

Interviewing him after games was usually easier than at practice because you’d have some sense after a game of what kind of mood he would be in (usually, a foul one). At practice, though, all bets were off. Just ask Ilario Huober about the game previews we wrote on the eve of the first Penn-Princeton contest of 2008 (and the day after running a column in which Ilario suggested Miller was mailing in the season).

“Glen Miller declined to speak with the Daily Pennsylvanian,” is how they read. How they should have read is, “Glen Miller angrily cursed out two DPOSTM reporters for printing ‘garbage’ and told them to get the hell out of his gym.”

It is for this reason that perhaps my favorite memory covering the team was one not in the Palestra, but in the comfort of my off-campus house, on the speakerphone with Zack Rosen. Zack had committed to Penn well over a year before arriving on campus. Somehow, we managed to finagle his cell phone number, and I called him up in the fall of 2007, while he was preparing for his final season at St. Benedict’s Prep, to interview him about his decision process and aspirations.

The conversation started out simply enough – he liked Penn because of its academics, strong basketball identity in the Big 5 and especially competitive schedule for an Ivy. Every recruit says that. But when we started talking about how he envisioned his role on the team, things started to get interesting. And to this day, these things have gone unpublished.

Zack and I started reflecting on Penn’s rocky last season and lack of leadership and depth. And in a moment that defines why Penn’s Athletic Communication Office doesn’t ever put DPOSTM in touch with recruited athletes before they’ve arrived at Penn, Zack slipped.

“Look, I mean, I know this is going to sound cocky, but, really, I am going to be the savior. I am going to be the savior of this team.” I swear he said that. I could dig it up on my old tape recorder somewhere because I never deleted it (along with the clip of Jay Wright teaching Scottie Reynolds how to pronounce the word “benefited” in a press conference).

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Here’s some kid who hasn’t played a minute of college basketball in his life anointing himself as the “savior” of a team he won’t be joining for another year. I played the interview over and over again on my tape recorder, pausing at that one line, to anyone who was willing to listen. This is too good not to print. But I chose not to print it. I didn’t want to make him look bad before he got to Penn, and given how young he was, and inexperienced he was with interviews, it wasn’t fair to pin this on him. He was so candid when he spoke, he sounded like he was trying to convince a naysayer that he was going to be a star; not conduct an interview with a reporter.

I recall this moment now because over the next four years, for three of which I was not a reporter, but an alumnus, those words stayed with me — no one had higher expectations for Zack Rosen than I did. And as we all now know, he did not disappoint. Every time he hit an impossible shot — and there were many — the same word always popped into my head: “savior.” So while I didn’t get to see that many great moments from press row, I did get the first DPOSTM interview with the savior himself, and that is good enough for me.

SEE ALSO

They Said It: Penn basketball’s best quotes of 2012-13

Q & A with Penn basketball alum Mark Zoller

Penn men’s basketball’s Red & Blue Scrimmage ends in laps

Penn basketball’s 2012-13 season in six-word recaps

They Said It: Penn basketball’s best quotes of 2012-13

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