As Penn basketball prepares to take on Princeton on Senior Day on Tuesday, the Quakers' final contest of the season represents the end of an era for more than the Red and Blue's veterans.
Following a win over Columbia on Friday night, one that helped Penn snap its program record seven-game Ivy losing streak, The Daily Pennsylvanian confirmed Saturday that coach Jerome Allen will not return to the team next season. Saturday night's victory over Cornell gave the Quakers their first weekend sweep in over a year, but the game itself was overshadowed by Allen's dismissal.
As news of the firing spread, many of those connected to the program were upset by the development, especially given Allen's ties to Penn basketball as a standout in the early 1990s. Nonetheless, because of Allen's 65-103 record in five and a half seasons at the helm, most were not completely surprised by the decision.
A guard for the Quakers between 2008 and 2012, Rob Belcore praised Allen for the way he managed his players when he first took over on an interim basis in 2009. Along with most of his teammates, Belcore was recruited by Allen's predecessor, Glen Miller, while several others joined the program before legendary coach Fran Dunphy even left in 2006.
"Being at Penn for four years, I played with a lot of different guys," Belcore said. "I mean, when I was there, there were Dunphy recruits, Miller recruits and Allen recruits. But if Jerome Byron Allen can’t get you to put forth the effort that you need to win ... I’m not sure anybody can."
Though Belcore said he was "extremely saddened" to hear of Allen's firing, few individuals were as upset as Class of 2014 graduate and former Penn point guard Miles Jackson-Cartwright.
"[Allen] is somebody that I really grew up with," Jackson-Cartwright said. "Even when we got in trouble my junior year, Pooh stuck with me. That meant the world to me. He’s not old enough to be a father figure to me, but he was like my older brother. We were close on the court. We were very close off the court. I felt like we got even closer when I left.
"It’s a sad day man."
While Jackson-Cartwright acknowledged the team’s lack of success during the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons, he believed that this year’s squad was different.
"He brought in all this talent and it seemed like the aura around the team was a lot better this year," Jackson-Cartwright said. "[There was] a lot more camaraderie even though it didn’t show in the wins and losses, you could have much more fun and they were playing better."
Like Jackson-Cartwright, a number of those who played for Penn before Allen became coach believed he was in the midst of turning the program around, as evidenced by the strong performance of this season's group of freshmen. The success of this year's rookies, combined with a stellar recruiting class heading into next season, was perceived as enough to allow Allen to finish the final two years on his contract.
"In our culture, there's an expectation that we have immediate and constant success," Stan Greene, a player for Penn from 1974-1978 and current board member, said. "But if you look at the past few years, there's been an improvement in some things that the program has done. For example, you take a look at this freshman class. They've shown tremendous confidence over where they were at times throughout the year, and they seem to be enjoying themselves and each other. That's all a process."
Like Greene, Tim Krug, a Penn basketball player from 1992 through 1996 who was a member of three straight undefeated Ivy title campaigns and played alongside Allen, was disappointed by the news.
"It hasn't been a good few years and I think we all kind of were hoping that he would have the opportunity to get the ship righted," Krug said. "But unfortunately, [Penn Athletics has] made the decision that they don't want to continue on this path. It's unfortunate for him, unfortunate for the kids that are there and it's a shame because it seems like they were well on their way to getting the ship righted."
But with Allen’s ouster, it is uncertain whether members of the Red and Blue's strong recruiting class will stay committed to the program heading into next season. Jule Brown, a small forward from Lower Merion High School (Pa.), was unsure how Allen leaving would change his status with the program.
"Penn’s a great school, so it would be foolish not to look at Penn, just because of the decision at the coaching spot," Brown said. "But I’m not really sure."
Though it is unclear who exactly Penn Athletics may target to fill the coaching vacancy, several names have emerged as Allen's potential successor. Chief among them is former Cornell coach Steve Donahue, a former assistant with the Red and Blue who has the support of many of the program's alumni.
"It's going to be tough [to find a replacement] because you need to bring someone in who is going to be expected to compete and win Ivy League titles," Krug said. "I don't see how you can have a list that doesn't have Steve Donahue's name in big bold letters at the top.
"He coached here under two outstanding coaches ... and went on to do phenomenal things at Cornell. He won three Ivy titles at a school that had never competed for Ivy titles. He has the resume, he has the history, he is a Philadelphia guy and has ties back to the successful years like Jerome did.
"To me, it's a no-brainer who the next coach should be."Comments powered by Disqus
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