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Credit: Isabella Gong

Miles Jackson Cartwright played for Penn basketball from 2010-14, all under coach Jerome Allen after initially recruited by former coach Glen Miller. Cartwright had just finished playing a game for the Dutch Basketball League team Aris Leeuwarden when he heard about coach Allen's firing. Jackson-Cartwright spoke to the DP just prior to Penn's victory over Cornell on Saturday about his initial reaction, his thoughts on the program and relationship with Allen.

[Editors note: Jackson-Cartwright refers to Allen by his nickname, 'Pooh']

Daily Pennsylvanian: What’s your initial reaction to the news that just broke?

Miles Jackson-Cartwright: I’m shocked. I’m extremely shocked. I just talked to Pooh a week ago. I’m disappointed and I’m kind of sad, too.

DP: With all of the freshmen coming in, did you see the program turning around in the near future?

MJC: I honestly thought Pooh had righted the ship. Last year was tough for us. The last two years were tough for us. Then we brought in a lot of talent this year and next year’s class is going to be amazing, too. [Penn recruit Jake] Silpe is really good. [Fellow Penn recruit Jule Brown] is really good as well. It’s tough man. 

It’s somebody that I really grew up with. 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.

DP: How often did you keep in touch with Allen with you were playing abroad?

MJC: At first, we didn’t talk as much because of course I was getting adjusted. Time difference was hard, but once I got back, once I had my surgery, he was one of the first people to hit me up. We always talk on holidays. We always talk about our families. I’m really close with his family and he’s really close with my family so we talk at least once or twice a week. It’s somebody that I’ve known for, that I’ve grown close to for almost the last eight years. When Pooh first got there, he was the third assistant. I was there on his second day on the job. Literally, on an official visit, I was there at the camp. It’s sad.

DP: What is the next step for Allen moving forward?

MJC: Pooh is going to be fine. There is no one in the Ivy League that knows more than him in terms of the game. He loves the game. He knows the game. I know he can coach the game as well. It’s hard. You can give anybody a team where it’s a lot of freshmen, a lot of new guys, and especially when you look, even the year where we were four, five, six points away from going to the Tourney (referring to the 2011-12 season), every year we struggled with injuries. And you can’t say that’s his fault. It really affected the program but he continued to work hard every day.

He brought in players and it showed that even though the last two years we struggled extremely, look at the all the talent he brought in. [Freshman guard Antonio Woods] is going to be one of the best players in the league. Mike Auger is going to be one of the best players in the league. Sam Jones arguably might be the best shooter in the league already and then you’ve got these kids coming in next year with Tony and Darien, come on. It’s tough. He’s going to be fine. I know that. He knows that. He just has too much knowledge for the game. He’s been through it all and he’s going to be okay. I know he’s going to be okay.

DP: What do you think the next step is for the program?

MJC: I don’t know. If it’s really going to go down like it is, then hopefully, first of all, they can keep the guys committed. I went through a similar thing: I was recruited by [former Penn basketball coach] Glen Miller. I remember calling [Miller] Saturday night after Monmouth and he was telling me, ‘Stick with it. We’re going to be okay,’ and I believed it. The next Monday I walk into school and he’s gone but it was just something about Penn that Glen instilled in me and passed it on to Pooh and coach [Mike] Martin was there. I really hope first and foremost that someone gets on the phone with those guys coming in next year and makes sure they stick with it. To those guys, I really hope they stick with it. Pooh is probably a reason why they’re coming in addition to Penn and having the opportunity to get an Ivy League degree but those guys, most of the reason I stayed on was because of Pooh. I just really hope those guys stay committed but this is just shocking. It’s sad. I almost think it’s a little bit unfair. He did so much and it honestly felt that the program was going in the right direction. He brought in all this talent and it seemed like the aura around the team was a lot better this year. A lot more camaraderie even though it didn’t show in the wins and losses, you could have much more fun and playing better. But it’s tough.

DP: For the guys who are still in the program who you played with, do they feel the same connection with Allen? And what do you think it would be like to be one of those players who is getting ready to suit up for a game in two hours?

MJC: I didn’t even think about that. It’s tough. They’ve got a lot of leadership over there so I know that they’re going to stick together. But it’s hard when you hear people talking like this, especially since you’re about to play. Is this their last game or is it the second-to-last?

DP: It’s their second-to-last game and they also have one more against Princeton.

MJC: That’s unbelievable. That’s extremely tough. There’s a lot of seniors there. Tony’s there. Darien’s there. I just hope for them right now to focus on these last two games and to leave and to finish it out strong because they owe it to Pooh. And we all love Pooh. You can ask any player who played college basketball, you are going to butt heads with your college coach. You are not going to like some of the things he says. You are not going to like some of the things he does. But when you spend so much time with a person every day, it’s tough.

We all loved Pooh, everyone in my class – Dau, Fran, Cam, Steve, myself. We loved Pooh and none of us were recruited by him but we loved him. We trusted him. He was family to us. He means so much to the program. He kept the program afloat when he played and he did everything he can to make sure the program was always in the right light.

DP: What was your connection with the assistant coaches and how do you think this affects those guys?

MJC: I honestly don’t know how it’s going to affect their positions. For coach [Ira] Bowman firstly, somebody who played with Pooh, grew up with Pooh, so I know he’s extremely saddened. Coach Mike [Lintulahti], Pooh gave him his first opportunity. So I know the feeling around the team when the news first broke was probably so down but I know they’re going to play well. They played well last night and I know they’re going to finish it out strong.

I feel bad for everybody because I was so close with coach Bowman and I talked with coach Mike more than anybody, even more than Pooh, and I talked to Pooh a lot. Coach Mike means so much to the program, too. He keeps us right in the summer, stays in our ear. He’s so positive and he’s such a great guy. Coach Bowman as well. And coach [Nat] Graham. I really hope they get the opportunities they deserve. Pooh as well.

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