In Bob Weinhauer’s five-year head coaching trajectory at Penn, he accomplished a feat that no other Ivy League school has achieved since: in 1979, he led Penn men’s basketball to the NCAA Tournament Final Four.
Before assuming the head coaching position for the Quakers in 1977, Weinhauer served as Chuck Daly’s assistant coach for four seasons. He then coached the Red and Blue for five seasons from 1977 to 1982.
In those five years, Weinhauer led the Quakers to five Ivy League titles, two Big 5 championships, and made it to the NCAA Tournament four times. His overall record in the 144 games he coached was 99-45, with a conference record of 61-9 and a perfect 35-0 record at the Palestra.
That first year, the 1977-78 team held a record of 20-8 (12-2 in Ivy). This season they clinched the Ivy League title and made the NCAA Tournament. The achieved victory in the first round game against St. Bonaventure by a score of 92-83 but unfortunately fell four points short to Duke in the Eastern Regional Semifinals by a score of 84-80.
The second year was the year we would remember for decades. The 1978-79 team held a season record of 25-7 (13-1 in Ivy). This year, the Quakers won their second consecutive Ivy League title and made it to the Final Four in Salt Lake City, Utah. They achieved March Madness victories against Iona, North Carolina, Syracuse, and St. John’s before facing Michigan State in the semifinals.
The Red and Blue battled against one of the greatest basketball players of all time, Magic Johnson, and his No. 1 ranked team. With their superstar player, the Spartans outscored the Quakers big, 101-67, and in the consolation game against DePaul, the Quakers fell short three points by a score of 96-93.
Despite the devastating losses, Penn will never forget this team or Weinhauer. They made history and they continue to experience its effects.
“People still want to talk about it,” forward Tim Smith said. “And they probably will 40 years from now.”
After the ever-successful season, there was pressure on Penn continue the success. In Weinhauer’s third year, the Quakers went 17-12 (11-3 in Ivy). That year, they achieved their third consecutive Ivy title and made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament after beating Washington State, 62-55, and falling to Duke, 52-42.
In his fourth year, the Red and Blue’s 1980-81 squad held a season record of 20-8 (13-1 in Ivy). This year the Quakers tied for the Ivy title, making it their fourth consecutive win, however, they lost their ticket to the NCAA Tournament.
Throughout the years, Weinhauer was courted by several Power 5 universities to coach due to his incredible success. After the 1981 season, he received an offer from Georgia Tech and was on the verge of accepting it, but he opted to stay at Penn for one more season.
“When you fully explore someone else’s program you begin to notice that the things you have are pretty good,” Weinhauer said.
In Weinnhauer’s last season, the 1981-82 team finished with a record of 17-10 (12-2 in Ivy). That year the Quakers had to overcome a nine-game losing streak in the middle of the season, however they still earned another Ivy championship and made it to the NCAAs. They suffered a loss in the first round against St. John’s by a 66-56 scoreline.
After those five successful seasons Weinhauer decided to take a position at Arizona State, but he wasn’t able to imitate what he created at Penn in the three seasons he spent with the Sun Devils.
Soon after he started working in the Continental Basketball Association with the Detroit Spirits. For the rest of his career, he worked as both coach and executive in the NBA. He spent some time with the Philadelphia 76ers, Atlanta Hawks, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Milwaukee Bucks.
In addition to Ivy championships and NCAA Tournament appearances, many players received great honors during his time as head coach. Three players — Keven McDonald in 1978, Tony Price in 1979, and Paul Little in 1982 — earned Ivy League Player of the Year. Price also earned Big 5 Player of the Year in 1979.
Weinhauer was inducted into the Big 5 Hall of Fame in 2002 soon after his predecessor Chuck Daly was also inducted. He was then inducted into Penn Hall of Fame in the 2012 class of inductees.
In his career, Weinhauer created utmost success for Penn and is remembered for his dedication and sacrifice to the team over those years. Today, he is still remembered as the coach who took the Quakers to the Final Four.