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Dunphy home at Penn

(04/06/01 9:00am)

In collegiate sports, there exists no connection stronger than that with your alma mater. You love your school. You want your school to do well. You want what's best for it. "You're always going to have strong ties to your alma mater," said Fran Dunphy, a 1970 graduate of La Salle. "You feel terrific about your school." That doesn't mean you can't feel terrific about other places too. Dunphy probably had the chance to go home this week. But he knows he already is. Fran Dunphy's home is the University of Pennsylvania. He loves La Salle, and there is absolutely no reason why he shouldn't. The school gave him a chance to play there more than 30 years ago, and it gave him the chance to come back as an assistant coach years later -- an opportunity he used to work toward a successful head coaching career at Penn. In total, he spent seven years at La Salle as a student and as a coach. He'll be entering his 13th season at Penn next fall. Does he feel a similar kinship with this university? "Oh yeah, even more so. Penn gave me a chance, and I won't ever forget that." Dunphy said that La Salle never offered him its head coaching position and they never discussed specifics about the job that opened when his friend, Speedy Morris, was fired several weeks ago. But he did meet with Explorers officials three times. It's not difficult to see that there was interest from both parties. I don't know what happened during those three sessions, and I don't know what was going through Dunphy's mind from the time the job opened until he withdrew himself from consideration this week. All I know is what Dunphy said, and what he said is that while he loved La Salle, wanted what's best for the school and had great respect for the people there, he enjoys his situation here immensely. No one can blame Dunphy for his interest. It's the nature of college coaching that when an interesting job opens, you listen. It's even more interesting when that opening is at your school -- the place that got you started. Dunphy said that the meetings consisted mostly of listening to each other's philosophies. Could Dunphy have had this job if he wanted it? We'll never know for sure, but my guess is that if he did not willingly take himself out of the race, he -- and not former Maryland assistant Billy Hahn -- would have been standing behind a podium at the Tom Gola Arena yesterday afternoon. But it's all behind us now. Like he has for each of the past 12 seasons, Dunphy will be the man in charge when the Penn men's basketball team begins official practices in six months. The past few weeks have been confusing for many in the Penn program. Dunphy said he hoped the speculation was not a distraction to his team, but some of his players have said that while it was not a major hindrance to offseason workouts, they did think about it. All of that can end now. La Salle has a coach, and Penn has a coach. And there is no way Penn's coach is going anywhere. Yes, there's no connection as strong as the one with your alma mater, but Dunphy has one that is just as strong. Years from now, there is a good chance Dunphy will be inducted into the Big 5 Hall of Fame. During that ceremony, the emcee will talk about the skinny sixth man who helped La Salle's powerhouse 1968-69 team go 23-1 and gain national prominence, the same guy who averaged 18.6 points a game a year later. Then, he'll talk about the reasons for which Dunphy will be honored: his years on 33rd Street, his Ivy League championships, his career head coaching victories, his class and his dignity. That ceremony will take place at halftime of a Big 5 game. And if it happens to be Penn-La Salle, which squad would Fran Dunphy find himself rooting for? "That's a crazy question. I'll probably be like the President and sit on one side for the first half and the other side for the second half." It doesn't matter. What matters is he's on Penn's side now.

Dunphy interviews for La Salle coaching job

(03/27/01 10:00am)

Last Wednesday, Penn men's basketball coach Fran Dunphy met with La Salle Athletic Director Tom Brennan to discuss the school's head coaching vacancy. Dunphy said the 90-minute meeting went well. "We sat down and talked for a while," Dunphy said. "It went fine." La Salle fired coach William "Speedy" Morris on March 9 after 15 seasons at the helm. "It's my alma mater, so that's the reason they called and why I went to talk to them," said Dunphy, who graduated from La Salle in 1970. On several occasions, Dunphy has said that while he will listen when someone wants to talk to him, he believes he has a great job at Penn. "I'm coaching Penn right now," he said yesterday. "That's the way I'm looking at it." Dunphy added that he has no idea when La Salle will make a decision. While Brennan could not be reached for comment yesterday, La Salle Sports Information Director Kevin Currie, who is serving as the university's spokesman in the search, said they are still looking for Morris' replacement. "Everybody wants to do it as fast as possible," Currie said. Prior to joining then-Penn coach Tom Schneider's staff in 1988, Dunphy was an assistant at La Salle for three seasons. Dunphy became the Quakers' head coach before the 1989-90 season. In his 12 seasons as head coach, he has led the Red and Blue to a 206-122 record and six Ivy League titles. Dunphy, however, is not the only Fran with Penn connections being considered for the position. Lafayette coach Fran O'Hanlon, who served as Dunphy's assistant for six seasons before becoming the Leopards coach in 1995, and UNC-Greensboro coach Fran McCaffery, a Penn graduate, have also interviewed with Brennan. Dunphy said that he has discussed the opening with O'Hanlon. "He's interested. At any point, when someone wants to talk, you listen," Dunphy said. "But coach O'Hanlon has a great job at Lafayette, just like I have a great job at Penn." McCaffery, a 1982 Wharton graduate, played for the Quakers from 1979 through 1982 and then served as a Quakers assistant under Craig Littlepage during the 1982-83 season. He has been the Spartans head coach for the past two seasons and was the head man at Lehigh from 1985 through 1988. Yesterday's Philadelphia Daily News reported that La Salle "really likes" McCaffery. La Salle, though, is not the only program searching for a new coach, and what happens with the other schools could affect whom the Explorers get. After unexpectedly resigning at Villanova on Friday after nine seasons, Steve Lappas was introduced as the new coach at Massachusetts yesterday. Villanova immediately offered its job to Hofstra coach Jay Wright, a Philadelphia-area native and one of the rising stars in the collegiate coaching ranks. Villanova will hold a news conference today to announce Wright's hiring. What makes the situation confusing for the other schools is that Wright was considered the leading candidate for the Rutgers opening before the Villanova position became available. Thus, Lappas' resignation at 'Nova could cause a domino effect in terms of what the other schools do. "It could snowball from there," Currie said. "Rutgers is still looking for somebody, and last I heard their only option was Jay Wright. Now they might go after somebody we're looking at. Who knows?" The Daily News also reported that McCaffery is interested in the Rutgers job. There are also openings at Duquesne, Drexel and several other schools along the East Coast. Many of these schools will be competing for the same candidates, and depending on whom they hire, several other jobs could become available this offseason. In Philadelphia alone, there will be least three new coaches. Dunphy, for one, is not shocked by the recent turn of events in his hometown. "I think things go in cycles," Dunphy said. "It's our turn here in Philadelphia. Nothing surprises me in our profession."

A disappointing finale

(03/07/01 10:00am)

PRINCETON, N.J. -- And so it ends. A season that began with high expectations and the hope for a third consecutive Ivy League championship came to a devastating conclusion for the Penn men's basketball team last night. The Quakers entered the contest one game behind Princeton in the league standings and needed a win to clinch a share of the Ivy title. They needed a win to force a one-game playoff with the Tigers to determine the Ivy League's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Instead, the Quakers saw their biggest rivals walk away with a 68-52 victory and a league championship, leaving Penn with a mediocre 12-17 final record and a spring break without the NCAA Tournament. After a close first half last night, Princeton opened a double-digit lead and never looked back on their way to ending Penn's string of championships at two. Minutes after the game, the jubilant Tigers took turns climbing a ladder to cut down the Jadwin Gymnasium net. On the other side of the court, the dejected Quakers slumped into the locker room and then boarded a bus that would transport them away from the disappointment that enveloped them in Old Nassau and accompanied them throughout most of the 2000-01 season. "I'm obviously very disappointed," Penn senior captain Geoff Owens said. "We just never came together like I had hoped. "We showed signs of it, but we never fully came together as a group to play team basketball like we could. We had some real good games, but for the most part, we were inconsistent." Inconsistency was indeed the theme of the 2000-01 Quakers. Although they had stretches of good play throughout the season, the Red and Blue were never able to gel as a unit, as they had in their previous two Ivy championship seasons. When the season began in November, however, few Penn fans would have predicted as unsatisfying a result to the year as the one that came to a crashing halt in Princeton. Although doubts lingered about Penn's ability to replace its first team All-Ivy backcourt tandem of Michael Jordan and Matt Langel, the Quakers were still viewed as the Ivies' elite. The Penn frontcourt of Owens, Ugonna Onyekwe and Koko Archibong was considered the league's best, and a preseason media poll unanimously predicted the Quakers to three-peat. Another reason for Penn fans' hope was the disastrous bad luck that struck Princeton like a lightning bolt in early September. Days after All-Ivy center Chris Young forfeited his eligibility by signing a professional baseball contract, shooting guard Spencer Gloger transferred to UCLA and coach Bill Carmody left to take the top spot at Northwestern. Princeton was hurting. It seemed as though the Ivy League was Penn's for the taking. As the year unfolded, however, it was clear the road back to the NCAAs would be bumpier than it had been in the past. "Expectations are things that other people put on you," Penn coach Fran Dunphy said. "I don't think you, as a coach, ever sit there and think we're expected to have a great year. I'm petrified for every game we go into." And Dunphy had plenty to be petrified about in the season's early going. The Quakers opened the year with an 0-8 record, the worst start in the history of the program. There was reason for hope, as Penn scared nationally ranked teams like Maryland and Seton Hall. But they also squandered opportunities in winnable games against squads like La Salle, Davidson and Fordham. When the Ivy season finally rolled around, the confidence that characterized previous Quakers teams was no longer there. "I think when we started playing Ivy teams and we didn't crush them like we did last year, they thought they could play with us," Penn guard David Klatsky said. "The second time around, they came out more fired up." After going 27-1 in the Ivies in the previous two seasons, Penn finished just 9-5 this year. Their reign at the top was in jeopardy all year. Last night, Princeton delivered the final blow to knock Penn off its perch. This is supposed to be the time of year when the Quakers prepare for the postseason. Instead, Dunphy and his players are left with eight months to ponder what went wrong and how to fix it. The 2001 NCAA Tournament will go on without the Penn Quakers. "This is Princeton's moment," Dunphy said. "Let them embrace it."

No storybook end for Penn seniors

(03/07/01 10:00am)

PRINCETON, N.J. - With one minute, 48 seconds remaining in Princeton's 68-52 win over Penn last night, the Tigers fans in Jadwin Gymnasium exploded. They were cheering their senior captain, Nate Walton, who was coming out of the game. Fellow senior Terence Rozier-Byrd checked into the contest for Walton, and the "Jadwin Jungle" was showing its appreciation for the 6'7" center. At the same time, the entire Penn bench stood and began to clap. It was less noticeable and far less noisy, but the Quakers were showing their appreciation as well. At that moment, Lamar Plummer walked off the court for the final time as a Penn basketball player. Before last night's game, Plummer did not imagine his Penn basketball career would end this way. Neither did Geoff Owens or Josh Sanger. For every member of the Penn men's basketball team, last night was the end of their season. Ten of those Quakers, however, will don the Red and Blue again next year. For Owens, Plummer and Sanger, this is it. "Personally, it's been a pleasure to coach Geoff, Lamar Plummer and Josh Sanger in their last collegiate games," Penn coach Fran Dunphy said. "I wish them nothing but the best, but they'll remain part of our program for a long time to come." With last night's loss capping off one of the most disappointing seasons in recent Penn history, though, there was not much for Penn's senior leaders to be happy about as they exited Jadwin. "Obviously, it's really disappointing," Owens said. "You're remembered for the last thing you've done, and I don't think I did a very good job tonight. "Obviously, it's going to run through my mind a lot. I have a lot of time to think about it, so I'm pretty disappointed about it. I'm just going to have to look back on my whole career and not just the last game." When Owens looks back on his career, he'll see it as one of the most successful ever put together by a Penn big man. In the previous two seasons, he was an integral part of Penn's back-to-back Ivy championship teams, and he leaves Penn as the school's all-time leading shot blocker. For now, though, what is foremost in his mind are the five points and four rebounds he accumulated last night. Plummer also will likely dwell on Penn's missed opportunity at Jadwin, but he did use this season to establish himself as one of the most potent outside forces ever at Penn. This year, he buried 96 three-pointers, enough to break Matt Maloney's Penn season record. And that total was just two short of the Ivy League mark for a season. Plummer scored nine points on 3-of-9 shooting last night. Sanger started the first and final games of his Quakers career, but was used mostly as a role player during his four years. Dunphy recently inserted Sanger back into the starting line-up this past weekend, saying that the 6'8" forward gave the Quakers more energy than sophomore Ugonna Onyekwe at the game's start. Sanger played just four minutes last night. When the final buzzer sounded, the Princeton seniors were the stars; it was Walton who had the Jadwin net hanging from his neck; and it is the Tigers who are now headed to the NCAA Tournament. Penn's seniors ended their careers quietly. Disappointed with an ugly end to an ugly season, there was not much for them to say. A 68-52 loss to their biggest rivals and the idea of sitting at home during March Madness is not the way they wanted to go out. But in a season that began with high expectations that we're never met, it seemed sadly appropriate.

Time for M. Hoops to respond

(03/05/01 10:00am)

NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- Maybe their backs weren't really up against the wall on Friday night. Maybe that's why it looked as though Brown was the only team that showed any intensity at the Pizzitola Sports Center. It was a weird Ivy League weekend. At this point in the season, four teams were not supposed to be alive in the race for the championship. The Bears knew the pressure they were under, and they showed it from the opening tip -- attacking the Quakers and never relenting until the final buzzer sounded. The Bears fans knew the situation too. For the first time in its history, the Pizzitola Center was sold out for a Brown men's basketball game. The 2,500 raucous fans made Palestra-like noise in the tiny gym, jumping, screaming, banging their inflatable "thundersticks" and storming the court at the game's conclusion. Penn had to know the situation as well. Last year, the final Brown-Yale weekend was the chance for the Quakers to be crowned Ivy champs. This year, they were fighting to stay alive in the hunt for a third straight title. But for Brown, Friday's situation was more dire. The Bears were a game back in the standings and would face elimination with a loss. Penn was in a first-place tie with Princeton and only fell into second place with the 85-77 loss to Brown. Yes, Friday night was serious. But even with the loss, the Quakers amazingly still controlled their own destiny. Saturday was different. If Penn lost to Yale, that was it. The Quakers would have to pray that Brown could somehow upset Princeton in Providence. Their fate would have been out of their hands. And they responded. The team that lost to Brown the night before did not show its face at Yale's Payne Whitney Gym on Saturday. Instead, a determined and focused group of players walked onto the floor and suffocated the Elis, stopping them at nearly every opportunity and piling up an insurmountable lead. Yale entered that evening still alive in the Ivy race. Penn squashed those hopes minutes into the first half. It's impossible to explain this Penn team. They can look great, and they can look awful. But if one thing is clear from Saturday night's performance, it's that they knew what they were up against. "Well, I would hope that maybe this is a group that when their backs are against the wall, they respond," Penn coach Fran Dunphy said. "Every team is different personality-wise, and obviously this one is very different. "But I hope when they see a stressful situation, they overcome it." Well, it can't get more stressful than it is now. Friday should have been stressful, but if you judged by the Quakers' intensity, they may not have seen it as such. On Saturday, they faced elimination. They overcame the situation. Now, there is a showdown set for tomorrow night. Princeton has already laid claim to the title of 2000-01 Ivy League co-champion. If the Tigers beat the Quakers, they're going to the NCAA Tournament. Penn needs this win more than it has needed any win this season. It's amazing that Penn is still alive, considering how badly they've looked at times. It's funny, although not too surprising, that even in a very down year for the Ivy powers, it once again comes down to Penn or Princeton. But none of that matters. What matters is that the backs of the Quakers could not be pressed any closer to that proverbial wall right now. Dunphy saw how well his team responded when faced with elimination on Saturday. But even with the win, the Quakers can still see the title they've owned for two years slipping from their grasp. Two years ago, Penn was in a not-too-different situation heading into the final game at Jadwin. The roles were reversed, with Penn having already clinched a share of the title, but the Quakers needed a win to avoid a one-game playoff to decide the automatic berth. After a close first half, Penn exploded and handed Princeton its worst loss ever at Jadwin. The Red and Blue dominated the second half of that game like they dominated at Yale two nights ago. Both were stressful. Neither, though was as bad as it is now. Penn now must top the Tigers both tomorrow and in a one-game playoff to retain its title. Nothing that has happened so far matters now. It's do or die. Dunphy hopes his Quakers will respond in stressful situations. We'll see tomorrow.

M. Hoops bound for play-in

(02/27/01 10:00am)

Penn fans just might luck out this year. If the Quakers men's basketball team wins its final three games of the season, definitely possible considering the way they played against Harvard on Saturday, they will clinch an invitation to the NCAA Tournament. And for those who wish to follow the Red and Blue to their first-round destination, planning a trip will not be as difficult as it has been in past years. If Penn does indeed advance to the Dance, it's pretty easy to see where they're headed -- Dayton, Ohio. And that should be a relief to anybody worried about travel plans. I know from experience that it can be a true hassle scrambling to make accommodations once the pairings are announced on Selection Sunday. Two years ago, I spent all Monday of spring break on the phone and on the Internet, trying to find the most affordable way to get to Seattle on Wednesday. Last year, the procedure repeated itself. I was editing this section at the time, and the DP's general manager and I had to find a reasonable route to Winston-Salem, N.C., for three reporters and a photographer in a window of two days. It's an exercise known to anyone who has ever followed his or her favorite team to the NCAAs. And it's something fans of the Penn Quakers will not have to worry about this season. If Penn wins out, you can book your flight and make your hotel reservations as soon as the final buzzer goes off in Jadwin Gym on March 6. Penn's first game in the NCAA Tournament will be held on Tuesday, March 13 in Dayton. For those of you who have not heard, March Madness has expanded this year. There will now be 65, not 64, teams listed on the brackets. The number of conferences with automatic bids has expanded, so the NCAA has decided to invite an extra guest to the biggest party of the year. The two lowest seeds in the field will meet in Dayton for the right to face the top seed in the Midwest Region, which could be the very same Illinois team that knocked the Quakers out in the first round last year. When the play-in concept was announced last summer, it seemed highly unlikely that the Ivy champion would be forced to play an extra game just to have the opportunity to get walloped by one of the best teams in the land. There were just too many bad conferences out there. Now, it looks as though there is no way to avoid it. The only possible exception is if Princeton wins out. The Tigers currently have an RPI rating of 145, which might be enough to salvage them. (The RPI formula is used to rank all 319 Division I teams and plays an important role in determining NCAA seeds.) No other Ivy team has a prayer of avoiding the new special playoff game. There are four teams alive in the Ivy title hunt right now. Penn (RPI 219) and Princeton are tied for the league lead with 8-3 Ivy marks, while Brown (267) and Yale (275) sit a game back at 7-4. Each of these four teams will play the others in the remaining regular season games, and the way this season has gone, it's impossible to know what will happen. Yale, which was swept by the Ps on its trip through Philly and Jersey a few weeks ago, now gets another crack at the traditional powers -- this time with a healthy Neil Yanke and on their home floor. Brown has been improving every week of the season, and the Bears will also be looking to avenge earlier losses. And of course, Princeton and Penn have been anything but consistent this season. Fran Dunphy has said numerous times that any team can beat any other team in the league this season, and he is certainly right. That's why I'm staying away from predictions right now. After seeing the way the Quakers dismantled a Harvard team that had wiped the floor with them in Boston, I could say that Penn now has the confidence to carry it through the Yale-Brown weekend and the Princeton rematch. But I've been there before. After the second-half surge in the loss to Maryland, I said the then-winless Quakers had turned a corner. After they got by Lehigh, I wrote they could only get better. Then they went out and lost to teams like Harvard (305) and Columbia (286). So the only prediction I'll make now is that if Penn makes the Tourney -- and that's a big if -- it will be in the play-in game. There is no way for the Quakers to finish with a winning record this season, and their current RPI will be one of the worst in the Tournament. So if Penn can make it through the next three games, make your plans for Dayton as soon as you can. It could save you some hassle.

Tryouts over for Quakers

(02/09/01 10:00am)

During this time of the year, Kelli Toland and Angela Konstantaras are usually starting to get ready for spring practice with the Penn women's soccer team. This year was a bit different. Yesterday, Toland and Konstantaras returned to campus from East Petersburg, Pa., after three days of tryouts for the Philadelphia Charge of the new Women's United Soccer Association. Toland and Konstantaras, along with 2000 Penn graduates Andrea and Jill Callaghan, were among 18 players invited to try out for the Charge through this special free-agent camp. The Charge are one of eight teams in the league, which kicks off its inaugural season at the end of April. Charge coach Mark Krikorian told the participants at the camp that he will notify them of their status next week. Each WUSA franchise is permitted to carry 28 players on its preseason roster for training camp, which will begin in a few weeks. Teams must cut the rosters to 20 players by the start of the season. After an allocation of U.S. National Team players and two drafts of collegiate and international players, the Charge have 24 players on the roster. No matter the outcome of the tryout, though, the three days were fun for the former Quakers stars. "It was a really great experience," Toland said. "Whatever comes of it, it was fun. It was great just to play with [Konstantaras] and with Annie and Jill, who I haven't played with for a long time." Although the Charge must expand their roster to 28 players by the start of training camp, they have been looking in several directions. "They told us they were looking at some other players," Toland said. "I think the pool they're trying to pick from is bigger than we thought." While none of the 18 players invited to the camp is sure of her status, the tryout did give them a chance to work on their games. Morning and afternoon sessions were held at the LANCO Fieldhouse on Tuesday, and the camp wrapped up with a 40-minute morning workout yesterday. Wednesday's sessions were devoted to various skills workouts, while the coaches mostly just let the camp participants play on Tuesday and yesterday. "It was a good workout," Toland said. "We worked really hard." Going into the camp, Toland was still getting over an ankle injury that affected her throughout much of her senior season last fall. She was only cleared to run two weeks ago. Toland said the ankle started to hurt on Wednesday afternoon, but her injury did not force her to miss any parts of the tryout. While Toland, Konstantaras and the Callaghans are still not sure whether they will have a future in the upstart WUSA, each left a mark on the Quakers women's soccer program. Andrea Callaghan, a first team All-Ivy selection in 1999, graduated as Penn's all-time leading scorer with 68 points. Jill Callaghan was also an important reason for Penn's first-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament in 1999. She graduated as Penn's second all-time leading scorer with 59 points, but was passed by Toland this season. Toland, who leaves Rhodes Field with 60 career points, was a four-time All-Ivy selection. Despite missing part of the 2000 season with the ankle injury, Toland led the Quakers in scoring and was a second team All-Ivy selection. She earned first team honors as both a freshman and junior. Konstantaras, one of the best one-on-one players in the Ancient Eight, was an honorable mention All-Ivy selection. She also earned honorable mention as a sophomore. If she does not get the chance to play with the Charge, Konstantaras said she might pursue an opportunity to play with a minor league squad in Memphis, Tenn.

The voice of the Palestra

(02/08/01 10:00am)

His voice marks the unofficial commencement of the evening. The game might begin when the the ref tosses the ball in the air, but the experience begins when John McAdams takes the microphone. "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the University of Pennsylvania Palestra, college basketball's most historic gym." McAdams started using that greeting during the 1986-87 season when the Palestra was celebrating its 60th birthday. Now he'll never start calling a game before delivering his special welcome. It's a simple statement, one that often goes unnoticed by fans still trying to find their way to their seats. But, like streamers and Big 5 doubleheaders, it is now part of the history and lore of Philadelphia's hoops cathedral. When Penn Athletic Director Steve Bilsky decided to renovate the Palestra this fall to give it the feel of a basketball museum, a picture of McAdams went up on the wall in the east concourse. A fixture at the center of press row since 1981, McAdams has become part of the Palestra's history as well. "It makes me feel tremendously important," McAdams said. "Important in the sense not that I'm an important person, but that I've been able to contribute something to this building and to think that people look at me as being part of the Philadelphia basketball tradition." Penn Sports Information Director Carla Shultzberg and Larry Dougherty, the SID at St. Joe's, are two of those people who know what McAdams has contributed to Philadelphia basketball. Several months ago when The Sporting News was planning its "Best of College Basketball" issue, the magazine contacted SIDs throughout the nation, as well as numerous head coaches, assistant coaches and writers. Shultzberg and Dougherty had no doubt on who to vote for in the "Best PA Announcer" category. "I grew up with his voice," Dougherty said. "It's not flashy. It's just so professional." Dougherty and Shultzberg obviously were not alone, as McAdams took home the honor as the nation's best. According to TSN basketball editor Jeff D'Alessio, McAdams probably received three votes for every vote received by anyone else. "There are 319 Division I programs, probably another 400 Division II and III programs around," McAdams said. "To be judged number one overall is really great." Like his simple greeting to the Palestra, there is nothing over-the-top about McAdams' announcing style, and that is what makes him stand out as the best. "He doesn't have a big ego. He's not one of those PA announcers who thinks he's the star," said author John Feinstein, who called McAdams "one of the great PA announcers in the world" in his most recent book, The Last Amateurs. And that is what McAdams prides himself on. In an age in which announcers often get carried away screaming and hollering, the level of McAdams' voice varies little. He has a job to do, and it's not to jump out of his seat and go wild after a Ugonna Onyekwe reverse slam. His job is to present information and to present it as clearly as possible. "What I try to do is to give all the information that the guy sitting around in the stands needs to know what's going on in the game," McAdams said. "I do it in a way that people can understand me." McAdams knows that there's a good chance that there is someone is in the crowd who has never attended a basketball game. As the man behind the mic, he feels it is his job to make sure that person knows what is happening on the floor. It's a serious job and something McAdams performs with care. "It's not my job to be a cheerleader," he said. "Will I sometimes put a little more emphasis on the Quakers when I'm announcing [the starting lineups]? Sure... You might play up their names a little more, but not to the point where you're yelling and screaming and acting like a complete idiot. To me, that is unprofessional, and I've always wanted to be as professional as possible." It's an attitude he takes into all of his endeavors. In addition to Penn, McAdams also does games at Drexel, St. Joe's, La Salle and Philadelphia University. In fact, he is one of the few full-time PA announcers in the nation. In the summer, he does every home game for the Wilmington Blue Rocks minor league baseball team. He's also an official scorer for the Phillies, doing about 20 games each season, and the pressbox announcer for the Eagles. He calls Penn baseball and sprint football games, as well as football games for Widener and La Salle. To fill out his schedule, he makes guest appearances at numerous colleges throughout the area. This season, he has already done games at Cabrini, Ursinus and at a high school holiday tournament in Reboboth Beach, Del. Next month, he'll take the mic for the Atlantic 10 Tournament at the First Union Spectrum. Then, he'll move over to the First Union Center to announce the NCAA East Regional Final, just as he did 10 years ago when Duke's Christian Laettner sunk Kentucky with one of the most famous shots in college basketball history. No matter the event, however, McAdams approaches it with the same careful preparation. Whether it's the NCAA Tournament or a Penn JV hoops game, he goes through his own warm-ups, just as the players do. He looks through the opponent's media guide, matching names with faces and checking on pronunciations. "Brown foul on number thirty-four, Alaivaa Nuualiitia." He'll check to make sure there have been no changes to the starting lineups. "At the other forward, a sophomore; six feet, seven inches from Pasadena, California, Koko Archibong." He'll go over the commercials he must read during timeouts. "Ladies and gentlemen, it's time to announce the Baskin Robbins seats of the night." And he'll place three cups of water close to his seat, so that he doesn't strain his voice during the evening's game. "Please direct your attention to center court where the University of Pennsylvania will honor its Collegiate Sprint Football League champion sprint football team." The precise attention paid to each small announcement is an indication of the care McAdams takes to doing a good job at the Palestra and for the teams that play there. "John McAdams is a great announcer, but if you ask anyone who knows him, they'd probably say he's an even better human being," Penn men's basketball coach Fran Dunphy said. John McAdams makes his living with his voice, and after 20 years, it is a voice that has become synonymous with the Palestra. But when he was growing up and attending Big 5 doubleheaders with his father, he had no idea he would one day become part of the place or even that announcing was in his future. Always a sports nut, McAdams got the first inkling of his talent when he was working in public relations for the minor league New Jersey Devils of the Eastern Hockey League in 1969. One day, when the play-by-play man could not make it in to work, McAdams was pressed into duty. He had no idea how much he would enjoy it. "I made a tape of the broadcast," he said. "After listening to it, I said, 'Hey, this is pretty good.'" His days in public relations were numbered. After stints as a play-by-play guy for both the Philadelphia Blazers of the World Hockey Association and the Philadelphia Firebirds of the North American Hockey League in the 1970s, McAdams got the break before the 1981-82 season that would define his career. Then-Big 5 Executive Secretary Dan Baker offered McAdams the job of Palestra public address announcer, and McAdams has no intention of giving up the position anytime soon. In many ways, the Palestra has become his home. He has many jobs, but none compares to sitting at center court in "college basketball's most historic gym." "This place is something special," McAdams said. "To me, after 20 years of working here, walking through that door, you still get a little bit of a thrill. "This place just reeks history. There's history in every corner. That's why, to me, a game played in the Palestra is something special." And to many, a game in the Palestra would not be the same without McAdams. "The building has so much tradition, and there are certain things you expect to see when you walk in the door," Feinstein said. "To me, John is part of that landscape." Many aspects of the Palestra give the building its character. For the past 20 years, John McAdams has given it its voice.

W. Soccer stars try for pros

(02/06/01 10:00am)

Angela Konstantaras and Kelli Toland never thought they would have this chance. With their days at Penn dwindling to a close and their collegiate playing days over, these two senior soccer standouts have been given the opportunity to continue playing the sport they love. Toland and Konstantaras, along with 2000 Penn graduates Jill and Andrea Callaghan, are among 18 women invited to try out for the Philadelphia Charge of the newly established Women's United Soccer Association at a free agent camp this week in East Petersburg, Pa. The Charge are one of eight teams in the WUSA, which will kick off its inaugural season later this spring. The Charge are permitted to invite 28 players to their preseason camp, which will begin in several weeks. After an allocation of players from the U.S. national team and two drafts of collegiate and international players, Philadelphia already has 24 women on its roster. The team must cut the roster to 20 by the start of the season on April 22. "It's just playing soccer," Toland said. "It's a tryout, but we're just going to play soccer." During their time with the Red and Blue, Konstantaras, Toland and the Callaghan sisters have excelled on the soccer field, leading the women's program to the most successful years in its short history. In 1999, Penn advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the elevation of the program to varsity status in 1991. The Quakers also captured ECAC Tournament championships in 1998 and 2000. Andrea Callaghan graduated in May as Penn's all-time leading scorer with 68 points. Toland moved into second place on that list this past season, leaving Rhodes Field with 60 career points. Jill Callaghan is third in Penn history with 59. This fall, Toland earned second team All-Ivy honors despite being hampered by an ankle injury throughout the season. She has only recently been given the OK to play again. "I was just cleared to run two weeks ago," Toland said, who led the Ivy League in scoring as a junior and earned All-Ivy honors in each of her four years. "I just did sprints for the first time in three months. I haven't tackled anyone or had any contact, so it'll be interesting to see how that works out." This week's free agent camp, which includes players from throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, will begin this morning at the LANCO Fieldhouse. Morning and afternoon sessions will be held today and tomorrow, and the camp will conclude with a morning session on Thursday. If Konstantaras and Toland are selected by the Charge, they will have to withdraw from school and complete their degrees in the fall, a decision that will be difficult for both of them. "I would really have to think about it," Toland said. "My parents just finished paying tuition. I don't know, with two months left, if I could withdraw and give up the opportunity to be with my friends." "It's one of those things where you don't want to cross that bridge until you have to," added Konstantaras, who was named honorable mention All-Ivy this season and was considered one of the best one-on-one players in the Ivies. For now, Penn's two senior midfielders are just grateful for the opportunity to possibly continue their playing careers as professionals. Competing against superstars like Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain and Brianna Scurry is something which these former Quakers would cherish. "To think they'd be your teammates -- it's kind of surreal," Konstantaras said. When the WUSA was founded, each of the league's eight franchises -- the Atlanta Beat, Bay Area CyberRays, Boston Breakers, Carolina Courage, New York Power, Philadelphia Charge, San Diego Spirit and Washington Freedom -- was allocated several players from the World Cup champions. After a 15-round draft in the fall, each team picked up four more players at a tryout camp and draft in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., this past weekend. Toland, Konstantaras and the Callaghans did not even know they might have the chance to participate in the WUSA's first season until they received an e-mail inviting them to the free agent camp several weeks ago. "All we were given was an itinerary and hearsay," Konstantaras said. "We just have to go into it and work as much as we can and do what they tell you." That chance to play for the Charge would be a great honor, especially for Toland, who has spent her entire life in Philadelphia. "It would be a blast," she said. "I've gotten phone calls from people who just randomly found out and they're like, 'Oh my God, I'm going to come watch you.'" "I've grown up here. I'm still tight with all my friends from home. It would be crazy. My whole family's in the Philadelphia area, so it would be amazing." For Konstantaras, who grew up across the country in Pleasant Hill, Calif., the chance to play professionally is just as exciting. "For me, [soccer] has been one of those things that I could always look forward to," she said. "It will always be there. It's always been there. "It's something that I just don't think I can let go of yet."

Dunphy takes 200 in stride

(02/05/01 10:00am)

They were two wins. Two ugly wins. Two ugly wins over bad teams. But they were wins six and seven on the season, wins 24 and 25 in the nation's best conference winning streak and wins three and four in the Ivy League. That's important. They also happened to be wins 200 and 201 in the coaching career of Fran Dunphy. To the Quakers head man, that's not important. "It's not something that drives me," Dunphy said after becoming the second coach in Penn history to reach 200 wins when the Quakers topped Yale on Friday. "It's not that big a deal, it really isn't. At this point, we're 3-0 in the league, which I'm grateful for. We have six total wins, and I wished we had more. We're talking about this year. That's all we're talking about." Every once and a while, though, it's nice to stop and recognize a milestone that celebrates more than just what happened that night. That's what Penn athletic officials were thinking when they placed a congratulatory cake on the coaches' table just before Dunphy walked into the post-game press conference. There was nothing spectacular about that Yale game. The Quakers emerged with a victory, but as they have all season, they struggled with their consistency. Dunphy is obviously concerned with his team's problems. When he walked into the media room on Friday, though, a smile emerged from under that famous mustache. Athletic Director Steve Bilsky and a host of other officials stood and clapped as Dunphy entered the room. "That's very cute," the coach said. "Thank you very much." It was clear that win 200 was no sweeter for Dunphy than win 199 or win 201. He joked about how it could have come earlier, especially with Penn's early season struggles this year. But he has no time to reflect on being in position to pass Lon Jourdet (227 wins) as Penn's all-time winningest coach next season. He has a job to do -- get Penn into a third consecutive NCAA Tournament. The wins are nice, but when Dunphy gets talking, you learn what's important. From recording that first win over Lehigh on November 25, 1989, up until Saturday night's triumph over Brown, he knows it is the people who have contributed to those wins that stand out. "I've been blessed with a lot of really good kids that I've coached," Dunphy said. "I didn't make a jumper, didn't get a rebound, didn't have any turnovers either. "It has nothing to do with me, but with a bunch of kids who have been just great to be around. It's been a phenomenal experience." It was a nice moment on Friday, not unlike the one a few weeks ago when a teary-eyed Steve Donahue walked into the press conference after Penn had beaten his Cornell squad. That night, Donahue told himself he would not get emotional when he returned to the place where he had been an assistant for 10 seasons. That went straight out the window as soon as he walked into the Palestra. Friday was similar. People were trying to make a big deal out of something that was not important to Dunphy. But as soon as they got him talking, they found the real meaning of the milestone. Later in the press conference, somebody asked Dunphy about how Yale kept the game close. He answered the question and started talking about shot selection, including some of Lamar Plummer's decisions. Then Dunphy looked to Plummer, who was sitting to his right, and spoke of how proud he was at how Plummer has developed as a player, but more importantly as a person. Over the past 12 years, not one of those wins has mattered as much to Dunphy as interacting with his players. The press conference ended, and Dunphy had to get ready for Brown. It was a nice moment, but it was just that -- a moment. Fran Dunphy has 201 wins in his career. But he doesn't care about that. As he said, "we're talking about this year." This year is still happening, and Dunphy needs to prepare for number 202.

Yale center hopes for sweet return

(02/01/01 10:00am)

Neil Yanke was only a sophomore at the time. He wasn't a concern. In fact, he only averaged 3.6 points per game the previous season. Penn was everybody's pick to win the Ivy League title. And the game was not supposed to be much of a contest. But none of that seemed to matter on January 8, 1999. After missing all of the previous season with a medical condition, Penn center Geoff Owens was playing his first Ivy League game in two years. Owens was the one who was supposed to dominate inside. But Yanke had other plans. The previously unknown Elis center made his mark on the Palestra that evening, scoring a game-high 19 points and shooting 5-of-7 from the field. He also held Owens to just two points. The heavily favored Quakers escaped that first league game with a 68-62 win and eventually advanced to the NCAA Tournament with a 13-1 Ivy record. But if there's one thing the Quakers would remember about that snowy January night, it would be Neil Yanke. And Yanke is certainly looking forward to returning to the Palestra tomorrow night. "It's a great gym to play in, and our team seems to play well there," said the 6'10" center who did not play in the Elis' 69-52 loss to the Quakers at Penn last year, the game which clinched Penn's second straight title. When Yanke steps onto the Palestra floor tomorrow, however, he will find himself in a situation to which he and the Elis are not accustomed -- Ivy frontrunner. Yale enters the dreaded Penn-Princeton road trip with a 3-0 league record, enough to give it a half-game lead over the Tigers and Quakers. And Yanke has certainly had something to do with the Elis' surprising start. The senior captain is currently averaging 11.1 points per game, while pulling down 6.1 boards per contest. Penn coach Fran Dunphy knows that Yanke could pose problems for Penn tomorrow. While the Quakers' frontcourt of Koko Archibong, Geoff Owens and Ugonna Onyekwe is widely regarded as the Ancient Eight's best, Dunphy knows from experience that Yanke is one player who may be able to find success at the low post. "All of Yale's team is a concern, and Yanke is obviously a big part of what they do," Dunphy said. But while Yanke could cause trouble down low, he is still not totally sure if he will suit up tomorrow night. Last week, when the Elis dropped a 90-75 game to Penn State at the Lee Amphitheater, Yanke was forced to sit with an ankle injury. He said the ankle feels fine now and will meet with a doctor this morning to check his condition, but Yanke does intend to play this weekend at both the Palestra and Jadwin Gym. Yanke also said that he does not expect the injury to slow him at all and is quite excited for the Elis' first real chance to prove themselves within the league. In the league's preseason media poll, Yale was chosen to finish eighth. Yanke and his teammates are now out to prove the preseason prognosticators wrong. "We feel very confident, very excited," the Akron, Ohio, native said. "No one expected us to be doing what we're doing, and no one expects us to win this weekend." If the Elis do indeed become the fourth team in Ivy League history to pull off the improbable Penn-Princeton weekend sweep, they will probably need a big weekend from their big man. Although the hot shooting of guard Chris Leanza and the interior play of forwards Tom Kritzer and Paul Vitelli allowed the Elis to hang with Penn State for a while, the Elis will likely need the paint presence and leadership of Yanke to succeed this weekend. So far this year, Leanza's outside touch, as well as having other post players to complement Yanke, has allowed the Elis to surge. "If it were just Yanke to concern yourself with, it'd be wonderful," Dunphy said. Instead, Dunphy must prepare his squad for several Yale threats. None, however, stands as tall as the guy who first made himself known at the Palestra two years ago.

Win over Lehigh just a step

(01/25/01 10:00am)

The season is halfway over, but at this point, it seems as though the Penn men's basketball team will have to settle for what it can get. If the Quakers are going to make progress as they prepare for their remaining schedule, it will have to come in steps. Last night was a step. It may have been a tiny one, but it was there. When Penn lost to Delaware last Wednesday night, the Quakers hit one of the lowest points of their disappointing season. Players slumped defeated into a somber locker room, and Fran Dunphy was left scratching his head at how to fix the situation. Last night was better. First of all, it was a win, and in the end, that is really the only thing that matters. And unlike last week against the Blue Hens, the Red and Blue rallied when they fell behind. Lamar Plummer wounded the Engineers with three crucial three-pointers, and Geoff Owens finished them off when he took control, scoring 11 consecutive points for Penn. When a listless Quakers squad lost in Newark, Del., Plummer's shots did not fall and an ineffective Owens spent a lot of time sitting next to Dunphy. When that game ended, Owens took the blame squarely on his shoulders, and he said that he -- as well as Penn's other upperclassmen -- needed to start leading this team. And in that one stretch in the second half at the Palestra last evening, that's exactly what he and Plummer, Penn's only significant upperclassmen contributors, did. "It was a great stretch for Lamar," Dunphy said. "But to be a good team, we have to do that in the first half too." That's exactly why last night was a step -- yes, a small step -- in the right direction. When Delaware had Penn down, they stayed down. When Lehigh had Penn down, Plummer, Owens and the rest of the Quakers responded. The Red and Blue have been horribly inconsistent this season, and last night was no different in that regard. The Quakers suffered through stages of abysmal play, as they have all year long. The difference is that when they needed to be, Penn was a better team than they were a week ago. It does not matter that Delaware may be more talented than Lehigh; it matters that Penn responded the way it did. After coming out of halftime with a 10-point advantage, Penn watched as Lehigh went on a 16-2 run to take a 43-39 lead. Penn and Lehigh traded baskets and leads for awhile, but the Quakers finally charged back behind Plummer. His key threes, followed by Owens' stretch of offensive dominance, are what killed Lehigh. The Engineers, who seemed to be out of it by halftime but then found their way back, were finally deflated. "That just knocked us out," Lehigh coach Sal Mentesana said of Plummer's threes. "They were just like a dagger in our heart." Mentesana's choice of metaphor is by no means original, but in this situation, it is striking. When asked to describe the way his team approached Penn last week, Delaware guard Billy Wells said, "Just keep stabbing 'em in the heart, try to keep stabbing 'em." That's why Owens and his teammates were so upset last week -- they stood there and got stabbed repeatedly without retaliating. It's also why last night's win should not excite the Quakers. Sure, they stabbed when Lehigh had them down. They didn't let themselves get buried by an inferior foe. But they didn't stab from the start, and even against weak teams like Lehigh, that is unacceptable at this point in the year. After the game, both Dunphy and Owens spoke of playing hard for 40 minutes. It's the talk we've been hearing all season, but are still waiting to see enacted. For a team that has been suffering through so many inconsistencies and difficulties, an 87-74 over a mediocre Patriot League opponent is a step. Now, the Quakers desperately need to take more steps -- and to take them quickly.

Quakers win behind total team effort

(01/24/01 10:00am)

When the Penn women's basketball team drops 91 points in a single game, it is tough to imagine Diana Caramanico not being an unstoppable force responsible for most of the squad's points. That's just the way it's been for such a long time. But last night, even as Caramanico fought her way through double- and triple-teams to score 21 points, Drexel had several other problems to worry about. For the first time this season, all five Penn starters scored in double figures, and the opposition could not focus all of its energy solely on the star senior forward. "That's nice to see," Penn coach Kelly Greenberg said. "We were on early. We were hitting everything. You can't talk enough about confidence." Confidence is sure to flow whenever a team hits 74 percent of its shots, as the Quakers did on their way to 52 points in the first half. "Neither team was playing defense, so that had something to do with the score," Caramanico said. While both Penn and Drexel did struggle through some defensive lapses all night long, the Quakers were certainly not having much trouble on the other end of the floor. Freshman Jewel Clark hit an impressive 10-of-13 from the field on her way to a career-high 26 points. And she wasn't the only one to finish the contest with a career high. Sophomore point guard Tara Twomey had already reached the best scoring output of her career with 10 first half points, including a couple of important three-pointers. She added a free throw in the second half to finish with 11. "If Tara Twomey is hitting three-pointers like that, the other Ivy League coaches should be scared," Greenberg said. If last night's contest was an indication of what may happen in upcoming conference games, then the Quakers might just be giving the other Ivies several reasons to be scared. Like many teams have in the past, the Dragons focused on taking Caramanico out of her game early, collapsing on her in the low post. "I felt a lot of pressure from the defense on me," Caramanico said. "If they're going to put two or three people on me, it's great to see my teammates carry the scoring." While Caramanico was limited to a less-than-characteristic 13 field goal attempts, other Quakers were definitely willing to pick up the scoring load. Leading the way were Clark and senior guard Erin Ladley, who finished with 17 points. Forward Julie Epton (10 points) was the fifth and final starter to reach double figures. This offensive balance was evident form the opening tip-off. After Drexel jumped out to a 5-0 lead, Ladley responded with a three-pointer and a short jumper to tie the game. Clark and Epton then added baskets, and Twomey chipped in with two free throws. When Caramanico hit a foul shot to give Penn a 12-8 lead, she was the final Penn starter to get on the board. For a player who owns every scoring record in Penn history and is on pace to become the Ivy League's all-time leading scorer later this season, it's unusual not to be forced to lead the scoring charge. But that's just the way this night went. Offensively, Penn was firing and hitting from everywhere. As both Caramanico and Greenberg noted, it's easy to do that on an evening when defense was as rare as it was last night. Yes, Caramanico cannot really be totally stopped, a fact to which her 21 points attest. But Penn has proved it is more than just one player. With a rising star in Clark and solid contributions coming from every part of the floor, Penn's balance might just be the key to its success.

Quakers honored for games, grades

(01/24/01 10:00am)

The Ivy League announced its Academic All-Ivy team for the fall season yesterday, and seven seniors are among the 10 Penn athletes honored. Ten athletes were selected from each of the eight Ivy League schools. Kicker Jason Feinberg, a first team All-Ivy honoree who leaves Penn as the Red and Blue's all-time leading scorer and the Ivy League's all-time leading kicking scorer (218 points), represents the Ancient Eight champion football squad on the honor list. Senior women's soccer co-captain Kelli Toland, who finished her career as the program's second all-time leading scorer, ranks this accomplishment as one of the most important honors she has received in her soccer career because it recognizes both academics and athletics. "I also didn't get to play that much this season, so it's nice to have something positive come out of it," added Toland, who earned second team All-Ivy honors this year despite being hobbled by an ankle injury. Men's soccer co-captain Henry Chen, who was the only Quaker to earn All-Ivy and All-Philadelphia Soccer 7 honors this year, was also named to the academic squad. Senior defensive end Kevin Manning and wide receiver Robert Reeves were selected as representatives of the Collegiate Sprint Football League champions. Rounding out the Quakers' list of honorees are junior volleyball co-captain Jodie Antypas, sophomore women's cross country runner Kristen Koch, senior men's cross country runner Andy Kish, sophomore women's golfer Stacy Kress and senior field hockey co-captain Amna Nawaz.

Rick Haggerty: Time to put it all together

(01/18/01 10:00am)

NEWARK, Del. -- During a time-out in the first half of last night's game at the Bob Carpenter Center, the University of Delaware honored its newly crowned national champion cheerleading squad. After that pause, the Penn and Delaware men's basketball teams walked back onto the court, and the Quakers did their best to help the Blue Hens look like national champs in men's hoops as well. It wasn't their intention, but it was at least one area of last night's contest in which they succeeded. Since this 2000-01 season began in North Carolina back in November, there have been some stinkers for Penn. Last night's pathetic performance has to rate right up there at the top. The Blue Hens are not a bad team. But that's not the point. The point is that right now, Penn is. Delaware guard Billy Wells said that Penn was the best team they've beaten this year. And talent-wise, it's tough to argue with him. Penn is a talented team. It's just not a good team. When Blue Hens coach David Henderson was asked to describe Penn, he said they were "peculiar." And there is really not much else to say. No one can figure out these Quakers. At times, they look like nothing can stop them. But more often than that, they look like they don't know what they're doing. There have been flashes this year -- quite a few, in fact -- in which the Quakers have looked great. The Maryland and Seton Hall losses were full of those moments. Even last night, there were isolated incidences of brilliance -- Ugonna Onyekwe driving the lane and flipping the ball into the hoop while drawing a foul or Lamar Plummer taking the ball at the top of the key and slashing to the basket for two points. But those rarities were overshadowed by the defensive miscues, the miscommunication on offense, the ugly three-point attempts and the 39.7 percent shooting. After Penn dropped its second game of the season against Fordham, I asked coach Fran Dunphy when this team would come together. He told me it probably wouldn't be until January. It's January now, and Dunphy, like everyone else, still does not know the answer to that question. "I wish I had it," he said. "I wish I had this crystal ball, and it would say, 'OK, on February 1, we're going to be a very good basketball team." But Dunphy, more than anyone else, knows the type of talent his squad has. It has the type of talent that should prevent it from being manhandled by teams like Delaware. But if the first half of this basketball season has demonstrated anything, it's that talent does not equal success. There are intangibles necessary for team success that Penn sorely lacks. From watching this team, it's obvious the players do not completely trust each other on the court and have little confidence in themselves. Dunphy is ready to take responsibility for that. In his 12 years at Penn, he has had 12 teams with 12 different personalities, and he realizes that this squad might need some extra motivating. "This [team] is one where they just need me to constantly be on their butts," Dunphy said. "I'd rather it come from the group. But if they need me to constantly be on them, that's what I'll do starting [today]." When the season began, Onyekwe and Geoff Owens were supposed to be dominant. After some ugly play last night, both spent considerable time on the bench. Owens knows what the problem is. He knows this team has no confidence; he knows the players do not have complete faith in each other. Geoff Owens is the captain, and no one cares more about the Quakers than he does. Right now, frustration is written all over the face of this battle-scarred veteran, and he feels it's up to him to fix the team's ills. "I take that on myself," he said. "I need to do a better job." Penn has the talent to beat Lafayette on Saturday; it has the talent to run the table in the Ivy League; and it has the talent to win its remaining non-league games. It also has the ability, at times, to make Delaware look like Duke. Fran Dunphy said he will do what he needs to change that. Geoff Owens said he will too. After a half-season of bumbling mediocrity, the problem has not gone away. Whether it's Dunphy or Owens or someone else, it's time somebody does something.

Second half gives Quakers hope

(12/11/00 10:00am)

Penn hit 64.3 percent of its shots in the second half against Maryland on Saturday night. "They shot 62 percent," Maryland coach Gary Williams noted. "And that one guy made the pass that went in." With a little more than 13 minutes left in the game, Quakers guard Lamar Plummer didn't intend for his alley-oop pass to fall through the net. He was waiting for a wide-open Koko Archibong to leap into the air and slam it home. But instead of a rim-rattling jam that would have riled up the rowdy Palestra fans even more, Plummer wound up with a three-pointer that had a similar effect on the sold-out crowd of 8,722. "They say the Palestra has magic," Plummer said. "I guess that was some of that magic." On a weekend in which new displays capturing the magic were opened in the concourse, it was almost perfect for Penn. If not for the hot hand of Maryland guard Steve Blake down the stretch, maybe the Quakers could have done it. Perhaps Athletic Director Steve Bilsky would have cleared some wall space in a future display to remember the night the Quakers erased a 22-point halftime deficit to topple the nationally ranked team with three preseason candidates for National Player of the Year. Instead, Penn is 0-6 -- its worst start since 1984-85. And the next two teams on the schedule -- Seton Hall and Temple -- also happen to be nationally ranked (although the Owls have lost five straight and should fall out of the polls this week). Penn is 0-6. Oh-and-seven is possible, as is 0-8. And if the Quakers play as they did in Saturday night's first half, losing the next two would probably be unavoidable. But the most important thing right now is not that Penn fell to the Terrapins on Saturday. The most important thing is that this team may finally be coming together. In the second half, Ugonna Onyekwe, who seemed to be sleep-walking through some of the earlier games, took charge. Everything Plummer threw up at the basket seemed to go in. Archibong and Geoff Owens played well in the frontcourt, and David Klatsky showed poise in trying to break the press. Of course, this is all based on one half -- a half that saw the Quakers play at a level they cannot sustain throughout the season. It was a half in which everything went right for Penn. Look to Plummer's botched alley-oop attempt for proof. Nights like this just don't happen very often. Even the free throws were falling, which is a huge cause for celebration on this team. The Quakers were 17-of-20 on foul shots, with Onyekwe, a man who had been putting up Shaq-like numbers from the line, going an unbelievable 8-of-9. And, of course, Maryland played nowhere near as well after halftime as they did in the first 20 minutes. Terence Morris and Lonnie Baxter, two of those Player of the Year candidates, were both in foul trouble, and defensive miscues by the Terrapins allowed the Quakers to close the gap. According to Williams, his squad is just not tough enough. "One of the things that we haven't learned yet is how to be killers," he said. "We get [the lead] to 20, we've got to try to get it to 40. I guess Penn had something to do with that, but we did, too." Penn certainly did have something to do with it, and that's the point here. No one should expect the Quakers to continue playing like they did in the second half Saturday. But after uninspiring performances in their opening losses, perhaps Saturday night was the night they turned the corner. Fran Dunphy has said that this team will not totally come together until January, and with Penn playing one of the toughest non-league schedules in the country, it's impossible to judge how good the Quakers will be from what we've seen so far. Who knows what happened at halftime on Saturday, what finally flipped the switch? But maybe in the long run, this game won't be remembered as the night Penn got buried in the first half and then nearly climbed entirely out of that hole. Instead, just maybe, it will be remembered as the night the 2000-01 Penn Quakers showed, for the first time, just what they are really capable of.

Maryland edges by M. Hoops, 87-81

(12/09/00 10:00am)

The Penn men's basketball team nearly erased a 22-point halftime deficit, but eventually fell to No. 18 Maryland, 87-81, tonight before a sold-out crowd of 8,722 at the Palestra. Maryland jumped out to a 52-30 lead at the half behind 19 points from forward Byron Mouton and 7-of-11 shooting from three-point range. Penn, however, rushed right back into the game after halftime. The Quakers were just never able to close the gap entirely. On the night, Lamar Plummer led the Quakers with 23 points behind 7-of-11 three-point shooting, including one botched alley-oop pass to Koko Archibong that landed in the basket. Ugonna Onyekwe had perhaps his strongest game of the season, scoring 20 points and shooting an impressive 8-of-9 from the free throw line. With the loss, Penn falls to 0-6 on the season -- its worst start since the 1984-85 season. The Quakers went on to win the Ivy League title that season. Penn will be back in action Wednesday night when they face Seton Hall at the Meadowlands.

Home reunion for M. Hoops

(12/07/00 10:00am)

The concourse will be a bit spiffier. The hallways will have fancy displays on the history of college basketball's most storied gymnasium. And famous faces, such as Julius Erving and Chuck Daly, will be on hand for the festivities. But for the Penn men's basketball team, when the doors swing open to the public for the grand re-opening of the refurbished Palestra this evening, the only thing that matters is that the Quakers will finally be home. After dropping its first four games of the season on the road, Penn will host Big 5 rival La Salle (2-3) in its home opener tonight at 8 p.m. "It's going to be great to come back here to play," Quakers center Geoff Owens said. "It's been tough going on the road the last couple games, so it will be nice to come back home." It certainly has been tough for the Red and Blue in their opening slate of games. Although they hung close in each of their first four contests, the Quakers came up short four times. So far, less than 4,000 tickets have been sold for tonight's game against the Explorers, but penn is hoping to get a boost from the crowd on the night of the Palestra's unveiling. "I hope we get great student support," Penn coach Fran Dunphy said. "It will be tremendous if we can. It's a great place." La Salle, however, will be out to spoil this special night for Penn fans. It is only appropriate that the $2 million improvements to the Palestra will be displayed for the first time on the evening of a Big 5 matchup. As always, this City Series contest should prove to be competitive and exciting. And the Explorers will certainly be looking for a repeat of their performance at Tom Gola Arena a year ago. Exactly one year ago today, the Explorers edged the Quakers, 83-76, in the first Big 5 game of the season. Then-senior Michael Jordan led the Quakers with 22 points, but Penn could not contain La Salle senior Donnie Carr or sophomore Rasual Butler -- they each finished with 25 points. While first team All-Big 5 performer Carr graduated last season, Butler will once again be causing headaches for the Red and Blue tonight. Butler and senior Victor Thomas have formed a two-headed scoring monster for the Explorers this season. Thomas leads the squad with 22.6 points per game, and Butler is not far off that pace, averaging 19.2. The 6'7" forwards are a dangerous combination, and the responsibility for containing them will fall on the shoulders of Penn sophomores Koko Archibong and Ugonna Onyekwe. "We just have to shade to them when we're in a zone," Dunphy said. "Also, if we're going to play man-to-man, we have to keep them in front of us and hopefully challenge their jump shots." Last Thursday, Butler scored 13 points, shooting a mere 5-of-29 from the field, and Thomas had 10 as the Explorers fell, 63-54, to eighth-ranked Seton Hall. The Quakers will try their luck against the Pirates next Wednesday. Although La Salle could not keep up with the talented Seton Hall squad in the end, the Explorers forced 20 turnovers and held the Hall well below its season average of 96 points per game. La Salle's lethal defense could prove problematic for the Quakers, who have struggled to find an offensive groove. Senior Lamar Plummer leads Penn with 16.0 points per game, but he is the only Quaker who has emerged as a consistent scoring threat. Both Owens and Onyekwe have had moments of brilliance, but have also struggled at times. Onyekwe, especially, has been disastrous at the foul line, shooting a miserable 43.3 percent (13-for-30) this season. "We really need Ugonna to score and to play well on both ends of the floor," Dunphy said. "When he gets the chance to get to the foul line, he needs to step up and make those shots as well. We need U badly." The Quakers also need a win badly. And tonight, as they step back into their home gymnasium -- a new, fancier Palestra -- they'll be looking to finally get on a winning track.

Rick Haggerty: The end of the road

(12/01/00 10:00am)

It's different each time you step on this campus at the start of the fall semester. You know that things aren't always as you left them in the spring -- that the campus may look a bit different, that you will be meeting and dealing with new people and situations, and that things will indeed change. Coming back to Penn earlier this year, though, brought with it an even more unique feeling. As a senior, I knew that many of the events I had attended or the things I had done in my previous three years would be done for the final time this year. It's a bit disconcerting at first, but it's the way it is. In the four-year cycle that is the undergraduate experience, one class must leave every May to make room for a new crop. And with that knowledge, one must realize that as great as any experience is during a college career, time is fleeting and the end is closer than you might think. Several weeks ago, I interviewed women's basketball star Diana Caramanico for a feature story that I was writing for the DP's season preview. It was a week before Caramanico and the Quakers would open the season at St. Joe's. As anyone who knows Penn basketball will tell you, Diana Caramanico is synonymous with Quakers women's hoops. She owns nearly every record in the books; she was named an honorable mention All-American; and she helped lead Penn to its best record ever last year. As I sat there during that interview, we talked about the records, about her desire for an Ivy title and about what she has taken from her Penn basketball experience. At the time, she was 19 points shy of Ernie Beck's all-time Penn scoring record for men or women, and she was ready to lead a Penn team that was predicted to finish first in the Ivies. When I asked her what she was feeling as she approached the first game of her final season, her reply was immediate. "This is our last chance." Penn had never beaten St. Joe's, and Caramanico would never have the chance to pull that upset after this season. When the Quakers took the floor on Hawk Hill two weeks ago, they did not emerge with a victory, but Caramanico scored 20 points -- enough to break Beck's record. But she wasn't just talking about the St. Joe's game during that interview. She knew that after three years at Penn, this is it. No matter what she had done over her career, there was no way to get around the fact that when this season comes to a close, she will never again put on a Penn uniform. She told me that each time she visits an Ivy League gymnasium, it will be in her mind that she will never be back in that place wearing the Red and Blue. Diana Caramanico still has a lot to accomplish at Penn. The Quakers will play just their second game of the season tonight. Caramanico told me she could not imagine her Penn career without basketball, but at least she has until March before she has to deal with that circumstance. For others, it has come earlier. "It still hasn't really hit me," Penn women's soccer star Kelli Toland told me yesterday. Just as basketball characterizes Caramanico, so does soccer for Toland. "When you think of Penn soccer," Penn coach Darren Ambrose said earlier this year, "it's Kelli Toland." But right now, Kelli Toland no longer plays soccer for Penn. On November 12, just after Penn secured the ECAC Championship, Toland stepped off the field at Northeastern University for the final time as a Penn soccer player. In the short history of the program, few players have made as large an impact as she has. She leaves Rhodes Field as the Quakers' second all-time leading scorer, earning All-Ivy honors in each of her four years and helping lead Penn to its first-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament in 1999. But just as Caramanico will for the rest of her season, Toland acknowledged each milestone as it passed for the final time. For her, the most poignant moment was hearing the national anthem at Rhodes Field one last time. It's a small thing, something you probably don't notice each time you hear it. But when it plays for the final time, you realize just how special it is. During my three and a half years at Penn, I've never been on an Ivy Championship team or competed in the NCAA Tournament, but I think I know exactly how Toland felt, how Caramanico will feel when the final buzzer goes off on her career and what so many other Penn students experience doing what they love for the final time. As I sit here writing these words, it's my final night editing the sports section of The Daily Pennsylvanian. My name will remain on the masthead until the official switching of the editorial boards next month and I will continue to write stories and columns on these pages until graduation. But for the first time in a year and a half, I won't have to be there when the sports section is being produced on Sunday night. The forty-hour work weeks are over, and someone else will be sitting at my desk next week. Editing this section is a tough job, making sure we cover everything we should and staying here until the early hours of the morning to put the paper to bed. And as I step aside, I know that I will cherish the time I spent as a DP editor. Just as basketball has done for Caramanico, just as soccer has for Toland and just as so many other passions have for so many other students, this newspaper has defined me. Editing this section has been a huge part of my life, and now it's over. I don't know exactly what to feel yet. Perhaps it just really hasn't hit me yet either. All I know is that while my class may not march into Franklin Field in caps and gowns until May, the end is already approaching.