New class joins the Big Five's hall

A longtime announcer and a pair of women's basketball stars are the newest inductees.

As John McAdams worked Penn and other Big Five basketball games at the Palestra in a career that began in the 1981-82 season, he became known for this greeting:

"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the University of Pennsylvania Palestra, college basketball's most historic gym."

Last night, in the venue where McAdams was identified by the Sporting News in 2001 as the best public address announcer in college basketball, he became a member of the Big Five Hall of Fame.

McAdams did not live long enough to enjoy this honor with the men's and women's stars whose games he announced. After battling a series of illnesses, he died in his sleep in June 2005. He was 64.

Accepting for him last night was Dan Baker, the former Big Five executive secretary who hired McAdams soon after Baker assumed his duties in 1981.

Baker has been a longtime public address announcer for the Phillies and is Drexel's coordinator for broadcast relations.

"John has received a few accolades in his career, but this is the award of all others that John cherished," Baker said. "He told me on a number of occasions that he hoped this Big Five Hall of Fame honor would be bestowed upon him.

"John, as I told you it would, the time has arrived.

"What made John so good? Meticulous preparation. But above all, John loved what he did."

Penn's Diana Caramanico and La Salle's Jen Zenszer, local stars who began as teammates with Fencor AAU at age 11, were in the induction class with McAdams. Attending last night's ceremonies were other Hall of Famers as well as Big Five alumni, current and former coaches, fans and friends.

McAdams worked men's and women's games on Big Five campuses and at Drexel, which has a banner in his memory on a wall in the Daskalakis Athletic Center.

He also handled games at Philadelphia University, among other area schools, and for the Wilmington Blue Rocks and Reading Phillies minor-league baseball teams.

The Palestra was home to Caramanico, who graduated from Penn in 2001 as the school's all-time leading scorer for women's and men's basketball with 2,415 points.

Caramanico, a Germantown Academy graduate who led the Quakers to their first Ivy League title in 2001, was a three-time Big Five player of the year. She coaches the Penn Charter girls' team.

In August 2005, Caramanico married former Penn star Geoff Owens; their wedding reception was held on campus several blocks from the Palestra.

Caramanico cited McAdams in her speech, saying, "No one could call 'media time-out' like he did."

She recalled spending nights sleeping in the Palestra for fear of missing morning practices.

"If you were a college kid and couldn't afford food, that was OK. Because somehow there was also food in the Palestra that found its way to our locker room."

Zenszer, an FBI agent who graduated in 2001, is in the top 10 in 10 categories in the La Salle women's record book.

The Bishop McDevitt graduate holds the Explorers' single-game foul-shooting record at 17 for 17. When she graduated, Zenszer was the all-time career three-point shooter at the school with 174. Meghan Wilkinson, a 2005 graduate, is the current record holder at 175.


Contact staff writer Mel Greenberg at 215-854-5725 or mgreenberg@phillynews.com.