...Unless you have seen hoops in other big American cities, you can lose sight of how different and special the Big 5 has been and remains. Five Division I programs in the same city playing each other every season only happens here. There is even a building that sort of belongs to everybody, even if the Palestra is on the Penn campus.
That was reinforced this morning at the Palestra when Big Media Day was held in advance of tomorrow night’s Big 5 opener, Villanova-Penn at the Palestra.
Coaches and athletic directors from each of the schools were in the house, talking about their teams, the history, the future.
Villanova coach Jay Wright forgot the Media Day had been changed to the morning and hustled straight from practice in his warmpus.
``We shouldn’t have gone home,’’ Wright suggested.
Not long before midnight Saturday, Wright’s team had won its Philly Hoop Group Classic bracket by beating Rhode Island at the Palestra in the championship game.
``For Villanova, the Big 5 is very valuable,’’ Wright said while noting that some local media members (one of whom looks and sounds a lot like Mike Kern) get on him about his non-conference schedule.
The Big 5 games, Wright said, help with the Cats’ RPI and get them ready for the Big East.
Saint Joseph’s Phil Martelli was the only one of the men’s coaches not to make it. He is sick and trying to get well for the Hawks game tomorrow at Lehigh.
Temple coach Fran Dunphy, who had the keys to the Palestra for nearly two decades, said: ``there is nothing like this agreement.’’
Dunphy is the only current Big 5 head coach who played in the Big 5. So the La Salle grad goes back four decades with the City Series. Dunphy’s passion for it is obvious every time he speaks.
John Giannini (La Salle) pointed out that his team’s three losses are to teams (Florida State, Connecticut, Southern Mississippi) that are a combined 17-1.
``We have experience, talent and depth,’’ Giannini said.
What they don’t have yet are ``defense, passing and decision making.’’
What they do have, according to the coach, is ``a chance to be really good.’’
St. Joe’s assistant Geoff Arnold, who went back to his alma mater from Drexel just in time for the Hawks trip to Maui, deputized for Martelli.
``We’re struggling so bad Phil didn’t show up today,’’ Arnold said.
You know Martelli was not feeling well because he does not miss many public events.
Penn’s Glen Miller pointed out this that his freshman point guard Zack Rosen has 33 assists and just six turnovers.
``We’re showing flashes of good play,’’ Miller said, hopefully.
The Quakers are 1-4 and life gets no easier against the unbeaten Wildcats.
New Temple women’s coach Tonya Cardoza was getting ready for her team’s home game against Rutgers tonight. So assistant Dan Durkin stood in and got the award for sounding most Philly and telling the best Philly stories.
Durkin’s first Palestra game was in 1958. His dad ran Durkin World Travel which did the Big 5 travel for years. He figures he put Dunphy’s name on a TWA ticket or two back in the day.
Villanova’s Harry Perretta was not back from a team trip to the Virgin Islands. St. Joe’s Cindy Griffin, La Salle’s Tom Lochner and Penn’s Pat Knapp also spoke.
Love the ``Five Months of Christmas’’ cover on the Temple media guide.
And no Palestra morning would have been complete without that squirrel roaming the seats. When last seen, the squirrel was seen heading for the ``corners,’’ which will be filled up soon enough.