Agita on 33rd Street
A few thought about what's ailing Penn fans.
Agita on 33rd Street
Man, are the natives ever restless at the Palestra.
There was quite a bit of grousing Saturday night as the Quakers lost to Cornell, 88-73. Coupled with the 74-63 loss to Columbia on Friday, it marked the first time since 1968 that Penn was swept at home on an Ivy weekend.
(Oddly enough, those games - March 1 and 2, 1968 - were also against Columbia and Cornell, in that order.)
But I have a few small morsels for Penn fans to think about that might calm their collective heartburn.
The first is that while watching Saturday night's game, I got a hunch about why St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli has said multiple times in recent years that he wishes he could coach offense the way Glen Miller does. It seems to me that the two coaches' systems have some common elements.
In particular, I saw Penn run a lot of handoffs and ball screens just off the top of the arc on Saturday, the same kinds of moves I've seen from the Hawks over the last few years.
The difference, of course, is that Martelli has Ahmad Nivins in the post, and Penn doesn't. Then again, no one else in the city has a post player of Nivins' length and caliber (the former being what makes Nivins different from Dante Cunningham, before you ask.)
As you know, I've been writing all year that St. Joe's has to get the ball to Nivins, and he has to score, for the Hawks to win. Since the beginning of January, that has happened. But we all saw what happened in December when it did not.
Now take that system and apply it to the set of players Penn has, and remember that not all of them are Miller's recuits. The result is that the pieces are not all there yet for success.
So to all the people who've asked what I think of the current situation (and with apologies to the fans of the other city schools who I'm sure would like me to write about their teams more; wait for Thursday when I'll be at Temple-St. Joe's), the words you're looking for from me are that I don't think the answer is a change in coach.
(Though it would not surprise me if there are people out there who root for Penn and the Eagles and are convinced that there is some kind of hex cast upon them.)
You certainly have a right to be unhappy with the current situation; anyone would be, and judging from his postgame remarks this weekend Miller is far from pleased as well.
But it is of no small consequence that Penn starts two freshmen and two sophomores on a regular basis (save last night when Miller shook up the starters), and that when the team came out of the locker room on Saturday two freshmen and two sophomores were at the front of the line.
If you still are in dire need of cheering up, consider this. The coach of the aforementioned 1968 team was Dick Harter, whom you might have heard of for his long career at both the college and professional levels.
Harter's 1967-68 Penn team finished 4-10 in conference play, including three straight home losses to end the season.
But a year later, the Quakers went 10-4 in the league, and followed that with back-to-back Ivy League and Big 5 titles. People tell me that the the 1970-71 team in particular was pretty good, although Villanova fans might think otherwise.
(That was sarcasm, just in case you missed it.)