Saturday, August 23, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Glen Miller out as Penn coach

Penn athletic director Steve Bilsky has asked former Quakers star player and current assistant coach Jerome Allen to succeed Miller and "help re-establish the identity of Penn basketball."

Glen Miller out as Penn coach

(Elizabeth Robertson/Staff Photographer)
(Elizabeth Robertson/Staff Photographer)

Here are highlights of Penn athletic director Steve Bilsky's teleconference from this afternoon. This post is very long, but I think you understand why it has to be. You can listen to a recording of the teleconference at the bottom of the post.

Opening statement

I think it's an opportuity for us to recapture the Penn identity, or begin to recapture that by hiring Jerome. He represnts to me the essence of what a student-athlete at Penn can accomplish here, in terms of how he got to Penn, what he did when he got here, how he feels about the school and how he has kept in touch with us subsequently... I welcome him as our interim head coach.

I hope that not only does he transcend some of the things that he was able to do on the court as a player, but also capture the thought and express that to our present players and future players as to what it means to be a Penn basketball player, because I believe that's a very unique and special thing.

On Penn president Amy Gutmann's role in the decision

On any major decision, I keep the administration abreast of what my thinking is, and timing, and any variables. I have done that, and the university is in consensus embracing the decision, and [is] supportive of it, and has the same feelings I do.

On when Miller was informed of the news, and how he took it

This morning. He was disappointed. It was a difficult decision to be made, and he cares a lot about the student-athletes here, and he cares about us. I expressed to him that we wish him the best, and it was not much more than that.

On how long he has been thinking about the decision

I've been thinking about Penn basketball for a while, and monitoring it, and talking with the coaches, the captains. People are not shy about voicing their opinions, and I listen to those. The final decision was made late last week.

On why Miller didn't work and whether he didn't fit because he lacked previous connections to Penn

To some degree, initially, it worked very well. I think that the first season, there was an exceptional job done in a tough situation, to take over a senior-ridden team, and I think there was a good meeting between the veteran players and the coach. We won a championship and played great basketball and had a nice appearance in the NCAA [Tournament]. It would far from say it hasn't fit or it hasn't worked throughout, but certainly the direction it has been going has not been satisfactory.

It had something to do with it, but I would hate to think that you could never have a coach come into Philadelphia who is not a Philadelphian and not be successful... I would have liked to have seen a greater welcome for him, but I don't think that was why he was successful or not successful.

On whether things would have been different had Penn won at Monmouth this past Saturday

No. This is not really about wins and losses. This is really about - I think of Penn basketball as more than just a sport that plays games to win and lose. I really believe that in our case it's a community-building activity. There's so many people who care about the sport, it generates enthusiasm on campus, good feelings. In a way, it's an ambassadorship of the school to the world, both alumni and not. It was really that lack of what Penn represents in addition to the wins and losess that disappointed me, that led me to the conclusion to do this.

On whether the job was offered to anyone else besides Jerome

[He was the] first and only choice.

On how the assistant coaching staff will change

That's first going to be up to Jerome and see where they are. This is not a celebratory time, it's a difficult time. I think that it's for Jerome to have a comfort level... that's really going to be his call, and their call. Whatever he comes up with, we'll support.

On assistant coach Mike Martin, who played for Glen Miller at Brown and came to Penn with him

I think Mike was disappointed for Glen. He owes a lot in his life to Glen, and we're all disappointed. I think Mike's a talented guy and I think he's developed a sense of loyalty to Penn.

On whether Bilsky thinks hiring Miller was still the right decision

I'm not going to crystal ball-gaze. I know tha the brought great qualities to the program. He had experience in the Ivy League. More than any other school, he competed against us year in and year out well. He was well thought of, in terms of the people in the basketball world that I counseled. I know he really wanted to come here and make a mark, and I know he's disappointed.

On what Allen would have to do to stay on as head coach beyond this season

That's a loaded question and it's unfair. Clearly, we're going to get a chance to see his talents coming forward. It's very important to have a good basketball program here. I wouldn't want to go so far as to say that this is a trial. Then, when it comes to decide the more permanent situation, we'll look at the options at that point.

On how much Bilsky heard from the greater Philadelphia basketball community beyond Penn

I think the greater Philadelphia community was unbelievably supportive. If anything, I would say that the general sense - at least as it was presented to me, or somebody represneting the department - was 'Hang in there, things will get beter, you'll be okay. You have too much going for you, too much great tradition.'

We talk about the Palestra and all those wonderful things about it, but remember, it's our Palestra. We share it with everybody, but it's our home court. So I think people were pumping us up and are continuing to do that.

The whole sense of people who were disilusioned or unhappy was more a reaction of passionate fans than it is people thinking that the days of Penn being a good basketball program are over.


I just received a phone call from the Penn athletic department informing me that Penn men's basketball head coach Glen Miller has been relieved of his position.

Jerome Allen will serve as interim head coach for the rest of the season. His first game in charge will be December 28 at Davidson. His first home game will be January 13 against his former coach, Fran Dunphy, and Temple.

Here is Penn's official statement, including the following remarks from athletic director Steve Bilsky.

"We thank Glen for his time at Penn," said Bilsky. "However, we have decided that a change is in the best interests of the program, the student-athletes, and the larger Penn basketball community.

"I have asked Jerome to help re-establish the identity of Penn Basketball," he continued. "For decades, Penn Basketball has been a source of pride for the University, not simply for the successes but also for the embodiment of the Palestra creed: 'To win the game is great, to play the game is greater, but to love the game is greatest of all.' Jerome was an outstanding player who respects the game and loves Penn. I believe our student-athletes will benefit from his tutelage, and our fans will unite around him during this challenging time."

I should note that the Daily News beat me to the scoop by about 20 minutes. Dick Jerardi reports that Penn's players were told the news this morning, and that Allen ran the team's practice this morning.

However, I am pretty sure that this blog is the first place to report Penn's on-the-record statement.

Dan Gelston of the Associated Press reached Miller by phone. "Right now, I think it's in my best interests not to say anything," Miller said.

ESPN.com's Andy Katz has written about the news as well, and has a few interesting sentences.

"According to sources, Miller was never able to rekindle the folksy nature of [Fran] Dunphy at Penn, where he was able to be a central figure within the Big Five," Katz writes. "Losing games and not being as outgoing as Dunphy was, on and off campus, didn't help Miller's cause."

I don't think it's a stretch for me to say that I can confirm what Katz's sources told him. And to be completely honest, I'd say all of us can.

Having said that, I've thought highly of Miller as a person and coach since his days at Brown. He's been forthright and engaging with me in the interviews I've done with him.

But the pressure of the job, and the high level of enagement it does require with Penn's fans and alumni, never quite fit Miller right.

Nor did the pressure piled on him after every loss by a vocal minority of alumni who never wanted him in the first place because he had no previous ties to Penn. They wanted Cornell coach Steve Donahue, and have made their voices heard on a regular basis implicitly and explicitly throughout Miller's tenure.

Donahue was 0-12 against Penn when Dunphy left for Temple, which did not help his case at the time. Now, of course, things are different. But in my opinion, Donahue's next job will likely be a move up to a school with athletic scholarships. I don't know anything, but I would not be surprised to see him get serious consideration from Fordham.

Miller took over the keys to the Palestra after Fran Dunphy left to succeed John Chaney at Temple, coming to Philadelphia after seven years at fellow Ivy League school Brown. He leaves Penn with a 45-52 overall record, including 27-15 in Ivy League play and 2-11 in the Big 5.

Thirteen of those Ivy League wins came in Miller's first year, when he led a senior-laden squad to the conference title. Since then, his records have been 8-6 (third place) and 6-8 (fourth place). Last year's team lost six of its seven conference home games.

Both of Miller's Big 5 wins came in his first year. The Quakers were 0-4 in each of the last two seasons.

You may wonder why Penn is doing this now, and Bilsky will surely have more to say about it this afternoon. But based on what I have heard from people over the last few days, if it was going to happen at any point this season it was almost literally going to happen today.

Penn does not play again until December 28, when they travel to Davidson and then Duke. They will then visit Lafayete and UMBC before returning to the Palestra for three straight Big 5 games. Four days after facing St. Joe's, Yale visits the Palestra for the Quakers' first Ivy League game.

So if it was going to happen at any point during the season, it was going to happen now, when there's time for Allen to get settled without having barely enough time to prepare for one game.

As for why Jerome Allen was picked over John Gallagher, who was higher up the assistant coaching ladder, it is my understanding that the players really wanted Allen. It looks like their wish was granted.



Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
About this blog
Soft Pretzel Logic is Philly.com's college sports blog, with a primary focus on the University of Pennsylvania. You'll also see coverage of the Big 5, other major college sports events in the region, and the annual Penn Relays track and field meet.

Reach Jonathan at jtannenwald@phillynews.com or 215-854-2330.

Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
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