Penn coach Jerome Allen not considering Ivy League title race

To start, I’d like to bring back a quote that Harvard coach Tommy Amaker gave me when I interviewed him in Boston before the start of the season:

Whatever league you’re in, it’s hard. That’s the Atlantic 10, that’s the Ivy, that’s the MEAC, that’s the Colonial Athletic Association. Whatever league you’re in, it’s hard. And our league is very, very hard.

Now, let’s hear from Penn coach Jerome Allen and guard Zack Rosen, and Dartmouth coach Paul Cormier.

Jerome Allen

On being asked [by me, I admit] for a reaction to Princeton’s win at Harvard:

Who cares if Princeton beat Harvard? It’s a press conference about Penn and Dartmouth. We just sat here for two hours and watched the Penn-Dartmouth game. You should have driven up I-95 and gone to Princeton.

On whether the slow start in the first half may have been due to a lack of energy after Friday’s game against Harvard:

It’s easy to make excuses about our schedule, playing back-to-back, and just the emotional drain from Friday night’s game. We spent all week preparing for that game. But the reality is that there’s no competitive advantage – everybody must play Friday and Saturday night.

So for us to come out the way we did - with no life, no energy, no sense of urgency, not appreciating the opportunity – is disappointing. It’s disappiointing.

On whether he saw any similar signs when Dartmouth rallied twice to tie the game in the second half:

At a certain point, we just stopped believing. We stopped trusting the system. More importantly, we stopped defending. On that 18-3 [Dartmouth] run, regardless of what happened on offense, defensively we put them on the line early, we gave dribble penetration, we gave up offensive rebounds.

Whether the ball went in the basket or not for us, that has nothing to do with how we should play the other end.

On having won the game nonetheless:

I’m not crazy. I would rather be upset with a W. But to be honest with you, I’m really, really disappointed in our appreciation for the opportunity to play college basketball. The guys take so much for granted.

And no disrespect to Dartmouth – I have the utmost respect for coach Cormier, and his guys play hard. They enjoy played with one another, they share the basketball, they trust their system. But for us to come out and perform the way we did today, it’s disheartening.

Zack Rosen

On the play in which he scored the decisive basket:

We played a flat ball screen. I was thinking about trying to get [the ball] to the paint, but I beat the guy and was open, and just let it fly.

On what it means to have won the game after Friday’s loss:

I’m with coach, I’d rather be mad with a tally in the W column than an L. Like coach is saying, like I told the guys before the game in the huddle, this thing is by no means even close to finished. The tendency in the Ivy League sometimes is that if you lose a big game, or get down, or something, then you start to think you’re out of it and your season is kind of over.

But coach talks about playing for something, and that’s not even a stretch. We’re right here. Our next seven games will determine what happens to us in our season. For coach, for us, we’re me, we’re playing for more than something. We’re playing for a lot.

On whether he saw any fatigue from his teammates early in the game:

Yeah, I would agree. We didn’t come out like we could have. We had an emotional hangover, and it’s inexcusable.

Paul Cormier

Opening remarks:

Someone, when I just walked in, said, “Geez, it must be tough coaching and having a season like you’re having, and a tough game like this.” But it’s just the opposite. This is why I love coaching. The kids are just so resilient, a special group of kids.

It’s very, very tough to go through the record, this wins-and-losses situation, but they continue to battle, they continue to play hard. They showed a tremendous amount of resiliency and a tremendous amount of character.

And so I get to coach these guys. I couldn’t be prouder, and next game we’ll try to get a little bit better. I think every game we’re getting a little bit better, and hopefully we’ll knock someone off and get a few W’s before the end of the season.

But be that as it may, these kids are a special group, and it’s all part of our rebuilding process. I think we’re on the right track. Even though the wins aren’t right, the character of these kids is just phenomenal, and it’s a good core group to start building on.

On the challenge of defending Zack Rosen:

When he was in side pick-and-roll situations, which he’s so good at, we were trying to give a lot of weak side help so that he couldn’t drive the middle of the floor, and make him kind of cough it up. Maybe reverse the ball a bit, and get it out of his hands.

And then when he had the ball in the middle of the floor, we were double-teaming him off the pick-and-rolls. So I thought the kids did a good job. The shot he hit [the decisive basket] was, I don’t know far, it had to be close to 30 feet. So I don’t think we would have made any changes.

Our goal was to not let him beat us, and he did. But he did it with a heck of a shot. He’s a heck of a player.

On whether, given his experience at both the college and NBA levels, he thinks Zack Rosen has the potential to make it in the NBA:

I’ve recommended Rosen to about four teams, friends of mine. I think he’s terrific. I think in the right situation, he will help a team in the NBA. I’m very, very high on him.

On whether, as the profile of Ivy League basketball rises with Jeremy Lin succeeding and Harvard and Penn doing well, he thinks the perception of the standard of basketball in the league might change:

I would hope so. And I can tell you this. I’ve been out of head coaching for 10 years [while] in the NBA. Before then, back in the late 80’s and early 90’s, I was coaching at Dartmouth. The level of play in the Ivy League now is a lot better than it was back then. So that’s my opinion.

Yeah, I think there are people in the league that can play at the next level and make some money. When I was here the first time, we always used to talk about how our guys in the Ivy League don’t have to make the NBA, because they’ll go out and buy a team. Well now, hopefully, they’ll be able to buy a team and some of them can play in it.

On his play call for the inbounds pass after Rosen’s three-pointer with 3.4 seconds left in the game:

We felt we had to throw it long. I had no more timeouts left, so it’s not like we could get it to halfcourt and take a quick timeout and try to do something from the halfcourt.

Any time you have under four seconds, we try to throw it to our big, and he was going to try to tip it to guys on the wing. We were hoping that everybody was going to go after him and he could tip it to a shooter. It’s a hope-and-pray type of play, but in that kind of situation, you’ve got to have that in your repertoire. That’s what we do.

We’ve practiced that play, we’ve done that in practice. It works good with no defense.