Nobody ever said that installing Jerome Allen to replace Glen Miller as Penn's basketball coach would be easy. But there can't be any doubt about how much it means to the former Quakers superstar.
Allen held his first press conference as head coach this morning, and you can hear it in the audio player below. I would strongly encourage you to take the time to listen to the whole thing, as well as the conversations with Zack Rosen and Darren Smith that follow.
Rosen's remarks about what Allen's arrival means to him as a point guard and one of Penn's captains are particularly impressive. I'm not sure I've ever seen a Penn athlete give a more polished and composed interview. And Smith is worth listening to because he was recruited by Fran Dunphy and began his Penn career in Glen Miller's first season, so he's now dealt with three head coaches.
Here are some excerpts from each. But again, you should listen to the whole thing. It's worth the time.
(There is a small gap in the Allen interview where I accidentally hit stop on my recorder, but you didn't miss much.)
And let me say this too. Allen's first game at the Palestra as head coach will be against Temple on January 13. Think it will be just another pregame handshake with Fran Dunphy and Shawn Trice?
On how quickly he became head coach
The swiftness and the acceleration of this entire process have been - not necessarily overwhelming, but it's been a lot to handle. I'm excited, nervous, anxious, enthused. All these things, all at once. I'm also just appreciative of this opportunity. I buy into that this doesn't happen often. This university has done so much for my family and I that I just want to give maximum effort, just try to work my tail off to deliver some positive results. Not necessarily in terms of wins and losses, but just to try and resemble the brand of Penn basketball that this community and this university are used to seeing.
On what it will take to bring Penn basketball back
It's going to take a lot. I don't have a magic wand, I don't have all the answers. But what I do have is the capacity to work and try to find solutions. If we can put wins and losses aside and just come out every day and be enthused and energetic, and just give the effort that it takes to be part of a winning program, then the wins will come later.
I'm just in the business of - I don't want to say changing the culture, because I don't think the culture has changed per se. But I'm just in the business of trying to get guys to enjoy playing, embrace the opportunity and just know that a lot of people care about this place and a lot of people will support them.
On what he would like to change
What I will say first and foremost is that I'm greatly appreciative of the opportunity that Glen Miller gave me. If not for him, I'm not standing before you today. But his name is Glen Miller and my name is Jerome Allen. There are some things that he did that I didn't see. There are a lot of things I learned from him and a lot of things I'm set in my ways and just believe in, just playing basketball as long as I have.
I had the opportunity to play for Dan Dougherty, Larry Brown and Fran Dunphy, Fran O'Hanlon, Gil Jackson and Steve Donahue. If you can't learn anything from that group, then you're not going to learn anything at all. All of them are unique in their own right and I just tried to take the bulk of the good from all of them and carry that in my own bag. But what I will say is that one of the things that was consistent across all of them was that they demanded - demanded - that you approach the game the right way. Every day, every second, every half, every quarter. Some things are just cemented in everybody.
On what "the right way" is
The right way - who knows what's the right way. There's a lot of things that are similar. I've been a part of winning programs, I've been a part of winning programs, I've beeen a part of losing programs. In my book, the ones that win more than they lose all approach the game in a certain way. So I could be wrong, but I'm willing to bet that if these guys take that approach, they'll win more than they'll lose.
On the Temple game
I didn't have an opportunity to make many phone calls last night outside of the kids' parents. But there's one phone call you'd better believe I made, and that was to Fran Dunphy. It speaks volumes about the job that he's done both here and at Temple thus far that all of the guys who've played for him, for the most part, he still has a working relationship with them to this day. If I could be half the man, if not ahlf the coach that he has been, then I'll be doing alright.
And he was so worried about me. I wanted to say "Coach, you just beat Villanova and who's next on the schedule?" And he was like, "I'm worried about you and I know you have a lot of things going on in your mind. I'm confident that you can get it done." And when I heard him say that... I really started to feel a little bit different about the entire process.
On whether Dunphy gave him any suggestions
Yeah, he told me not to throw a trash can at the kids like he threw at me.
His intial thoughts
Excited. I don't want to say happy, but I'm excited about change, and I think the guys are excited about change. And we know that the right guy has our back. Jerome Allen is everything that every Penn basketball player wants to be, live up to, uphold. He really built this tradition when he was here, and when we look over at him and he's saying something, there's a respect factor and an accountability factor. Not that we own something, but that he created what we want... We owe him an effort.
On yesterday's first practice under Jerome Allen
He stood in front of us yesterday with a pen and a paper and neither one of them were a magic wand. It's going to be number one hard work, number two hard work and number three hard work. And otherwise, it doesn't matter if [sports information director] Mike Mahoney is coaching the team.
On whether it feels different today than it did last week
Yes. Obviously, no one's happy about a man losing his livelihood and his job. And it's going to take a little while for that cloud to totally pass over, especially for some of the older guys. But it's a different environment, it's a different energy. There's going to be accountability, and if there's not, then he's going to find people that are going to uphold that.
On what he knew of Jerome Allen's playing days
I watched tapes before I got here. They had a lot of weapons in the bag, it wasn't just him, and he'll tell you that too. They were a pretty deep team talent-wise. I remember Ira Bowman, and Matt Maloney obviously. Those guys were awesome. So I've seen what it looks like, I've seen what the Palestra looks like. That's why I came here, it's what I came here for. So now there's no more barriers in the way, there's no more excuses. Now there's no one to point at. It's us and what we do with it, with the noew opportunity.
On whether yesterday's practice was different from previous ones
I wouldn't say it was much different because we were still playing basketball. It was a different energy, a different feel. I think everyone was more excited to be in the gym. It was fun, and we have another one today and I think the guys are just excited to be here.
On having worked with three head coaches at Penn
It feels like a long time, but at the same time, I've only been in action for a year. So there's a lot going on with me right now. But I'm past all that and am basically ready to start a new slate.
On what it will take to change things
I think it's just going to take hard work and dedication from us. We can't just put it all on the coach. Whatever that may take, every day we have to go out and give it all we have every day in practice, and I guess from there we'll see results.
On seeing the Palestra so empty after winning an Ivy League title his freshman year
I think that's the hardest thing for me, because I've been in that situation. To see that state of decline is kind of frustrating. But we're just starting to move forward. Hopefully the stands will be packed once again. No miracle will happen, so we still have to go out and play basketball and execute the things Coach wants us to.