What kind of Penn basketball fan was David Montgomery?
Let Ed Rendell tell you, since Montgomery and Rendell sat together for hundreds of Quakers games.
Could be practically a blizzard outside, and maybe the last-place Ivy League team in town, there across from the visiting bench at the Palestra sat Rendell and Montgomery and the rest of their loyal crew.
“It was part of our lives," Rendell said.
Montgomery, who died Wednesday, five years after being diagnosed with cancer in his jaw, was way, way up the list of stalwart Penn Quakers hoops fans.
“During spring training, he went to Florida -- he had to come home for treatments," Rendell said over the phone Wednesday, talking about the cancer treatments the Phillies’ chairman needed to get. “He scheduled his treatments on Friday. You know why …”
Penn played its Ivy League games on Friday and Saturday nights.
“Only the weekends Penn was home," Rendell said of Montgomery’s scheduled treatments.
Maybe this level of fanaticism spoke to something larger about Philadelphia, how this might be a big city, but it’s a small sports town. It wasn’t a big thing that the chairman of the Phillies was in his normal seat for even the least noteworthy of Penn’s Ivy League games.
It also was a sign that Penn basketball mattered. The players knew who those guys were.
Of course, Montgomery wasn’t always the chief executive of the Phillies, just as Rendell wasn’t always mayor and then governor.
“A bunch of us, we went to Penn games from the time we were students," Rendell said, ticking off names such as Richard Deats and Mike Stiles, who both worked with Montgomery with the Phillies. “We weren’t all the same year. We’d go to dinner before or after.”
Once, they were crazy kids, getting in the car to drive across the state and down to Morgantown, W.Va., to see Quakers greats of old compete in the NCAA Tournament, getting to town after midnight to find the only refreshment available at a truck stop. When Penn made it to the 1979 Final Four in Salt Lake City, they were there.
They also would get together underneath the Vet for pickup games of their own since there was a little half-court in the bowels of the stadium.
“He was a fan of Philadelphia through and through, no matter who it was," Fran Dunphy said of Montgomery. “Obviously, he was such a Penn fan since he went to Penn. But you can be assured he would be on it rooting for Villanova in recent years, and John Chaney’s great Temple teams, and St. Joe’s when they were on a run. I can guarantee he was on every bounce.”
“The great thing about Monty -- nicest person I’ve met in my life," Rendell said. “But he could be competitive, he could be tough. He doesn’t yell at refs …”
Like maybe some others in their group.
“But he gets fired up, he gets into it big time," Rendell said.
In 2015, Herb Magee was going for his 1,000th victory at Philadelphia University. Who was there in the front row across from the benches? The Penn guys.
Magee didn’t get the W that night. He tried again four nights later, successfully. Rendell and Montgomery were there in the front row again.
If you think about it ... anybody could go the first time trying to see a little history. Those guys went back.
Which of them came up with the idea to get to Henry Avenue?