Nobody wanted this. You can't find a person walking around the Palestra who is overjoyed to hear that Jerome Allen's Penn tenure is down to one game, Tuesday against Princeton.
An all-time Quakers great who clearly poured his soul into his job but didn't have the success needed to keep it, the news leaked out Saturday that Allen had found out earlier last week that his contract will be bought out after the season.
Allen was elevated from assistant when Glen Miller was let go in 2009-10, when Allen had just joined the staff. That Miller firing was greeted differently than this one by much of the Penn hoops community. This time, you walk around the Palestra and hear people talk about how the injuries piled up and two early recruiting classes never grew into veteran leadership, setting Allen back just when Yale and Columbia and especially Harvard were going in opposite directions.
You hear from all over how Allen hadn't lost his locker room. Last night's crisp, 78-72 victory over Cornell - giving the Quakers their first two-game Ivy winning streak of the season - didn't change the fact that an air of inevitability had hit as more losses mounted this season. The play hadn't always been crisp. Allen's six-year record now stands at 66-103.
The surprise was more in the timing. ESPN broke the news Saturday afternoon. According to several sources, Allen confirmed to his players during the day that the news was true.
Afterward, Allen began his news conference by saying, "My attempt to be like Marshawn Lynch - I'm just here so I won't get fined. If you can read between the lines then you'll probably save your breath. Questions?"
First, he was asked about whether it was tough for him and the team to stay focused last week. "It hasn't been difficult at all. We've treated this week like any other week. . . . We just made it about business." He praised his team for coming out and doing exactly that, noting the 20 assists and just nine turnovers, how freshman Antonio Woods, sitting next to him, had 15 points and 11 assists and only two turnovers.
Asked about telling his players that the ESPN report was accurate, Allen said: "As Beast Mode said, I'm just here so I won't get fined. Questions?" (After the news conference, Allen apologized, although he really hadn't said anything to apologize for.)
Approached at halftime, athletic director Grace Calhoun, in her first year on the job, used the term "unfortunate" when talking about the news being reported, only saying that she and Allen had been having a series of "ongoing" discussions.
Again, this isn't shocking to anyone. Stopping in the Palestra Friday night, an alum wanted to talk about possibilities for the next coach. Everybody has a list it seems.
Former Penn assistant Steve Donahue, a head coach at Cornell and Boston College, gets natural buzz, for good reason. Former Quakers players Matt Langel (at Colgate) and Andy Toole (at Robert Morris) also now have head-coaching experience.
Beyond that, Calhoun will be getting texts from all sorts of people. Within the hour of the news breaking, I got a text from a reporter in another state, "Look for Matt Doherty to go after the Penn gig." If he's interested, the former North Carolina, Notre Dame, and Southern Methodist head coach would hardly be the only guy looking to get back in. Does Seth Greenberg, now on ESPN, want back in?
There is a contingent among the alumni who think recruiting has to be the top priority. Obviously, that has to be part of the package. But if a "good recruiter" turns out not be as good a head coach, he stops being such a good recruiter.
That brings us to former Harvard assistant Yanni Hufnagel, now a Cal assistant. His name gets a lot of buzz from Penn alums. He's a proven great recruiter. He may turn out to be a fantastic head coach. Can Penn take a chance on him? You'll hear a full spectrum of opinions about that.
In addition to X-and-O expertise, Penn better get someone who doesn't get too frustrated asking parents what their income is, who understands that the current Ivy financial-aid playing field isn't necessarily level, that this isn't the Ivy League of even a decade ago. Nobody walking around this storied building needs to be reminded of any of that. Nobody seems deluded into thinking that a change in coaches will automatically prompt a quick and easy rise back to Ivy prominence.