The Penn men's basketball team (0-7) does not have a win yet this season, but the Quakers' new interim coach, former two-time Ivy League Player of the Year and Penn alumnus Jerome Allen, does have the support of sophomore point guard and co-captain Zack Rosen as he replaces Glen Miller, who was fired Monday after three seasons.
"I don't want to say happy, but I'm excited about change, and I think that the guys are excited about change, and we know that the right guy has our back," Rosen said this morning before practice at Weightman Gym on S. 33d Street in West Philadelphia. "Jerome Allen is everything that every Penn basketball player wants to be, live up to [and] 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 owe him something, but that he created what we want."
Allen was a four-year starter at Penn and led the Quakers to three consecutive Ivy League titles from 1993 to 1995. In August, Miller hired Allen as an assistant, marking his return to basketball in the United States after a four-plus season stint playing and coaching in Italy.
Last Thursday, Rosen confirmed that he and senior co-captain Darren Smith met with Penn athletic director Steve Bilsky and they were provided insight that a change was imminent.
Then on Monday Bilsky announced Miller's termination and Allen's interim coaching status just seven games into the season.
"If anyone would tell you that they knew this was going to happen, they're lying to you," Allen said. "The swiftness and acceleration of the entire process caught a lot of people off-guard."
It's a good sign for a winless basketball program when its head coach stops practice often to correct what presumably are several weaknesses, and Allen did just that with his voice and whistle yesterday to begin righting the Quakers' ship.
"If we can't outrun them, and we can't beat them with strength, how are we going to beat them?" he asked his team as players huffed and puffed from running wind sprints in between drills. "This isn't punishment. We're running for a reason."
"It's going to take a lot. I don't have a magic wand. I don't have all the answers," Allen told the media before practice. "But what I do have is the capacity to work to try to find the solutions. And if we can just, putting wins and losses aside, 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."