Steve Bilsky knows the present Palestra scoreboards were not there 4 decades ago when he made that famous shot to beat Villanova, 32-30. He knows they were there when Penn played Notre Dame in the 1980s. And he knows they will be replaced by state-of-the-art, video-capable boards in time for next basketball season.
Now, all the traditionalists need not fret too much. Bilsky, the Penn athletic director, promises there will be no clapping hands on the boards, no artificial noise. This will not feel like a pro arena. It will fit in with what the Palestra was and always should be.
When he was asked how old the boards are, Bilsky referred to the picture of his shot and then to another from that game in the 1980s. So, let's estimate they are somewhere between 25 and 40 years old, not nearly as old as the building itself.
"I don't know the answer to [how old they are], but I know that they're relics and they're not worth much," Bilsky said.
Bilsky also knows this: You can't mess with the essence of the Palestra.
"All these improvements to the Palestra are intended to walk that fine line between what we know as the Palestra and not having it look like everywhere else," Bilsky said.
The Palestra can't handle an overhead, center scoreboard, so there will still be two boards at each end. The east end board, opposite the Penn student section, will have video capability. The other board, behind the students, will also have bells and whistles. But, Bilsky promised, they won't be leading anybody in cheers.
"If a guy scores his 1,000th point and [then] passes Corky Calhoun, we would have video of Corky Calhoun ready to go," Bilsky said. "It establishes that kind of use of the technology rather than what'd you see in a pro arena or what they package the stuff to be, which is not what I want."
Which is also not what the Palestra hardcore will want. Even the idea of videoboards may take some getting used to. But when Zack Rosen makes another great pass next season, who would not want to see it again?
When they modernized the Palestra concourses a few years ago, there was some concern that the character would somehow be compromised. In fact, it was amplified, as you can walk the halls and see the history.
"We have some people working on some really great ideas," Bilsky said. "Eventually, we'll have video clips as far back as they go."
And they will be able to show how many points each player has scored, something whose time probably has come.
The sound system is also antiquated. When Hillary Clinton was there before the 2008 Democratic presidential primary, the sound of her voice was bouncing all over. That will be modernized as well so they can have more nonathletic events in the building.
Don't worry. It will still be a gym, first and forever.