Dick "Hoops" Weiss was the sportswriter who dubbed the Palestra "the Cathedral of Basketball." The words are displayed in a hallway in the northwest corner.
Monday night on the floor of the cathedral, Weiss was welcomed into the Big Five Hall of Fame. Generations of Philly hoops showed up to see it.
"I've always measured my life by moments at the Palestra," said Weiss, the legendary Philadelphia Daily News and New York Daily News sportswriter who lives in Havertown.
Entering the Hall of Fame with Weiss were Michael Jordan of Penn, Pat Carroll of St. Joseph's, and Crista Ricketts of La Salle.
Giving a nod to the former Penn greats now on the Quakers coaching staff, Jordan, who is a Colgate assistant, said, "No offense to you guys, but this is my gym."
This was the first time the Big Five Hall of Fame induction was combined with the group's postseason awards banquet for men and women.
"Such a cool event, linking the current players with the old guys," Carroll, the 2005 Big Five player of the year, said in his speech.
Villanova's James Bell was honored as Big Five men's player of the year. He also became the first player to win that honor as well as most improved player in the same season.
Penn's Alyssa Baron was named Big Five women's player of the year, claiming the honor while making a short list of players who were on the first-team all-Big Five team four consecutive years.
Ricketts, the La Salle Hall of Famer, still third all-time in Explorers career scoring and sixth in rebounds, also is on that list of four-time all-Big Five first-teamers. She played from 2003-07.
St. Joseph's guard Erin Shields took home the most hardware. The Hawks senior, a first-team honoree, also won trophies for top scholar-athlete, leading scorer, and leading free-throw shooter.
Penn's Mike McLaughlin, who led the Quakers to the NCAA tournament, was named women's coach of the year. Villanova's Jay Wright, whose team finished the regular season in the top 10, was named men's coach of the year.
The rookies of the year were DeAndre' Bembry of St. Joseph's and Sydney Stipanovich of Penn.
Honored as team champions were Villanova's men and St. Joseph's women, after both finished 4-0 in City Series play.
On the all-Big Five men's first team, Bell was joined by Tyreek Duren of La Salle, Langston Galloway and Halil Kanacevic of St. Joe's, and JayVaughn Pinkston of Villanova. Second-teamers were Ryan Arcidiacono and Darrun Hilliard of Villanova, Will Cummings and Dalton Pepper of Temple, Ronald Roberts Jr. of St. Joe's, and Jerrell Wright of La Salle.
On the all-Big Five women's first team, Baron was joined by Shields and Natasha Cloud of St. Joe's, Alicia Cropper of La Salle, and Devon Kane of Villanova. Second-teamers were Kara Bonenberger of Penn, Caroline Coyer and Emily Leer of Villanova, Sarah Fairbanks of St. Joe's, and Feyonda Fitzgerald of Temple.
Other award winners included Fairbanks as most improved women's player, Temple's Jimmy McDonnell as men's scholar-athlete, Pepper as top free-throw shooter, and Galloway as top scorer.
During the banquet, another Big Five Hall of Famer, Steve Bilsky, retiring in July as Penn's athletic director, was introduced as the new executive director of the Big Five. The job had been rotated among athletic directors in recent years.
In their speeches, all the Hall of Famers credited coaches and teammates. Carroll suggested he was surprised after not playing much his freshman year that Hawks coach Phil Martelli told him, "I expect you to be an all-league player."
Martelli said that wasn't a great leap of faith.
"The ball hit the rim - that was a miss for him," Martelli said.
Jordan, the 2000 Ivy League player of the year, noted that he wanted to transfer after his freshman year in Fran Dunphy's boot camp.
"My grandmother said, 'You're not going anywhere,' " Jordan said.
Jordan credited Calvin Lewis at the Mallery Recreation Center with first putting a basketball in his hands at age 13. "I was a football player," he said.
Jordan also talked about the late John Hardnett as a mentor and father figure, "not just to myself, but a lot of guys. I can say that he's responsible for a lot of Big Five Hall of Famers being here."