Penn Quakers players came out before Jerome Allen's last game as their coach wearing plain black warm-ups. Then they changed into plain blue tops, no Penn insignia, just Allen's old number, 53, in white.
There was no missing the message. Allen had been informed last week he wouldn't be back next season. Allen himself wore his varsity sweater, with the "P" emblazoned on the front. His wife had decided years ago it was too small for him and took possession of it, he said. He borrowed it back for this night.
The final score was Princeton, 73, Penn 52, no storybook ending. It wasn't that kind of year. The Quakers finished 9-19 overall and 4-10 in the Ivy League, last in the league for the first time.
"It's disappointing because ultimately we prepared these guys to win every game,'' Allen said. "I won't lose sight of that and allow myself not to be disappointed. . . . I'll definitely watch the film and break it down and I'll pretend like I'm talking to the guys . . ."
The hard part, he said, will be not coaching a team of young players who were finally putting things together.
"Those guys are going to be really good,'' Allen said. "They're on their way. We always challenged ourselves to leave it better than we found it. Not to throw anybody under the bus or name names, but I changed the culture. With that being said, I wish it reflected the wins and losses that I want to see. I played here at this university. I know that they're on their way.''
Allen thanked former athletic director Steve Bilsky for believing in him and giving him the job in 2009-10. He heard outside chatter, Allen said, and he didn't allow it to affect "my posture or my belief.'' He talked about thinking how you lead when you're facing challenges, making it about details. He knew he would ultimately be judged on wins and losses.
"I truly believe I'm being pushed into the next season of my life,'' Allen said. "Wherever I'm coaching at, I know that Penn has helped me prepare for it. Penn has changed the trajectory of my entire family.''
Allen fingered freshman guard Darnell Foreman as the ringleader behind the shirts, which the players kept on during the game while they were on the bench.
"I was [angry],'' Allen said. "I guess I shouldn't say that. I don't want to sound ungrateful. It's not about me. I appreciate the gesture. It got to me because I didn't know. I don't think anyone on our staff knew. . . . If I had my choice I definitely wouldn't have let them wear those shirts.''