Daily Pennsylvanian: How would you describe your time on the Penn coaching staff and how that helped you develop as a coach?
Jason Polykoff: It’s hard to say in a few lines all the things that I think I learned from coach Allen and the rest of the coaching staff. As far as tangible items, I could go on and on, but at the end of the day, it was just an invaluable experience to get to coach at a Division-I school in my home town and an Ivy League school with such history. It’s an experience that I would never have passed up in a million years. Even though we didn’t see a ton of success on the scoreboard — because I get that question a lot, would you still have done it? I was fortunate enough to have some success in [the] high school [level]. I say every time in a heartbeat. I would not have passed up that experience for anything.
DP: What was the reasoning behind your move to Earlham?
JP: It was a couple reasons. One, you can only remain an unpaid volunteer assistant for so long. That was part of it, but not at all the biggest reason. I played Division-III basketball and I have a strong connection with the Division-III philosophy. I wouldn’t say it was the ultimate goal when I came to Penn, but it developed into a goal of mine to become a Division-III head coach. Of course, I wanted to run my own program again like I had in high school and this opportunity came about and it presented itself. I applied for it and I got it so I was really excited.
DP: Did any of the events surrounding the team around the time of your departure involving Tony Bagtas, Julian Harrell and Henry Brooks have anything to do with your decision?
JP: No, that was separate.
DP: What was the reaction from the rest of the coaching staff when you told them you were moving on?
JP: They were thrilled for me. I told them a little bit after the season ended that I was interested in becoming a Division-III head coach and they fully supported me in my decision. Coach Allen made a phone call for me to Earlham and said some great things that I can only assume helped my position to get the job. They’re still helpful, still recommending players to me and making connections for me. They were great. Again, it was a win-win because it gave Mike [Lintulahti] an opportunity to step into a role with a little bit more responsibility and a role that we think he’s going to be great in.
DP: What was it like working with Jerome Allen as part of that new staff of assistants he brought in?
JP: It was fantastic. I knew coach Allen before because I coached his son and taught his daughter at Friends’ Central. So I knew him in more of a non-professional setting, so getting an opportunity to coach – as he would say with him, not for him -with him was great. From an Xs and Os stand-point, I learned more than I think I had in the previous six years coaching high school basketball in the two years I was there. He’s a really good person and he really just wants what’s best for the guys at the end of the day. I learned a whole lot.
DP: What’s your relationship like with Coach Pera and Coach Bowman since you went through that same experience together?
JP: I still talk to them every week, if not every other week. Coach Pera keep in contact and see how things are going down in Houston with him at Rice. Coach Bowman and I; he’s still sending me players that might not be good enough for Penn, but might be good enough for Earlham. Checking in on me and all that. I still maintain a really good relationship with those guys.
DP: As we both know, Penn has struggled a lot in the past few years. What do you think about the direction of the Penn program moving forward?
JP: I’ll be honest with you, the one thing that... While I’m really excited about Earlham and taking over the program here, the one thing that I knew I was going to miss and that I know I’m going to regret is the season that they’re about to have. Everything is just falling into place. I think the players that are coming back combined with the players who are coming in is the exact fit and the exact kind of culture that they’re trying to create. These are the guys for it. I really do think they’re going to surprise a lot of people. There’s some people, coming into this season, with a negative outlook or two on Penn basketball because it’s been down the past few years. I really do think this is going to be a great group of guys who are moving in the right direction. I’m going to be upset when I wasn’t there for the ride when they’re on their way to an Ivy League championship. I’m going to be upset that I missed it, but I’m going to be cheering for them every day.
DP: Since you’re now moving away from coaching in the Ivies, what do you think of the balance of power the past few seasons? What do you think Harvard has done the past few years to take that next step forward?
JP: It’s the ebbs and flows of the Ivy League. At one point it was Cornell, for the longest point it was Penn and Princeton. It’s just what’s the flavor of the week, I guess you could say. Right now it’s Harvard, but in my eyes it’s only a matter of time before it’s someone else, and I think it’s going to be Penn. I’m a little biased, but I think it’s going to be Penn. Credit to them and obviously to coach Amaker for what they’ve been able to accomplish, but I truly believe that every program has their time and this has been Harvard’s time.