When Fran Dunphy left Penn in the Spring of 2006, a number of candidates were mentioned as possible replacements: Dave Wohl, Billy Taylor, Fran O’Hanlon, Glen Miller and Steve Donahue. Ultimately, a great deal of the consternation regarding Glen Miller revolves around Steve Donahue’s recent run of success as Cornell’s coach. But did Penn make a foolish decision in 2006? Is there any obvious statistical answer as to why Miller was chosen rather than Donahue? Obviously, if the reasons were a great interview and the vast potential seen in Miller by the powers that be, a statistical explanation will be impossible to further, but let’s take a look. All these statistics have been culled from the Penn and Cornell athletic department web sites and we’re going to pretend we’ve travelled back in time to 2006 and only have those statistics available to us.
Glen Miller (13 Years 188-157)
Steve Donahue (6 years 58-105)
Though it’s difficult to compare sample sizes this different, it seems abundantly clear that Miller, at least to this point in his career, had experienced a great deal more success than Donahue. Though his record does count his time at Connecticut College, where in his final season with the Camels he lead them to a 28-1 mark and Donahue’s whole career as a head coach was at Cornell. So let’s just compare the records of the two men within the Ivy League and, to create even more equality, let’s use just the first six years of each man’s record.
Ivy Records, First Six Years
Glen Miller (48-36)
Steve Donahue (31-53)
Again, the records seem to speak for themselves. Most impressively, Miller in his fourth year at Brown went to the NIT. In those first six years within the Ancient Eight, Miller averaged eight wins per year to Donahue’s five and one-sixth wins per year. Miller’s teams averaged a finish closer to fourth place than third and Donahue’s averaged a finish closer to fifth than fourth. But all this might mean is that Miller was about one place better than Donahue at beating the teams they both played. How did the two men fare against each other?
Series between Miller and Donahue
2000-01 Brown 2-0
2001-02 Brown 2-0
2002-03 Brown 2-0
2003-04 Split 1-1
2004-05 Cornell 2-0
2005-06 Split 1-1
Near the end of the series it is possible to see Donahue approaching and perhaps overtaking Miller, but overall, before taking the coaching job at Penn, Glen Miller held an 8-4 record against Steve Donahue and the Big Red.
While these are some fairly rudimentary statistics and, admittedly, they do not tell the whole story — for example, they do not take in to account factors such as what players were currently on the roster when the coaches arrived at their respective schools, what the relative levels of alumni and athletic department support were like or any of a myriad of other factors — it’s fairly easy to see, at least numerically, why, in 2006, Glen Miller seemed to be a stronger choice than Steve Donahue in replacing Fran Dunphy.