Reminiscing with former Penn guard Scott Kegler

COURTESY OF LAUREN KEGLER | DPFormer Penn basketball three-point specialist Scott Kegler (center) has coordinated Saturday morning pickup hoops sessions at the Palestra for over a decade. Andy Baratta (left) has also coordinated the games in the past. Michael Root (right) is one of many participants in the tradition, which dates back to 1989.

COURTESY OF LAUREN KEGLER | DP
Former Penn basketball three-point specialist Scott Kegler (center) has coordinated Saturday morning pickup hoops sessions at the Palestra for over a decade. Andy Baratta (left) has also coordinated the games in the past. Michael Root (right) is one of many participants in the tradition.

I caught up with former Penn guard Scott Kegler earlier this month for a story on the long tradition of Saturday morning pickup sessions at the Palestra. 

But we also talked about the upward trajectory of Penn basketball from his freshman year of 1991-92 to his senior year of 1994-95, and how a program that had single-digit wins before the Class of '95 came on the scene won the final 43 Ivy games of Kegler's Quakers  career. Here's the '90s rise of Penn basketball as "Kegs" remembers it:

"When we showed up, the team wasn’t very good. The year before they were 9-17. It was coach Dunphy’s either second or third year, I can’t remember. And so it was intense. The team wasn’t any good, we weren’t any good. We wanted to be good, we didn’t know how or if we’d be any good. And the first year, it was just a struggle. We all were competing against each other for playing time. Our freshman class was Jerome [Allen], Eric Moore, Shawn Trice, and me. All those guys wanted to play. We were just beating each other up in practice. Jerome was playing, Shawn was playing, Eric was playing, I was playing a little bit. And we got better.

We beat Penn State that year in Hershey [87-86 2OT on Jan. 25, 1992]. It was a funny game because we won the game in regulation, we went into the locker room, we were celebrating, changing our clothes. The referees came in and said the game’s not over. Something happened, there’s still time left on the clock, you’ve gotta come back out and play. So we had to come out on the floor and play a couple of seconds to win. But that was a big win for us because it was a Big Ten team, a scholarship school and we win, let’s build on that. We were in the Ivy League hunt until we played at Yale, and Yale had this guy named Casey Cammann, and we lost and that really put us out of contention.

We lost to Princeton and we lost to Yale, so we knew we couldn’t win. We watched the game video - coach Dunphy was so mad - we watched the video all the way from New Haven to Brown. He’s slamming the overhead bins. And we practiced the next day at Brown hard. He lined us all up on the sideline, rolled the ball out on the floor and it was a game of if you could dive on the floor and get it first. We were running sprints, we won that night.

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Annual alumni game ends in tie

In a shockingly close finish on Saturday afternoon, the Penn alumni game ended in a tie, 67-67

The Red and Blue teams were tied at 65 in the final minute when Tim Krug (C' 96) made a shot to put the Blue team up two. The Red team quickly responded with a two of their own from Brian Grandieri (C' 08).

So with the game tied in the final seconds, Krug drew a foul and went to the line for two free throws. Unfortunately, he succumbed to pressure, missing both free throws, including an air ball on his first attempt. He made up for it on defense with a steal to preserve the tie.

“Historically, I’ve been a poor free throw shooter,” Krug said. “Being out of shape and at the foul line at the end of the game, being a bad free throw shooter, isn’t the best place to be.”

The Blue team (0-0-1) led for much of the contest thanks to some strong jump shooting early from multiple players, including Joe Gill (C' 08), who hit two early three pointers.

With the team behind early, the Red team (0-0-1) resorted to the worst of basketball’s vices: cherry-picking. Penn coach Jerome Allen and Stan Greene (C' 78) failed to get back on defense in order to get the glory of an easy layup on the other end.

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Behind Enemy Lines: Temple’s Fran Dunphy

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Alvin Loke | DP File Photo

The Quakers (3-14, 0-3 Big 5) will be taking on Temple (12-5, 1-0) Wednesday night in their final Big 5 contest of the season. Though this is Fran Dunphy’s seventh year as coach of Penn's Big 5 foe, this will be the first time he takes on former player Ira Bowman, who has latched onto fellow Dunphy alum Jerome Allen as an assistant coach. Both squads have faced a lot of a changes in the past year, but the Owls have continued to dominate. I spoke with Temple coach Fran Dunphy about this familiar matchup and what his plans are heading into this local game.

After your first year as coach of Penn, you lost your top three scorers and struggled the next year.  Do you think the situation faced by Coach Allen has any parallels to what you inherited when you took the Penn job in 1989?

Dunphy: I hadn’t given it a lot of thought, but as I go down Penn’s roster and I see the young guys that they have and the hope for the future that they have, I think Jerome and everybody at Penn should feel very encouraged. I think that they are on their way to building a terrific basketball program and I think the future is very bright.

After 7 years, do you still get any special feeling when you play Penn?

Dunphy: You can’t be somewhere for as long as I was — and in this case the University of Pennsylvania — and not feel a special affinity for the place and the program and everything that it is about. Of course, then you add to it a guy that played for me and who I learned so much from as a person and as a player, so that’s a very special feeling for me. And then of course now you have on staff Ira Bowman, who also played for me. They were two great guys to coach and they have become two great friends as well.

I have tremendous memories of my days at Penn. I was the luckiest guy in America then and I am just as lucky now to have an opportunity to coach another team in the city of Philadelphia, so I feel very fortunate.

We just saw a sold-out Big 5 game at the Palestra between St. Joe's and Penn. Though now some of the games have moved to campus sites, do you ever wish that the Big 5 went back to playing all of the games there?

Dunphy: Well that’s certainly how I grew up and how it was when I was a player at La Salle for three years as well.  All of the games were in the Palestra, so that’s what college basketball in Philadelphia was all about. Certainly the Palestra was college basketball’s arena. But now, times have changed, and we have all had to adapt to it. We have a very nice arena on campus. For us to go back to the Palestra to play all of our Big 5 games would be difficult for our university and athletic department at this point. Yet, I think the purist in all of us appreciates everything that went on back in the day. Would it be great to go back and do that again? Sure it would, maybe on a one year occasion or something like that if we could interrupt things. A number of years ago we tried to have all six teams play in the Palestra on a given day as a celebration of sorts, but there were too many other complications or things that got in the way to allow that to happen again.

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Behind Enemy Lines: St. Joe’s assistant Mark Bass

After starting out 0-2 in Big 5 play, Penn (3-13, 0-1 Ivy) will take on St. Joe’s (9-6) at the Palestra on Saturday evening. For this edition of Behind Enemy Lines, I caught up with Hawks’ assistant coach Mark Bass, a St. Joe’s alumnus and former player who competed against Jerome Allen and Penn during his playing days. During our conversation, we talked about coach Phil Martelli’s commitment to Big 5 tradition, the Hawks’ turnaround over the last three seasons and more.

Last year, this game was listed as a home game for Penn at the Palestra, but this year it’s listed as a home game for St. Joe’s, despite also being played at the Palestra. Do you get the sense that your team enjoys coming to the Palestra for these games?

I think coach Martelli — that’s a question for him to answer, because he likes playing at the Palestra. I think any opponent would love to play the game on their home floor … But I think in his point of view, Big 5 game, he thinks it should be played at the Palestra … But personally I would love this game on home field to give us all the advantages we can get.

In last year’s game between Penn and St. Joe’s, Zack Rosen, Tyler Bernardini and Rob Belcore combined for 52 points. How does their absence change your gameplan against Penn?

I think last year’s team with those three guys — they were seniors. They had senior leadership, and we were playing with sophomores and juniors.

And now, there’s this turn that we’re playing with juniors and seniors, and they’re playing with some underclassmen. So hopefully our upperclassmen can do the same things that their seniors did last year. Those three gentlemen dominated the game last year, and we didn’t have an answer for them.

What do you see about Jerome Allen as a player that is reflected in the teams he coaches?

His passion as a player and as a coach just boils over. You can see how much passion he has on the sidelines, and he played with that same passion. And of course it rubs off on his own players, and that’s what Jerome brought as a player and he’s bringing it as a coach — his passion for the game.

Just two seasons ago, St. Joe’s finished the year well below .500 at 11-22. What have been the keys to the program’s improvement since then?

I just think guys getting better — getting better in the offseason, working on their game, working on their body, just getting better.

And that’s basketball because now in a couple years you’re going to be saying the same thing about this young group of guys at Penn. They’re taking their bumps in the road right now …so next year they should be better. And that’s what happened with us. Two years ago, we won 11 games. Last year, we won 20.

So it’s about getting better, not getting down on yourself and getting better as an individual and as a team. I think if you look at our team and you look at the Penn team now, they were along similar lines. That’s what I see with our team, and I think this young core group of guys that Penn has are doing the same thing that we have. They’re going to get better just as we’ve gotten better and hopefully continue to get better.

Do you have any memorable moments from your playing days competing against Jerome Allen and Penn?

I just remember Jerome Allen and Matt Maloney — those two guys were a great backcourt — and just playing against those two and assistant coach Ira Bowman. It was just some good matchups and memorable moments playing in the Palestra against those guys.

I really can’t pick out a specific game or what-have-you. I just know matching up it was going to be a tough night for us guarding those three guys night in and night out.

Behind Enemy Lines: NJIT’s Jim Engles

Jim EnglesThursday night, Penn (2-13) heads north to Newark, N.J., to take on NJIT (9-8) for the first time since the 2009-10 season (see preview). Former Highlanders and current Quakers assistant coach Ira Bowman will return to face the program for which he spent the previous four years coaching under Jim Engles (see story).

In this segment of Behind Enemy Lines, we spoke with Engles about turning around the program at NJIT, which set an all-time NCAA Division I worst record of 0-29 the season before he took over. In his first year, the Highlanders posted a 1-30 record but reached the 15-win threshold in his third and fourth seasons. Engles also has a connection to Penn — his uncle John Engles played for Penn from 1973-76 and landed in the Big 5 Hall of Fame in 1995.

What was it like to step into an environment as the head coach where the team had been 0-29 the season before?
I think the one thing that really helped me to understand the environment was when I went to Columbia, we took over a program that was very similar in a lot of different ways -- really good academic school, was 0-14 in the Ivy League at the time, I think was last in the RPI, the worst team in the country. And just seeing and working for Joe Jones, working with him for five years like I did, seeing how he was able to -- in college it's a process because you have to bring in players and they have to develop and it's not like you can go out and, especially in a place like ours and in the Ivy League, you can't go out and recruit anyone. There isn't a quick fix to it. Continue reading

Behind Enemy Lines: Delaware’s Phil Martelli, Jr.

Delaware assistant coach Phil Martelli, Jr. has been scouting the Quakers since the start of this season and been playing against them since the start of this millenium.

It's time to introduce another new feature to the Buzz: Behind Enemy Lines, in which we talk to opposing coaches and players as well as the writers who cover them. 

On Monday, I was able to talk with Delaware assistant coach Phil Martelli, Jr.  about the Blue Hens' perspective going into their Friday night tilt with Penn at the Bob Carpenter Center. Martelli has been scouting the Quakers all year. And after playing for St. Joseph's from 2000-03 under his father, head coach Phil Martelli, and current Delaware head coach Monté Ross (a Hawks assistant at the time), Martelli, Jr. knows Penn a lot better than most Red and Blue opponents. He talks bragging rights, Penn's poor rebounding and more after the jump:

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Game 3: Fairfield — The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

Coming off of a Monday night loss to Delaware, the Quakers failed to reverse their momentum, falling to Fairfield on Tuesday night, 62-53, in the consolation game of the NIT Season Tip-Off (see recap). Despite the loss, the Quakers made some changes from Monday night that altered the tone against the Stags.

THE GOOD: Fran, again. The 6-foot-8 big man took leadership of the team from both inside and outside the lane, accounting for 31 of the Quakers’ 53 points. He also led the team with 10 rebounds and attacked the boards underneath, capitalizing on several missed shots by Jamal Lewis (more on that later). Penn’s rebounding was much better overall, as the Quakers outrebounded the Stags, 38-30 and outscored them in the paint, 30-20.

THE BAD: Shooters not named Fran. Penn shot 35.8 percent from the field for the game overall, connecting on just 19 of their 53 shots. Taking Dougherty out of the equations, they hit on just 6-of-32. The Red and Blue were even more dismal from three-point land, hitting just 2-of-14 shots from beyond the arc. Despite numerous attempts, Jamal Lewis could not capitalize on any his four three-pointers and Miles Cartwright had a terrible night, shooting just 2-for-8 from the field. Cartwright didn’t display the same vital leadership on the court he did against UMBC, or even Monday night against Delaware.  With 55.6 seconds left in the game, he fouled out for the second consecutive night — but this time he was the only Penn player to do so.

THE UGLY: Penn's first-half defense. Fairfield sunk three three-pointers in the first half to which Penn defenders responded lackadaisically, jogging back on offense with little display of emotion. The Quakers made all those treys easy too, routinely failing to get their hands up on defense to challenge long-range shots.

THE BETTER, Part 1: Penn’s white uniforms. They proved far less abusive to the eyes and made look Penn slightly more professional than those tacky red monstrosities they sported on Monday night. Shame then, that Fairfield sported jerseys almost identical in color scheme (red background, black lettering) to Penn’s uniforms from last night.

THE BETTER, Part 2: Coach Bowman’s teaching moments from the bench. Bowman emphasized the learning process rather than the loss. As the assistant coach told Cartwright on the bench immediately after he fouled out, “You try, you learn, you move on.”

Scott Pera of ASU to become top assistant for Penn basketball

via ASU.edu

Arizona State assistant coach Scott Pera is slated to leave the Sun Devils and take an assistant coaching position under Penn basketball coach Jerome Allen, ASUDevils.com reports.

Pera served as an assistant under ASU head man Herb Sendek since the summer of 2007, helping guide the Sun Devils to three postseason appearances — one in the NCAA tournament and two in the NIT. He will replace the departed Dan Leibovitz, who officially resigned from his position Thursday to join the Charlotte Bobcats as a player development coach.

"The initial involvement was through a mutual friend with coach Allen and I," Pera told ASUDevils.com. "Basically, it was, 'hey, this seems to me to make tremendous sense,' it intrigued me from there, Jerome did his homework on me, then connections come into play, people that know me and know Jerome connected the dots, we talked through it, had a lot in common, I became more interested and it led to us coming to an agreement."

Prior to his stint at Arizona State, Pera led Artesia High School of Lakewood, Calif. to the state title in 2006. There, he coached Oklahoma City Thunder star James Harden. Pera would again coach Harden with the Sun Devils from 2007-09.

The move east brings Pera, a Hershey, Pa. native and Penn State graduate, closer to home. His wife, Alyssa, is also a Penn graduate.

"A number of pieces are in place at Penn that make it attractive, with the head coaching placement being big and something we're very aware of," Pera said. "To be one step closer to that and my wife's alma mater, and be under another terrific coach in a city we love, all those pieces made it come together."

Pera is the third new assistant the Quakers have added this summer. Ira Bowman and Jason Polykoff have already been hired to take the places of Mike Martin and Rudy Wise, respectively.

Dan Leibovitz may be leaving Penn for the Charlotte Bobcats

Assistant coach Dan Leibovitz could be heading to the Charlotte Bobcats to take a position as a player development coach.

Jeff Goodman of CBS Sports was the first to report the news, via Twitter Thursday morning:

However, Leibovitz has not yet signed a contract with the Bobcats.

Leibovitz has a longtime friendship with Mike Dunlap, who was hired as the head coach of the Bobcats on June 20.

Leibovitz graduated from Penn in 1996 and rejoined his alma mater in April 2010. Prior to his return, he was the head coach at the University of Hartford for four seasons. He also served as the top assistant coach at Temple under John Chaney for 10 seasons.

Head coach Jerome Allen may be forced to find another new assistant coach to replace Leibovitz. Penn already hired two new assistants earlier this summer, Ira Bowman and Jason Polykoff, to take over for Mike Martin and Rudy Wise, respectively.

Penn basketball adds two assistant coaches

The men's basketball team has officially named its two new assistant coaches: Ira Bowman will be replacing Mike Martin, who left to take the head coaching position at Brown, while Jason Polykoff will be taking over for Rudy Wise.

Bowman transferred to Penn from Providence College and played for the Quakers for two seasons, in 1994-95 and 1995-96. His first year in the Red and Blue was Allen's final season at Penn.

As a senior, Bowman was named Ivy League Player of the Year and first-team All-Philadelphia Big 5. The Quakers went 12-2 in the Ivy League that season, but fell to Princeton in a one-game playoff for the conference title.

Bowman played professionally with the Philadelphia 76ers and Atlanta Hawks, as well as overseas in Italy and Australia. He spent the past four years coaching at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

Here is what Jerome Allen had to say about Bowman:

I am extremely happy to continue building this program with someone who is deeply passionate about this University. The career Ira had here has been well documented, and I know he will put forth every effort working to make this program the best that it can be.

Bowman had this to say about rejoining the Quakers:

It is with great appreciation and honor that I return to the University of Pennsylvania. It was a privilege to play here and I am equally grateful to have an opportunity to coach here alongside Coach Allen, whom I deeply respect. Jerome was a tremendous teammate at Penn; his character, humility and determination are the building blocks of what it means to be a Quaker. I share his passion and commitment in making Penn basketball the elite program we believe it is. I could not be more excited!

Jason Polykoff has been the head coach at Friends Central School in Wynnewood, Pa., for the past five years. His team has won four consecutive Pennsylvania Independent Schools State Championships from 2009-12. Polykoff played basketball at Haverford College.

Here is what Polykoff said about his new position:

Having an opportunity to coach at Penn is essentially a dream come true. If you combine the history of Penn basketball with the Big 5 and the Palestra, it is too good of a situation to pass up. Also, to have the opportunity to work with Jerome Allen, Dan Leibovitz and Ira Bowman-three great coaches and even better people-I know I am going to learn a lot. Just as important, I've been affiliated with high academic institutions my whole life, coming from Friends' Central, to Haverford College, and back to Friends' Central. I feel a sense of comfort at a place like Penn.