Thursday 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