After a trying “rookie” season, Steve Donahue feels confident he can finally turn Penn in the right direction, maybe even post its first winning season since 2012. The man who led Cornell to three straight Ivy League titles, before plummeting back to earth at Boston College, went just 11-17 here last year, just 5-9 in the Ivies.
But he says that’s about to change, beginning tonight when the Quakers travel to Robert Morris to open the Year Two. “There are a lot of moving parts to our program,”said Donahue, who has four starters back from that squad in addition to eight new faces. “But we’re trying to grow this, trying to build it back to where Penn basketball was and we’re still in the building stages.
“We’re totally different than last year. We have a different feel. Most guys back are playing different roles.”
That includes sophomore point guard Jake Silpe, who spent the off-season bulking up and working on his shot while working out with Villanova’s Jalen Brunson.
“We took a step in the right direction and that initial step is usually the hardest,” said Silpe, with Matt Howard (12.3 points per game), Antonio Woods (10.7) and Jackson Donahue (9.7) leading the way. “We didn’t do as we hoped last year, but I think we’ll be a lot better.”
And thanks to a major change in the rules teams no longer have to win the 14-game Ivy wars to punch their ticket to the NCAA’s big dance. Instead the top four teams will square off in the first Ivy Leaguetournament—to be played at the Palestra.
“As a coach you don’t think about the tournament at this point,” admitted Donahue. “You always think about winning the 14-game battle and becoming Ivy champs.
“But I’m excited about the possibility of Penn being in the tournament, just like everyone else.”
So let year two begin. It nothing else it figures to be interesting.