UPDATE: On Sunday, Penn made it official: Jerome Allen will resign at the end of the season. That Allen's departure officially comes as a resignation instead of a firing allows one of the legendary players in Quakers history to leave his post with some dignity. But there's no question that new Penn athletic director M. Grace Calhoun had seen enough of the program's struggles.
Allen offered these thoughts in a statement issued by Penn's athletic department:
After considerable soul-searching and reflection, I've decided to resign from my post as the men's Head Basketball Coach at the University of Pennsylvania. Nothing could be harder for me, because this institution and program have been so dear to my heart. This program gave me my start as a player, and it helped launch my coaching career.
During the past six years, I have been blessed with a tremendous opportunity to which I gave all of my heart and soul. So I leave the program with head held high, knowing that a foundation has been laid for my successor to take this program and return it to the standard of excellence we all expect.
I want to thank everyone associated with the Penn basketball program from the bottom of my heart for making my time here so dear and meaningful to my family and myself. And thank you to those who continue to support our student-athletes. Without you, this would have been a much harder job. Despite my leaving, my heart will always bleed the Penn colors. I wish this University and this program nothing but the best moving forward.
Calhoun gave this statement:
Coach Allen and I have engaged in a thorough and thoughtful review of the men's basketball program since I arrived on campus in July, and I know how much this program means to him - both as its coach and as one of its all-time great players.
Jerome has always been held in the highest regard by his teammates, by his fellow basketball alums, by people in the Penn and the Philadelphia communities, and most of all by the players he has coached these last six years. Coach Allen always put the program first, and I am confident that he will continue to be a strong ambassador for the University of Pennsylvania and the Penn basketball program.
Here's the story I wrote Saturday after the news broke. It has been updated a few times since then with more background information on what happened, and on Allen's tenure at Penn.
Time has run out on Jerome Allen's opportunity to rebuild his alma mater into an Ivy League men's basketball power.
Allen will depart at the end of the Quakers' season, which concludes Tuesday night at the Palestra against perennial rival Princeton. The news was first reported by ESPN's Jeff Goodman on Saturday afternoon.
The move requires new athletic director M. Grace Calhoun to pay a buyout of approximately $650,000. Allen has two years remaining on a five-year contract that former AD Steve Bilsky gave the Philadelphia native in 2012, when Penn played in the CBI.
Calhoun informed Allen this past Monday that the time had come for a change. Her decision came after Penn was swept at Brown and Yale, which left the Quakers with a seven-game Ivy League losing streak - the longest winless stretch in conference play in program history.
As the Inquirer's Mike Jensen noted, Allen's players were told of the news before Saturday's game against Cornell, which Penn won, 77-72. On Friday, Penn snapped the aforementioned skid with a 54-46 win over Columbia.
In his postgame press conference, Allen repeatedly declined comment on the situation. He made it clear he was aware, though, by quipping: "In my attempt to be like Marshawn Lynch, I'm here just so I won't get fined - and if you can read between the lines, then you'll probably save your breath."
At the conclusion of his remarks, though, Allen struck a more serious tone.
"I apologize - I just didn't want to make it about anything else," he said, his voice trailing off at the end.
After Allen spoke, I asked Calhoun if she had anything she wanted to say on the matter. She politely declined, stating that she didn't want to offer much in the moment, but would have remarks to offer in coming days.
Last August, Calhoun told me that she wanted to give Allen a full season under he watch before making a judgement on his tenure and future.
"I sat him down from the first conversation and said that both he knows and I know that at the end of the season, both of us will be heavily judged on how successful men's basketball was this year," she told me a few weeks after officially beginning her tenure as AD. "I plan to do everything in my power to partner with him to help him be successful. And then, you know, ultimately it's going to rest on his shoulders to see what happens."
I have talked often with Calhoun over the course of the season. Even if she wasn't ready yet Saturday night to make a public confirmation of Allen's departure, she always knew when the time of judgement was coming. It only remains to be seen whether the official announcement will happen before or after Tuesday's season finale.
Penn hasn't made the NCAA tournament since 2007, the first season of Glen Miller's short-lived tenure at the Palestra. Ahead of the 2009 season, Miller convinced Allen to end his lucrative playing career in Europe and join the Quakers' staff as an assistant. But Miller never came close to winning the Ivy League title again, and was fired midway through the 2009-10 season.
Even though Allen had barely half a season of coaching experience of any kind on his résumé, Bilsky picked him to be the interim coach over fellow assistant Mike Martin, whom Miller had brought to Penn from his Brown staff. Allen was the choice in part because of his Penn ties, whereas Miller came from Brown and didn't care so much for the politics and personal relations of life in the Big 5. At the end of the 2009-10 campaign, Allen got the job on a full-time basis.
After the 2011-12 season, Martin left Penn to take the head job at his alma mater. After Allen's Quakers swept Martin's Bears in 2013, Brown has won four straight matchups with Penn.
Martin's departure came in the aftermath of Bilsky accepting a berth in the CBI as a reward for Zack Rosen's sterling career. Rosen, a Miller recruit, was the best Penn player in Allen's tenure - and arguably the best player in Penn history to never win an Ivy League championship. That 2011-12 season was as close as Allen came.
During the two seasons that followed, Penn compiled 6-8 and 5-9 records in the Ivy League, and just one Big 5 win. So far this season, Penn is 4-9 in conference play, including the aforementioned seven-game losing streak.
As the Daily Pennsylvanian points out, Allen will leave as the first Penn coach since 1956 to not win an Ancient Eight title.
It so happened that ven though rumors of Allen's potential firing have been swirling for weeks, the news was only confirmed in the midst of a rare bright stretch. Allen will have a chance to finsh his Penn tenure with a three-game win streak when the Quakers' perennial arch-rivals from Old Nassau visit the Palestra.
He has always championed the significance of playing Princeton, even in recent years when the programs have fallen from their once-lofty perches.
"We're not playing for a bid to the [NCAA] tournament, but everybody's playing for something," he said.
Allen was one of the great players in Penn history: he was a two-time Ivy League Player of the Year and led the Quakers to three straight Ancient Eight titles from 1993 to 1995. During that stretch of Ancient Eight dominance, Penn won 48 straight conference games, an Ivy League record which still stands to this day.
But the Philadelphia native and Episcopal Academy product was never able to translate his excellence as a player to life as a coach. For as much as the Penn community wanted to see Allen succeed, every ultimately coach is judged on wins and losses. This season, the time came for Allen to be held to that same standard.
So who will Penn turn to next? The top candidates are expected to be Yanni Hufnagel, an assistant at Cal who previously worked at Vanderbilt and before then at Harvard as Tommy Amaker's top recruiter; former Cornell head coach and Penn assistant Steve Donahue; and Robert Morris coach Andy Toole, a former Penn guard.