Monday, January 29, 2007

The Palestra

I just read this article in Sunday's Washington Post about the return of Fran Dunphy to his old stomping grounds at the Palestra. If you didn't know, Dunphy coached Penn for 17 seasons leading them to over 300 wins and in the process won over 10 Ivy League titles. His best year was probably 1994 when Penn, as an 11 seed, upset sixth seeded Nebraska in the first round of the NCAA Tournament and nearly upset the Antonio McDyess-led Auburn Tigers. He won 48 straight Ivy League games from 1992-1996. The guy consistently got the most talented players in the IVYs despite having no scholarships and a ridiculous academic standard to uphold. Well, after this past season when the Temple job opened up, Dunphy became the first coach of a Big Five school to leave for another Big Five school. This guy has the chance to really bring Temple to another level, or atleast to a level similar to where they used to be when John Chaney took them to the Elite 8 on a yearly basis. Caoch K was even quoted as saying that at Temple, Dunphy will take the Owls to the Final Four at some point. This past weekend Penn and Temple met for the first time this season, with the Quakers pulling out a close win. By the way here's a link to the article by John Feinstein:

And in reading this article it brought back a bunch of memories of the Palestra, the most historic college basketball venue in the country. The place is ancient now, but is still, in my mind the best place to watch a college basketball game. This guy who works with me at the Daily has been to Cameron and the Palestra and still thinks the Palestra is better. All of the seats are wooden bleachers and everyone is real cramped, but the atmosphere during a close game doesn't get much better. I've been there a couple times with my Dad for Penn games and I enjoyed every one of them. I remember my junior year of high school when I went up to Philly for a game between Penn and Brown, and it turned into an epic classic. Both teams were undefeated in the league at the time and the game went into double OT, with Penn coming out on top.

Tipoff at a great college venue

And seeing as I've been going to all these new, different arenas this season, it reminded me of what college basketball arenas should be about. For instance places like The Kohl Center in Wisconsin and the Comcast Center in Maryland are nice and new, but they feel almost like pro arenas. You don't feel close to the action when the building is so large it can fit close to 20000 people in it. I'll take the 8,000 seat feel of the Palestra or Cameron or even Northwestern's Welsh-Ryan Arena any day of the week. And next week I'm going to ValuCity Arena in Columbus and I've heard that place feels the same as those other big arenas.

If you've heard anything about the Palestra, you'll know that it is still to this day open to the public. You don't even need to be a Penn student to play there. That same kid at the Daily said one time he and his friends were playing pick up basketball at the Palestra when Dunphy and his Penn team came onto the court to begin practice (yes, I realize if you read the Feinstein article above this kid's story sounds eerily familiar to the one in that article, so he might be lying to me). Officially their time to use the court was 3:00, but it was just 2:50. So Dunphy and his team waited for this kid and his friends to finish up. As a student I don't think I will ever be allowed to use Crisler Arena, let alone stop Tommy Amaker from coaching (he does that just being himself anyways). It's stuff like that that makes places like the Palestra unique and amazing. I realize a lot of people have been calling for the demise of Crisler, and frankly I agree with them. The place is an absolute dump. It's not cozy, and it doesn't have the amenities that a Kohl center has. But instead of renovating it into some fancy new arena, I would love to see Michigan build a 9,000 seat venue that will sell out every game and create an atmosphere that will truly be exhilarating. We need to embrace our inner Palestra.

Had to have one more shot of it

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