One of the all-time great players in Penn men's basketball history, Jerome Allen became the John R. Rockwell Head Coach of Men's Basketball on March 30, 2010. Allen's ascension to the head coaching position was swift; he was originally hired in August 2009 as a volunteer assistant coach, but on December 14, 2009, he was promoted to interim head coach by Athletics Director Steve Bilsky.
"I have asked Jerome to help re-establish the identity of Penn Basketball," said Bilsky when he announced Allen's promotion from assistant coach in December 2009. "For decades, Penn Basketball has been a source of pride for the University, not simply for the successes but also for the embodiment of the Palestra creed: 'To win the game is great, to play the game is greater, but to love the game is greatest of all.' Jerome was an outstanding player who respects the game and loves Penn. I believe our student-athletes will benefit from his tutelage, and our fans will unite around him during this challenging time."
"Jerome's talents and accomplishments in life are noteworthy and familiar to the Penn community," said Bilsky when he removed the interim tag in March 2010. "What isn't as well known, until you spend time with him, is the humility that coincides with his pride. It is the combination of these qualities, plus his vision to return Penn to glory, that makes me so pleased to name him the John R. Rockwell Head Coach of Men's Basketball."
Allen's first two full seasons as head coach saw Penn make giant steps toward its return to Ivy League prominence.
In 2010-11, Allen's first full season as head coach, the Quakers went 7-7 in the Ivy League, a two-game jump from 2009-10, and finished in fourth place. Overall, Penn was 13-15, a seven-game improvement from 2009-10.
That surge continued in 2011-12. Penn went 20-13 overall, another seven-game jump in the win column and its first 20-win season since the 2006-07 Ivy League championship squad went 22-9. In Ivy play, the Quakers finished 11-3 and were in the hunt for the Ancient Eight title until the final game. Along the way, Penn defeated each conference foe at least once. Penn also played in the postseason College Basketball Invitational, defeating Quinnipiac in the opening round before falling to Butler in the quarterfinal round.
At the end of the 2011-12 season, senior guard Zack Rosen was unanimously chosen the Ivy League Player of the Year by the Ancient Eight coaches, and earned first-team All-Ivy for the third straight season. He was also one of 10 finalists nationally for the prestigious Lowe's Senior CLASS Award. Another senior, Rob Belcore, received honorable mention All-Ivy recognition.
The 2012-13 season saw Penn field arguably the most inexperienced team in the nation and in program history. Still, the Quakers managed nine wins including a victory over Ivy League champion Harvard. At the end of the season, junior Miles Cartwright earned second-team All-Ivy while freshman Tony Hicks received honorable mention. Three different freshmen -- Hicks, Jamal Lewis, Darien Nelson-Henry -- all received Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors during the season. A fourth player, Fran Dougherty, would be named second-team All-Ivy a year later, as a senior.
Allen, of course, is one of the most recognized names in Penn men's basketball history. A four-year starter, he led the Quakers to Ivy League titles in each of his last three seasons (1993-95), all of them coming via a perfect 14-0 conference mark. (Penn also won its last Ivy League game his freshman year, and went on to win its first five Ivy games in 1995-96, giving the Red and Blue a 48-game Ivy League winning streak that remains the conference record to this day.)
The 1992-93 squad went 22-5 overall, wresting the Ivy crown away from Princeton after the Tigers' four-year run before losing in the NCAA first round to Massachusetts. In 1993-94, Penn went 25-3 overall and earned an NCAA first-round victory over Nebraska before losing to Florida in the second round. In 1994-95, with Allen serving as team captain, Penn went 22-6 overall and again advanced to the NCAAs, losing to Alabama in overtime in the first round.
Allen was the Ivy League Player of the Year as a sophomore in 1992-93 -- sharing the honor with Columbia's Buck Jenkins -- and again as a junior in 1993-94, making him one of three Penn players to earn the honor twice. Allen also earned first-team All-Ivy and All-Philadelphia Big 5 three times apiece during his career.
When his Penn basketball career ended, Allen was the program's all-time leader in assists (504) and steals (166). He also scored 1,518 career points, which is currently sixth on Penn's all-time scoring list, and grabbed 482 career rebounds from his guard position.
Allen was inducted into the Philadelphia Big 5 Hall of Fame in February 2009.
Following his Penn career, Allen was a second-round draft pick of the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves and spent two seasons in the NBA with Minnesota, Indiana and Denver. He then headed to Europe, where he enjoyed a stellar professional career before retiring at the end of the 2008-09 season.
Although this is Allen's first stint as a head coach at the college level, he is no stranger to life on the bench. The summer of 2007 he did an internship with the San Antonio Spurs, serving as an assistant coach on their summer league team that competed in the Las Vegas NBA Summer League and the Rocky Mountain Review in Salt Lake City, Utah. As part of that program, he participated in both practice instructing and game scouting.
In addition, Allen was awarded the head coaching position for Snaidero Basket (in Udine, Italy, roughly 45 minutes north of Venice), with whom he had previously played for four seasons. With that, he became the first person in 15 years to be promoted to head coach while still actively playing in one of the top European leagues (Italy, Spain, Greece, Russia, France, Turkey). Over the course of Allen's four seasons playing with Snaidero, the team qualified for the Italian Cup for the first time in history. Allen also enjoyed two-year playing stints in both Rome and Napoli.
Locally to Philadelphia, in 1997 Allen founded an organization called Brothers Embracing Brothers (BEB). In an attempt to convey the message of neighborhood involvement, BEB established a men's basketball league. Over the years BEB evolved and began working directly with the neighborhood youth. With a new mission in place, Hood Enriched was formed with the objective to cultivate the academic and athletic attributes of inner-city youth. The goal was to encourage self-assessment and development. With proper support and implementation, the program asserted that it could bring forth accomplished students, confident athletes, and productive citizens.
Using the motto "expect to be exceptional," student-athletes were exposed to educational analysis exams and monitored thereafter. In addition, the summer job program allowed participants to develop proper workplace behavior. Finally, the program's basketball department fostered self-development within team structure. Emphasis was placed upon mastering basic fundamentals in kid-friendly environments.
Through Hood Enriched, from 2003-05 Allen led summer basketball camps in Italy, with 36 kids from all parts of Philadelphia traveling to Latina, Rome, Bologna, Cessenatico, and Pesaro. These groups included current or former Division I players like Dionte Christmas (Temple), Parrish Grant (La Salle), Sammie Givens (Drexel), Shannon Givens (Drexel), Clayton Brothers (Hartford), Tywain McKie (Coppin State), Tamir Johnson (Central Conn.) and Khalif Foster (Robert Morris).
The Hood Enriched Summer Job Program also allowed four kids, over the course of four summers, the opportunity to work at City Hall for the Mayor's Action Center. And the program's Reading and Math Assessment, involving roughly 60 kids a year, made it a requirement once a week for the kids to attend both reading and math enrichment sessions. These classes were normally held on Saturday mornings.
Allen is a local product, having played his high school ball at Episcopal Academy. At Episcopal, he helped lead his team to four consecutive Inter-Academic League titles and was the Inter-Ac's MVP as a senior when the Churchmen went 27-2 overall.
Coach Allen and his wife, Aida, live in the Philadelphia area with their four children: twins Jerome (boy) and Taylor (girl), daughter Jordan, and son Roman.