Most years, Fran O’Hanlon’s Lafayette teams are overmatched by the mighty Penn Quakers from the Ivy League. But on Sunday, host Lafayette had its way with undermanned Penn as O’Hanlon earned a rare win over the team he used to coach.
That’s just the way things have been going for the Quakers, who at 0-10 are still looking for ways to beat anyone this season.
“I’m not used to seeing Penn struggle or my friends struggle,” said O’Hanlon when contacted by Penn Gazette Sports. Since leaving his post as an assistant at Penn in 1995 to take over as head coach at Lafayette College, O’Hanlon has only beaten the Quakers three times in 14 tries – with two of those wins coming in the last three seasons.
“I love those guys dearly – Vince (Curran) and Jerome (Allen) and Johnny Gal(lagher),” he continued. “And I love Penn. They have had a lot of misfortune there.”
I’m sure Penn fans aren’t looking for pity, but O’Hanlon – who guided the Leopards to three consecutive Patriot League championships from 1998-2000 before being passed by other schools who began to give scholarships – certainly has some for the Quakers. And that’s simply because how close he is with the team’s staff.
He coached Curran and Allen at Penn, and worked alongside Gallagher at Lafayette. He has great respect for all of them, especially the Quakers’ new head coach.
When asked about Allen, O’Hanlon recounted two stories about the former Penn star that show a lot about his character:
He remembers hearing about how the Germantown native would wait for the playground doors to open while reading his math book because he wanted to pass the entrance exam to get into Episcopal Academy. And he vividly recalls the scene in the locker room after Penn lost to Alabama in the 1995 NCAA tournament – how Allen refused to take his jersey off because he didn’t want his career to end.
“I have not coached a more coachable player and liked anyone better than Jerome,” O’Hanlon said. “He’s 1 and 1A on my list. … As good as he was as player, he’s even better as a person. People like me wouldn’t work in this profession if it weren’t for people like Jerome. … I only want Jerome and Johnny Gal and Vince to do well and I’ll help them in any way I can.”
Would that help include taking over as head coach at season’s end if asked? As I expected, O’Hanlon did not wish to comment on whether he’d be interested in returning to Penn. But if athletic director Steve Bilsky decides he needs more experience on the bench, O’Hanlon would be a logical choice as someone who would mesh well with Allen, Gallagher and Curran – and also someone who’s a proven winner at a non-scholarship school. Plus, I’d be inclined to believe that O’Hanlon would still consider the job a step up, while that may not be the case anymore for other successful coaches with Penn ties like Fran McCaffery and Steve Donahue.
Either way, O’Hanlon has thrown his support behind Allen, who he thinks will be a fine coach, if only because he’s been surrounded by fine coaches his entire life. And he knows Penn’s tradition will soon be restored.
“It’s too good of an institution and too rich in tradition that things won’t get better,” he said. “It will be back to the championship level that it had in the past.”
And one more thing:
“Go Quakers,” the Lafayette coach said before hanging up. “I’m a huge Quakers fan.”