Matt Maloney C’95 and Kelly Greenberg both practically grew up going to Big 5 games at the Palestra. Maloney would watch Temple, where his dad, the late Jim Maloney, was a longtime assistant coach, while Greenberg followed La Salle, where her brother, father and uncle all played.
These days, however, Maloney and Greenberg don’t visit the historic gym on 33rd Street as much as they used to. Maloney, who teamed with Penn head coach Jerome Allen in the backcourt to lead the Quakers to a 42-0 Ivy League record from 1993-95, is currently enjoying his retirement from the NBA in Houston, while Greenberg, who starred as a La Salle player before coaching the Penn women from 1999 to 2004, is currently the head coach at Boston University.
But for a few hours on Tuesday, both returned to the place that meant so much to them as Maloney and Greenberg were inducted into the Big 5 Hall of Fame. It’s a well-deserved honor and I was lucky enough to be there and write about it for CSNPhilly.com. For more on what they said about the induction, I’ve included quotes from both Maloney and Greenberg, which you can find below:
On the induction: It’s incredible. I haven’t been back here in a decade. Once I walked through the door, a bunch of emotions came flooding back – not only from my days playing here but just going to games when I was younger. There’s just an incredible atmosphere and history and tradition of the Big 5, and it’s just incredible to be a part of right now.
On the legendary Matt Maloney-Jerome Allen backcourt: Well, I think it’s more Allen-Maloney. If you ask me, he was one of the best players in Big 5 history. He entailed everything you want in a great player. I just tried my best to not embarrass myself around him more than anything. He taught me so much about game. It was just an incredible experience playing with him. I’m just so happy he’s the coach here. I think it’s great for Penn basketball.
On the Allen/Maloney-led Penn teams that went 42-0 in the Ivy League: Our teams went on a great run and it wasn’t solely because of one or two people. And Fran Dunphy was a great coach. Being part of that ride was fun. Every game we played there wasn’t anyone we felt we couldn’t beat.
Maloney was the Ivy League Player of the Year in his senior season (1994-95)
On playing in the NBA from 1996-2003: I was incredibly fortunate. I know I worked hard to get the opportunity but it’s about someone giving you the opportunity above and beyond. [Former Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich] gave me the opportunity to start and stuck with me for three years down there. And my teammates gave me all the confidence in the world.
On playing with Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler for the Rockets: They were the original Big 3, right? It was incredible. It was kind of easy. You dribble down, you throw the ball to one of them and just watch. It was a great experience. I was very fortunate to get the opportunity.
On possibly returning to basketball: I’m getting perspective on what I want to do. I don’t know. I definitely want to give back what my dad gave me – all the knowledge of basketball. Whatever opportunity comes up, I’ll consider and go from there. … Eventually, I will do something on the basketball level.
On Allen being Penn’s head coach: I was so excited. I knew it would be so good for Penn. He’s got so much knowledge of the game and he’s such a great leader. He commands respect for how good he was. Just being in a room and talking basketball, I know players respect him. He’s really turned the program around, and he’s just started.
On his decision to transfer to Penn after one season at Vanderbilt: I originally wanted to do so it so my dad could see me play. I ended up at Penn and the education I got here was one of the best in the world. And the opportunity to play for Coach Dunphy was incredible. He’s one of the best coaches in the game and Jerome was one of the best players in the game. It was just walking into a perfect-storm situation.
On his most memorable Palestra moment: I remember my first game here at Penn, how nervous I was. From what I recall, I was never really nervous before games. My first game in the NBA, I wasn’t nervous. But my first game here, playing for my hometown team, I was so nervous. I would say that’s the biggest moment – the atmosphere of playing here rather than being in the stands and watching.
On what he thought about when he returned to the Palestra for the first time in more than a decade: Walking down the ramp, it brought back all the memories of me walking down that thing going to practices. Going to Temple practices when I was younger. The first time I met John Chaney down here was a big experience for me when I was kid. Sitting here, now looking around, I remember when they threw streamers on the floor. A lot of different memories hit me.
On the induction: It’s a tremendous honor, it really is. It’s funny, when people mention the Big 5 to me, I don’t think of when I played and don’t think of when I coached. I actually think of when I was a little girl and when I came here. It’s just a tremendous honor to have my name put up on the wall with all of the legendary players and coaches and media people. I’m very fortunate. I don’t think I was a star player or a star coach in any way. I just happened to be involved with people that really won a lot and I’m really lucky.
On her family ties to the Big 5: My brother, dad and uncle played at La Salle. My dad and uncle weren’t in the actual Big 5; they played before the Big 5. Coming here in fourth and fifth grade, I remember the banners and streamers. And then becoming a player and realizing there’s a whole new side to it. I always knew the men and by the time I got to college, the women started having a Big 5 of their own. I got to experience both sides to it.
On how this day compared to when she was unveiled as the new Penn coach in 1999: That really was a great day for me. It was a great day for my family and me being back home and being able to coach my home games in this legendary building. That was a magical five years for us. As an assistant coach for so many years, you finally get a chance and I thank Steve Bilsky for giving me that opportunity. What’s special about today is all 11 of my siblings are here. The 12 of us don’t get together too often anymore because there’s much going on. That’s mostly my fault, to be honest.
On if she misses Philadelphia: I definitely do. I miss the basketball part of it and I really miss my family. Up at BU, I feel like we’ve got something really special going on but my family is not a part of it, so that’s the one thing I do miss a lot.
Greenberg coached Penn to two Ivy League championships in five years at the helm
On if it was a hard decision to leave Penn for Boston: It was. At the time, it was very hard. It wasn’t like I had to get the heck out of Penn but I felt ready for a different challenge. I lived up in Boston during my 20s and loved it. BU’s a great place. I really enjoy it. That first year-and-a-half, you always worry if you did the right thing. But I did. And my time at Penn is a great memory.
On her best memory at Penn: I remember [in 2000-01] when we kept winning and went undefeated [in the Ivy League and went to the program’s first-ever NCAA tournament]. That was so special because of the senior class of Claire Cavanaugh, Erin Ladley, Liz Alexander, Jess Allen and of course Diana [Caramanico]. I remember every single game and we squeaked out of so many of those Ivy League games. I really remember games more than anything. To be honest with you, as a coach, I can do without an office. I really remember the practices and the games and the players of course.
On keeping up with Penn women’s basketball after leaving (following Penn’s second trip to the NCAA tourney in 2004): In the beginning, when Amanda [Kammes] and [Jessica Fleischer] and them were finishing up their careers and I wasn’t here, I certainly kept in touch. But it’s really hard when you have your own program and start getting pulled and you just don’t have the time. I’m not a real Internet person but when I could check the papers early on, I certainly did. And now it’s just so different and I don’t know any of the players. But I still want them to do well, of course. I keep in touch with players I coached at Penn. I went to Diana’s wedding. I went to Tara [Twomey’s] wedding. I’ve seen Claire’s kids. So you know, they’re all special people in my life.