By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – It’s always a whirlwind when a college basketball coach changes schools for a new opportunity. But you have to imagine the transition is a little easier for Ira Bowman. That’s because coming to the University of Pennsylvania as a new men’s assistant is a homecoming and a reunion.
Bowman was a star player for Penn in the mid-90’s after transferring in from Providence, and one of his teammates with the Quakers was current Penn head coach Jerome Allen.
Listen to Matt Leon’s interview with Ira Bowman:
He says he didn’t have to think twice about rejoining the Penn family after four seasons as an assistant at NJIT.
“It was definitely a no-brainer for me,” Bowman tells KYW Newsradio. “Being at an academic institution like Penn, and having gone here, and having been a coach at an academic institution the prior four years, it was definitely a no-brainer and a natural ascension in my coaching career. Speaking with Jerome when (former Penn assistant) Mike Martin got the (head coaching) job at Brown – he called me and it was something I didn’t even have to think about.”
You have to give a tip of the cap to Bowman for the rebuilding job he was a part of during his time at NJIT. The Highlanders went 1-59, combined, the year before he came on staff and in his first season on campus. But in his last two seasons with the program, NJIT went 30-32 and they advanced to the Great West Conference championship game to cap the 2011-12 campaign.
Bowman talks the coaching strengths that were developed at NJIT and that he is bringing to Penn.
“I’m able to relate with the players. I think that my player development skills, that’s something I had been doing before I got into coaching. I’m able to relate with the players, as far as I can meet mostly any player, wherever they are at mentally, and kind of guide them to where we need them to be along the lines of where the program is. Kids look at me and see, I’ve been in there shoes and I’ve been blessed enough to be successful as a high level with the game of basketball, so kids are really willing to listen to me.”
Bowman played for the Quakers from 1994-1996 – he had to sit out the 1993-94 season after transferring – and he says his time wearing the Penn uniform was special.
“It was hard for me sitting out the first year, but getting acclimated and being able to be around Jerome Allen, Matt Maloney, Shawn Trice, Andy Baratta, Eric Moore – just a bunch of guys (that) nothing was more important than team success. Coming from the situation that I had just left (at Providence) where everybody was trying to fix their career so they’d be able to play afterwards, that wasn’t the mindset when I got here. And I think that sitting out that first year did so much for me and watching those guys win an NCAA Tournament game, beat Nebraska and wanted to be a part of that, it was so inspiring and pushed me to work so hard over the year I sat out and the summer before I started to play as a junior.”
And it didn’t take long once Bowman started to play for success to follow. He was the Ivy League Player of the Year as a senior. Accolades like that helped earn him a pro career, which included some stints in the NBA spread over three seasons. Most of that NBA time was spent right here in Philadelphia with the Larry Brown and Allen Iverson led 76ers.
“I just have good memories,” Bowman says of his time with the 76ers. “I think most of the time, Coach Brown concentrated a lot on the guys who didn’t play a lot, and I think that I was one of those guys. The travel, the friends and the people you meet and obviously the competition – you are playing against the best athletes in the world and being able to compete, does wonders for your ego.”
Bowman is not the only new member of Jerome Allen’s staff. Former Friends’ Central (High School) head coach Jason Polykoff also came on board this month.
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