By Ed Benkin
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Steve Donahue has come home. Now, he is hoping to turn Penn back into a contender.
The Delaware Valley native was named the 20th men’s basketball coach in Penn history. Donahue had worked at Penn as an assistant under Fran Dunphy before serving as a head coach at Cornell and Boston College. After a year off of coaching, Donahue intends to turn around a Penn program which has fallen on hard times. After years of dominating the Ivy League with Princeton, the Quakers have struggled in recent years and finished 9-19 this past season.
“We’re not where we want to be,” said Donahue. “We want to get back on top of where we belong. I will roll up my sleeves and work as hard as I can to make sure that happens.”
Donahue takes over for Jerome Allen, who was let go at the end of the season. While Donahue was thrilled to take over the program, he had high praise for Allen, who Donahue worked with at Penn as an assistant during Allen’s playing days.
“I’m grateful and I’m really proud,” Donahue said. “I would be remiss to say it’s not bittersweet for me to replace someone like Jerome Allen. He had a lot to do not only with this program but with my development as a coach.”
Donahue’s development brought him to Cornell as a head coach, where he led the Big Red to a surprising run to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament in 2010. Donahue moved on to Boston College, but went 54-76 before being fired at the end of the the 2013-14 season. Donahue was ready to get back into coaching and appeared to have several opportunities, but felt coming back home gave him the best chance to win.
“I love Philadelphia,” said Donahue. “I love everything about it, but it had little to do with this decision, in all honesty. The decision, based on my research with what institutions were going to open, was this was flat out the best spot to win.”
Donahue had spent much of his life in the Philadelphia area and attended plenty of Big 5 games throughout his life. Now, he is party of the Big 5 coaching fraternity.
“I never dreamed I could be a Big 5 head coach,” Donahue said. “There’s only five of us, and to imagine that I’m one of them is incredibly overwhelming.”