Perry Bromwell, an all-time great for Penn, is back at the Palestra - but his new job is a challenge
Perry Bromwell has been here before.
He was sinking shots on this hardwood before the three-point arc was
ever conceived. And when the three was invented, he sunk those here,
too - 50.6 percent of the time, a Penn record.
He sported red and blue when basketball shorts would not think of
grazing the knees. He looked up at Ivy championship banners when there
were 12 - and added two more by his 1987 graduation.
As a player, he owned the place. He prided himself on playing both
ends of the court. Three times, his teammates recognized him as their
Most Valuable Player. Two times, he was Penn's Best Defensive Player.
Between 1984 and 1987, in his three seasons after transferring from
Manhattan College, he was accountable for 1,265 Quakers points.
It's been almost 20 years, but Perry Bromwell once again has a seat
on the Palestra's west bench - this time, as a Quakers assistant coach.
"It gives me chills sometimes thinking about the experiences of 20
years ago and today," coach Bromwell said, before adding: "It's totally
different as a player and a coach."
Bromwell sometimes enters varsity practice after the other staffers
- even some of the players. Grinning like he knows something that you
have yet to learn, he walks slowly across the court atop Weightman
Hall. He has a presence amongst the players.
He still owns the place.
Perhaps because Bromwell doesn't have the average coach's job description.
"Coach Bromwell is a real interesting guy," senior Stephen Danley
said. "He is a wealth of knowledge and we have to take the initiative
and use it. He is not always the first man out there in practice or the
loudest guy, but the more you get to know him the more he can share
This worldliness grew from a literally worldly career. From the
Palestra, Bromwell showed off his skills in England, Norway and the
Philippines. He even earned his first coaching opportunity as a
player-coach for the Nottingham Cobras before returning to the States
"Our [American] players are more interested in playing the athletic
game," Bromwell said, contrasting Europe's emphasis on fundamentals.
"I'm really big on skill development, defense � little nuances that in
the grand scheme of things the head coach may not have time to address."
After short stints at Ursinus and Frostburg State, Bromwell moved to Florida in 2000 to teach and coach at a high school level.
At this time last year, a change in lifestyle seemed unlikely. But
when Fran Dunphy departed for Temple last spring, Bromwell readily
approached his alma mater about a coaching position.
"I was really interested in getting someone that had prior
experience at Penn as a player," head coach Glen Miller said. "Perry,
having been a great player here and having a background in coaching,
was a perfect fit."
Conveniently, most of Bromwell's family resides in Philadelphia, which made the move a no-brainer.
Being a volunteer assistant coach, Bromwell pays the bills by
distributing a nutrional supplement called E3Live for Vision
On Vision's website, Bromwell's product is dubbed the "Invisible
Flower of the Water." Harvested at the bottom of Crater Lake in
southern Oregon, this blue-green algae is frozen alive for consumption
with a multitude of health and dietary benefits.
But when Bromwell is not selling E3Live to gyms, smoothie bars, and
health food stores, he is buying as much time as he can with Penn hoops.
With the varsity, the former star returns to the role of assistant
for the first time since 2000 - a role that presents its own share of
"When you become a coach, you find that some things you have to know
how to implement," he said. "That's a challenge all assistants have �
The chemistry and timing has to be right - picking your spots and
helping out the best you can.
On occasion, Bromwell will demonstrate defensive drills in practice, emanating an aura of athletic prowess.
"We all call him The Pistol," Danley said. "We joke that he could
put on some shorts and play with us. You can just tell he was a good
basketball player, the way he moves and acts on the court�shows that he
was a different type of player."
Bromwell has also seized the chance to be the head coach of Penn's
junior varsity team, where captain Peter Feldman will also vouch for
the former defensive stud's niche.
"He really emphasizes defense," Feldman said. "He's not the
disciplinarian that maybe some other coaches are. He's a pretty
positive guy. He rewards hard work."
Bromwell is a quiet leader and a shrewd operator. Feldman recalled
one time when the JV coach made some last-minute preparations for an
opponent keen on the full-court press. Rather than take the
conventional pregame warm-ups, Bromwell ran his team through the
Palestra and a back alleyway into the adjacent Hutchinson Gymnasium,
just to keep the press-breaking drills secret.
What is not a secret is how much Bromwell has meant to Penn all over again.
"He's been a terrific addition," Miller said. "He's level-headed,
even-tempered and works very well with the players. He gives us a lot
of insight and good observations. He has a lot to do with our
development and our success at this point in the season."
Now, with just ten games remaining, it is Bromwell's goal to get
back to the NCAA Tournament. And while he will not be able to
contribute 19 points like he did in Penn's first round 113-82 loss to
North Carolina in 1987, maybe an older, wiser Bromwell will help
produce his first tourney win.