Glen Miller takes over a program that hasn't seen a change at the top since 1989
In November 1989, Douglas Wilder became the first black governor in
the United States, the Germans tore down the Berlin Wall, and Fran
Dunphy coached his first game for Penn.
With that 69-64 triumph over Lehigh, a prolific era in Quakers'
basketball history had officially begun. During his tenure, Dunphy's
teams compiled one top-25 ranking, 10 Ivy League titles and 310 wins -
the most ever in school history. Fondly dubbed "the Dunph," the beloved
taskmaster became synonymous with Penn basketball. An institution unto
himself, the uncanny idea of ever losing Dunphy seemed impossible.
And then, just days after Penn nearly shocked two-seed Texas in last
season's NCAA Tournament, the Red and Blue faithful received a shock of
their own: Their coach was transferring across town to Big 5 rival,
So now, this November, a new era commences for the first time in 17
years. When the Quakers open their season tonight at 5:30 p.m., Glen
Miller will step on the court as the 17th man to coach the Penn men's
"I have a great deal of respect for coach Dunphy," the Quakers'
newest head coach says. "He has had a tremendous amount of success.
With that said, I can't worry about that. My approach is to look at
every day and do the best job I can do. � I can only control what I can
While no rookie Quakers coach has ever had bigger shoes to fill,
Miller's prior success indicates his feet may be just big enough for
Simply put, Miller has made his career out of putting Humpty Dumpty
back together again, beginning at his alma mater, Connecticut, in 1986,
just months after graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in sociology.
"When I first got to UConn, that was the very first year coach [Jim]
Calhoun was there, and the program was at a level where a lot of people
didn't think they should be in the Big East," Miller remembers of his
time as an assistant.
Seven years later, Connecticut was well on its way to becoming a
perennial powerhouse and Miller earned his first head coaching position
at Connecticut College in 1993.
Over the next six years, Miller orchestrated an unprecedented
turnaround, culminating with a 28-1 record and trip to the NCAA
Division-III tournament semi-finals in 1998-99. Soon after, Miller was
promoted to Division-I ball when Brown tagged him as its new head man.
"When I was at Brown, I took over a program that was at rock bottom
in the Ivy League," Miller says of the last place, 4-22, Bears he
inherited. "We only had 16 seasons of .500 ball over 93 years. We
looked at Penn and said this is what we want to turn Brown into. � We
want to model our program in the Ivy League after the University of
By following his current employer's system, Miller revolutionized
Brown basketball. In seven years, the Bears posted four winning seasons
and punched their first ticket to the National Invitational Tournament
in 2003. Despite finishing six games under .500 during his tenure,
Miller led the previously perennial cellar-dweller to a 54-44 mark in
Miller and I have "competed against each other for the last seven
years," says Dunphy, who boasts an 11-3 mark against his successor. "I
have great respect for him. He is a great basketball man and family man.
"He knows what he's doing. He's surrounded by a lot of good guys."
That being said, Penn presents Miller with an entirely different
challenge. There is nothing to fix. The team is not in ruins. Rather,
the program has a rich tradition of winning. What's more, the program
is anxious - and expecting - to take the next big step in the immediate
"The expectation level here is different than most schools," Miller
explains. "The expectation level here is not just to get to the NCAA
Tournament, but to win games in the NCAA Tournament. The support for
the program here is much stronger from the alumni standpoint and the
Adding to the pressure is the fact that Miller is now coaching in
Philadelphia - the city of the Palestra, the Big 5 and arguably the
strongest college-basketball tradition in the county. Thus far,
however, he is taking it all with stride.
"Basketball in the city of Philadelphia is huge. For me, from a
professional standpoint, it's a great situation to be in. This is what
I do for a living. I coach basketball. I don't do anything else. Why
wouldn't you want to be in this environment? I'm enjoying every day of
it," he said.
Joining Miller in his resettlement from Providence are wife Yvonne
and children Tony, Genelle, Jillian and Emma. The Millers now reside in
Morristown, N.J., a convenient 20-minute commute from the coach's
"The proximity is great. These days go by quick. We're in the
office, and it's all basketball - it's recruiting, it's talking to this
person and that person, it's putting together practice plans, it's
advanced scouting for our opponents.
"It seems like I go from Morristown, over the Betsy Ross Bridge,
down 95 and I'm here, and before I know it I'm on my way back," Miller
jokes. "I don't get a chance to go into the city too much."
So what exactly is Miller scheming in his Weightman Hall office all
day? What formula is he concocting to produce a tournament victory,
something Dunphy's teams failed to accomplish in their last eight
"Coach Miller likes to play a little more up-tempo," senior Mark
Zoller says. "He has a different philosophy. He looks at the game a
different way than coach Dunph, and I think as a player, that's
something that you've got to take for what it's worth and use it to
become a better basketball player."
Penn's radio analyst Vince Curran, who played under Dunphy until 1992, has noticed the change of pace as well.
"From what I've seen so far, Glen looks like he wants to force the
tempo up, take the first good shot that presents itself and play the
game with the metronome clicking at a very high rate.
"Some guys should thrive in" this system, continues Curran.
"Obviously, the three seniors are what they are. They'll have great
years regardless of who coaches. A player like Tommy McMahon should
thrive. Miller encourages [taking] the first open jump shot, and he's
going to get a lot of them."
Nevertheless, the Red and Blue Crew should not dread an abandonment
of the traditional physical play that defines Big 5 basketball. Miller
insists there are many similarities between his and Dunphy's systems.
"We will be a movement-team offense, similar to what Penn has been
in previous years. � From a defensive standpoint, we are a
predominantly man-to-man team," also a style Penn has traditionally
Even though many things are staying the same, any change to a new
offensive system is still drastic, as everyone must learn from square
"What's different about that was you had, as a freshman, twelve guys
who already knew the system," last year's Ivy League MVP Ibrahim Jaaber
said. "Dunphy was teaching it to you, and you were learning it, but
there were also twelve other guys helping you.
"It's taking a little longer for the younger guys and the older guys to adjust and get on the same page."
Ivy League rival Princeton recently endured a similar coaching
change. When John Thompson III departed for Georgetown in 2004, the
Tigers chose Joe Scott as his successor. Despite his previous success
at Air Force, Scott stumbled in his first two seasons, leading the
Tigers to a mediocre 27-28 combined record.
As opening tip-off approaches, people close to the team are convinced Miller will not suffer a similar fate.
"He's organized. He's intense. He's self-critical. He really drives
himself," Curran said. "He sees things he doesn't like, and he harps on
himself. He constantly tries to improve. When you're in that mindset of
always wanting to get better and never being satisfied, you are going
to have success."
The man who hired Miller, Penn athletic director Steve Bilsky, could not concur more with Curran's assessment.
Miller "has the drive and motivation, is a very good teacher and
recruiter, knows the Ivy League and has a great respect for Penn
Basketball and its history and traditions," Bilsky said via e-mail.
"The interest for the position was extremely strong, and he has all the
attributes I was looking for."
Now, Bilsky and the Quakers faithful will wait and watch, hoping
that Miller will, sometime down the line, make Dunphy the
second-winningest coach in Penn's history.