Penn coach Steve Donahue emphasizes family culture
by Joe Juliano
Go to the Penn basketball Twitter feed and you'll always see the same word at the end of a tweet, a hashtag followed by whanau.
Quakers coach Steve Donahue discovered the word reading the book Legacy by James Kerr, an account of the Maori All-Blacks rugby team from New Zealand. Whanau, which Donahue said is pronounced "fah-now," means "extended family," including friends who are not related to other members.
Donahue, now in his second season as Penn's head coach, has made whanau front and center as he attempts to build a team culture patterned after one of the world's most successful rugby squads.
"I gave the guys the book to read when I got here," he said. "We all got together. Afterwards, I took that word to be more than just family. It's going to help us develop the culture that I want for Penn basketball. It kind of means setting high standards and having peer-to-peer enforcement.
"That's essentially what we do. It's family 24/7. We're not just teammates, we're more than that, and we're going to do this together. I thought the reminder of that daily is just putting that in perspective each and every day we go out and play."
A few weeks ago, Donahue had his players wear "All Are One" practice jerseys, which he said would be a regular occurrence on Monday. He wrote then on Twitter that the team's mission is to win and that "we can't care how things get done or who gets it done."
Donahue said given that "so many kids played last year and they're not playing as much, or they didn't play last year and now they are," he wanted to "reemphasize all the things we're trying to develop here and have our culture be."
"It's all about us," he said. "That was the impetus for the "One" on the jersey. But the kids have been great. They've really competed. They all understand that we're trying to build this. It's going to take some sacrifice, and they've been good about it."
The Quakers, who are 7-9 and 0-3 in the Ivy League, return to league play for the first time in 20 days on Friday night at Harvard. They played two Big Five games in the interim, losing to St. Joseph's, 78-71, on Jan. 21 and winning at La Salle, 77-74, on Jan. 25.
With freshman A.J. Brodeur pouring in 35 points, the Quakers posted their first road victory in a City Series game since Jan. 18, 2007, when the Explorers were the opponent.
"La Salle's a really good team, so a win like that gives you confidence," he said. "It kind of reinforces all the things I'm talking about. We know we have our work cut out for us in the league . . . we dug ourselves a hole. But I'm pretty confident that we're playing as good a basketball as we have, and I think we're going to continue to play better."