You remember, right? The days when the biggest amateur games were held in the Palestra, the Mecca of college basketball. The doubleheaders between Penn and Temple followed by the Holy War between Villanova and St.Joes?

The Good Ol’ Days


That moment the first shot went through the net and the streamers rained onto the court from every direction? Penny candy? 50 cent sodas? Twilight Zone getting reboots? Yeah, me either; I was born the day the Phillies won the NLCS, but maybe we don’t have to go back that far. 

How’d We Get Here?

The round-robin style tournament started in 1956 and is still used to this day; it’s set up this way to eliminate the need for an actual championship game. Originally, the “aw” began and ended with the Palestra. Les Keiter, the voice of the Big 5 in the ‘60s said “I’ve broadcasted games all over the world and no matter where I was, I would always say, ‘You don’t know what it’s like until you walk into the Palestra. You talk about the Field of Dreams in baseball, this was my Field of Dreams.’ The mystique and the history of the place are unparalleled.When you first come through the doors there’s a certain feeling that you get that just transcends the moment.” Time went on, college basketball began to take off and as conferences began to solidify, the city began to feel a bit more spread out. The Palestra suddenly didn’t hold the most interesting tournament, that crown was passed onto the NIT, which most people now consider the little, less cool brother of the NCAA tournament. Like James and Tom Franco.Anyway, the Big 5 kept its flare throughout the ’80s and 90’s as names like John Cheney, Rollie Massimino, Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, and Tony Price elevated the city’s poll position in college basketball. So how did we get here? No one really knows, some blame it on Drexel jumping at the window trying to see what’s going on inside the clubhouse, others blame it on the predictability factor, a serious case can be made for the fact that all good things come to an end…but I think I speak for everyone with a 215, 267, 484 or 610 area code when I say that’s unacceptable. 

“So, You’re Telling Me There’s a Chance?”

Once again we’re in a familiar space. You know, that time of year when basketball is almost non-existent. But even as basketball around the world is taking a hiatus from the court, the upcoming season is shaping up to be one the most exciting ever.First off, Penn is the Big 5’s most recent champs after ending Villanova’s 5-year run. LaSalle’s head coach Ashley Howard is entering his second year and even Ray Charles could see how quickly he’s turning the culture around. Villanova, for the first time in a while, doesn’t have a single senior on the roster. St.Joes and Temple are no longer in the era of Dunphy and Martelli because now Aaron McKie leads the Owls and The Hawk looks to be revived through the multifaceted coaching mind of Billy Lange; a man who coached alongside Jay Wright before helping the Sixers realize The Process as an assistant to Brett Brown.As I type this I realize there’s no maybe about it, the Big 5 is not going to be what it used to be. The old days were the old days, and we honor them as such, we relive them through game film, war stories, and memorabilia, but we can’t bring them back. That might not be a bad thing though.

Between these five legendary coaches and the ever-revolving door of great players mixed in with the impalpable buzz that surrounds the city,  maybe the Big 5 is about to be better than ever.

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