There are many reasons we love our team chaplains at Neumann University. One of them is the volunteer aspect of the “job,” and our student-athletes often feel the love when they realize their team chaplains are present out of choice, not coercion or necessity.
So, too, did Neumann Women’s Basketball feel that kind of love for the past twelve years from Jerry Dallahan, one of their biggest fans according to Head Coach Frank Farnese.
Jerry, who passed away suddenly on Saturday, was a regular figure in the stands at Neumann, at practices, and even at road games for years. He grew up in Neumann’s home of Delaware County, PA and became known as a local basketball legend for his love of the game, organization of local leagues, and support for a number of teams, most especially Neumann Women’s Basketball.
Dallahan and Farnese first met when Frank was coaching at nearby Penn State Brandywine. When Farnese moved to Neumann to coach at his alma mater, Dallahan followed him and supported the team from the stands – during most games and many practices, too – every season since.
“[Jerry] was a coaching mentor to me,” said Farnese. “He taught me a lot about the game, gave me advice, and would always offer praise when we won or, when we lost, he’d help me through the loss.”
It all stemmed, notes Farnese, from both Jerry’s love of basketball and his devotion to mentoring. That spirit led Dallahan to transfer the love onto the court where he’d regularly offer advice, constructive criticism and, through both wins and losses, consistent high-fives.
Brittany Whetts-Robinson, who played for Neumann from 2006-2010 and is the team’s all-time leading scorer and now assistant coach, remembers Dallahan fondly. From the perspectives of a player, a coach, and a person, she said, Jerry treated everyone with encouragement and positivity. His presence was so natural and consistent, in fact, that both she and the team thought it strange if he wasn’t at practice or at a game. Jerry didn’t stop at home games, either; he often traveled with the team, and he and his wife even paid their own way to see the team play in Florida.
“Jerry was very loved, very visible, and always present,” said Brittany. “He genuinely cared. I’m not just speaking for myself, but for my teammates – you could always look to him for positive feedback.”
It was love in action, Coach Farnese agrees, and it played out in many hours, days, weeks, and years that Dallahan gave freely to support the team.
“He was the kind of guy who would stay after our practices and work with our shooters, getting on the court and passing the ball back to them. Any player who was struggling he’d give words of encouragement,” said Farnese. “He was very constructive. He’d tell you what you could do better, but say, ‘hey, the shot’s not going in today, but it might tomorrow.'”
For all his devotion to Neumann basketball, Jerry Dallahan never did pursue the opportunity to coach. Though Coach Farnese offered on more than one occasion, he and his wife, Elizabeth, loved being fans in the stands and, logistically, also wanted to support other favorite teams, including men’s teams at Widener University and Fordham University.
But, when Neumann played a special game at Madison Square Garden against conference rival Cabrini University several years ago, Farnese asked Dallahan to sit on the bench as an honorary assistant coach. Dallahan accepted, making an already special game that much more extraordinary. It was a memorable moment, said Coach Farnese, and one he felt Dallahan fully deserved.
“Jerry defines loyalty,” said Farnese. “He is as loyal as anybody gets. He’d wait for you after the game, every player would get a high five or a ‘great job’…he was really a coach behind the scenes.”
Neumann plays their next game on Friday, December 30th at home against Widener. It will be difficult not to see Jerry sitting in his usual place in the stands, a spot he’d often occupy with his wife and Coach Farnese’s parents. But, said Brittany Whetts-Robinson, her and her team’s relationship with Dallahan never changed – not after the season, not after they graduated, and not now, almost seven years after her tenure as a student-athlete on the court. The impact he made on the team, assuredly, will not diminish with his passing.
More information on Jerry is available here, including visitation hours in Morton, PA on December 22nd and 23rd.