by Kevin Dicciani
Paul A. Hutter, formerly of Mt. Airy, has authored a book, “The Golden Age of Ivy League Basketball: From Bill Bradley to Penn’s Final Four (1964-1979),” which details the rich history of Ivy League basketball and its prominence in the Philadelphia area.
Born in Pittsburgh, Hutter and his parents, Joseph and Nancy, moved in 1963 to Anderson Street in Mt. Airy when Hutter was 12 years old. During that time was when Hutter, now 62, fell in love with the game of basketball. For him, it was inescapable.
“When I got to Philadelphia, everyone played basketball,” Hutter said. “Basketball was the big sport, more than baseball, football, so forth. It was the thing to do.”
Hutter honed his skills playing pickup games at the Water Tower and CYO basketball at St. Theresa’s. In eighth grade, he transfered to Germantown Academy, putting his time and his skills on the court to good use.
At GA, Hutter led its basketball team to Interact Championships in ’67, ’68 and ’69. In ’68, the team went on to be ranked #1 in Philadelphia, with one sports writer ranking them best in the state. His talents weren’t confined just to the hardwood floor, though. He also played football – well enough to be named Inter-Ac Player of the Year in 1970, his senior year, the same year he also won the award for basketball. In addition to those accolades, he held the GA scoring record with 1,626 points, which was later broken in 1993 by future NBA player Alvin Williams.
Following his high school graduation, Hutter played basketball in various summer leagues, competing against a myriad of talents, such as former Philadelphia 76er Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, the father of Kobe Bryant. His skills led to him being “lightly recruited” by the University of Pennsylvania and Digger Phelps, although he eventually decided to attend Princeton University, where he played on its basketball team as a freshmen.
After graduating from Princeton in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree in political science, Hutter worked as a bond specialist on Wall Street with HSBC before joining the Lehman Brothers firm. It was there, writing financial and economic reports, that Hutter discovered that writing came naturally to him and that it was something he could see himself doing in the future, especially when it pertained to basketball. But it would take years for inspiration to guide his pen to the page – inspiration, which, as coincidental it may seem, came from the least expected of sources.
In the NBA in February of 2012, an undrafted and unknown point guard from Harvard named Jeremy Lin skyrocketed to fame on the New York Knicks. He was the first Ivy League player since Yale’s Chris Dudley played in the league in 2003, and the first player in NBA history to score at least 20 points and record seven assists in each of his first five starts. The mania surrounding him was so palpable and ubiquitous that the mainstream media dubbed it “Linsanity.”
Soon after, Hutter saw an article in the New York Times referring to the Golden Age of Ivy League basketball “when elite universities had elite basketball teams to match.”
Hutter spoke with friends about how good the Ivy League used to be, “as good as Duke and North Carolina are today on regular basis,” and that’s when one of his friends suggested that he write a book explaining that period in history. So, Hutter took his friend up on his offer and, with bottled passion, sat down and began writing.
“In writing the book,” Hutter said, “I was just trying to connect the Jeremy Lin episode to the pre and post-Bill Bradley era of the Ivy League. It crosses back and forth between then and now, explaining how strong and important the Ivy League used to be back in the day.
“As I got further into the book though, I couldn’t write about the Ivy League and not mention Penn basketball, including the Palestra and the Big 5 history, the history of Philadelphia basketball. Philadelphians understand the history of Penn and Ivy League basketball because the two are intertwined. The Penn-Princeton connection is something they’ll always remember. Philadelphia really is the cradle of American basketball.”
The book, a meticulously detailed account of the Ivy League, is a basketball junkie’s dream, complete with anecdotes, statistics, trivia, and comparative analysis. For fans of Philadelphia basketball and its history, the writing could not be more engrossing, as Hutter handles the material with a jeweler’s eye and the heart of a fanatical devotee.
Hutter, who currently lives in White Plains, N.Y., is married with three children. He is still involved in Princeton basketball and attends games whenever the opportunity arises. His parents reside in Hill House in Chestnut Hill, where he visits several times a year.
Whenever he does visit Philadelphia, Hutter keeps an eye on the city and basketball teams that helped nourish his love of the game. But, when asked if he still laces up his sneakers and plays a game or two, he responds:
“These days not so much,” he said. “At my age it’s easier to write about basketball than it is to play it.”