WHEN THE ALPHABET COMES: A Life Changed by Exposure is in many ways, a confession. Jerome Allen confesses his shortcomings, his sins and regrets, his wavering faith. He also confesses his deep love of family, of North Philadelphia, basketball and hip-hop.
As he recounts the timeline of being charged, convicted, and sentenced in a case that provided federal entre to the Varsity Blues college admissions scandal, he interprets his both his failings and his loves through his faith.
As a child, Allen was exposed to his faith by his father. He was also exposed to multi-generational communal living, where everyone pitches in to meet basic needs. He lived in a world where kids shoot basketballs into milk crates, matriarchs rule large households, and no one in the house owns a car.
By the time he was in junior high, he was being exposed to another world, one that would change the trajectory of his life. Offered the opportunity to attend an elite prep school, Allen discovered how his classmates on the Main Line lived. He found himself being wooed by 16 Division I colleges that competed for his athletic talents in both basketball and football.
Each new door that opened exposed him to a larger world. Counseled by mentors, he chose the University of Pennsylvania, where he'd play basketball and attend the Wharton School of Business. After Penn, he would live in four cities playing in the NBA. He would play ball in Europe. He would spend almost a decade in Italy, exposed to a culture 4,372 miles away from the rowhouses of North Philadelphia. Yet he would return to Philadelphia.
In 2009, he became the Head Coach of Men's Basketball at UPenn. Allen's world view had been expanded by exposure to the best schools and travel. But in 2018, when the story broke that he'd accepted a bribe while coaching at Penn, he wasn't taking in the sights on the Via Condotti, he was being exposed — in every media outlet imaginable.
Allen has never wavered from taking responsibility for his actions. In When the Alphabet Comes, he documents the shock waves that being exposed created within his intimate relationships, as well as the strain of juggling his work as an assistant coach for the Boston Celtics with court appearances.
At every step in this journey, his faith matures. From Why Me? to How can I use this to help others, God? Allen takes a hard look at how we get beyond shame and blame and despair to begin the process of redemption.