Without question, the positive reactions amongst the Penn State faithful and PSU beat writers to the hiring of Pat Chambers have been nearly unanimous in comparison to Ed DeChellis’ hiring eight years ago. Please note the italicizing of the “nearly” in that previous sentence, that’s because Brad Wilson, a sportswriter for the Lehigh Valley Express-Times, has stepped up to play the role of “Debbie Downer,” criticizing the athletic department for not hiring a ‘name’ coach, and doing so by making false analogies to the wrestling and football programs:
…But Chambers raises hardly a blip on the national college basketball scene. Recruits won’t be flocking to State College because of Pat Chambers.
In contrast, remember what Penn State did when it had another head coaching job open for a winter sport. The Lions went out and paid a lot of money to get one of wrestling’s living legends, Cael Sanderson, to leave an established national program (and his alma mater) at Iowa State to come to Penn State.
Result: A national championship.
If PSU were that interested in winning in men’s basketball, it would have made a similar splash. Instead of hiring a Jay Wright assistant, the Nits could have lured, well, Jay Wright. Butler’s Brad Stevens would have been a huge “get.” Perhaps Virginia’s Tony Bennett?
That’s taking a sport seriously.
Yes, forget about the fact that Penn State has established decades upon decades of consistent success and enjoys infinitely larger booster support in wrestling and football to the point where they are highly attractive jobs to the biggest names in their respective coaching fraternities. Forget about the fact that Penn State has long been derided by sportswriters and coaches over the years as a basketball wasteland. Forget about the fact that Brad Stevens is happy at Butler, or that Tony Bennett is already coaching in the ACC at a program far more prestigious than PSU’s, this hire was a failure because Pat Chambers’ name isn’t being parroted on ESPN or the other major sports channels with the likes of Stevens, Shaka Smart, both of whom were ‘no name’ coaches themselves not that long ago.
Here’s another fun fact: Did you know that nearly half of Chambers’ roster at Boston U was comprised of Pennsylvanians? It takes one hell of a salesman to get that many PA kids to come play for some low-major school in the middle of New England, the same type of salesman PSU needs in order to steal some quality recruits from Philadelphia, New York, and the Baltimore/DC region. No, Chambers and his staff will not land guys who otherwise would have gone to Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, UNC, or some other hoops factory. However, the talent pool in Division 1 basketball recruiting is drastically larger compared to its football counterpart, and you can sure as hell bet that this incoming staff will find those kids with NBA-level talent who aren’t quite getting looks from the aforementioned schools, but can help transform PSU into an consistent winner, the likes of which is landing NCAA Tournament bids on practically a yearly basis.
And if none of the above has you convinced that this hire is different from the previous few, allow me to remind you that Coach Chambers was stabbed in the neck. He’s seen firsthand the preciousness of life and how it can be taken away from us in an instant. It’s what persuaded him to trade in his lavish lifestyle as a successful salesman in order to pursue the nitty-gritty world of collegiate basketball coaching. Boundaries do not exist in his mind, and he laughs in the face of sportswriters like Wilson who suggest that he will be the next in a long line of coaches to fail in making Penn State basketball into a very pleasant distraction from football during the long, cold, winter months.
So yes, Mr. Critical Sportswriter, keep on doubting this hire. Coach Chambers is huffing your noxious fumes of negativity and using it to fuel his Tasmanian Devil-like drive for success.