It’s been nice to see the deserved praise and excitement over Penn State’s hiring of Pat Chambers as head basketball coach. The program was at a crossroads even before Ed DeChellis unexpectedly left State College at a terrible time. But his departure birthed a new era for PSU hoops, players and coaches alike. It’s a tough time to be forced to hire a basketball coach after the coaching carousel comes to a stop in April. Many of the hot names in the coaching market have landed new gigs or expensive contract extensions, so Penn State didn’t exactly have the cream of the crop when selecting a new coach.
But considering all the circumstances and bad press surrounding the program, Tim Curley, Ed Fogler, and whoever else assisted with this search made a phenomenal hire in Pat Chambers. I was extremely worried with the Ron Everhart and Jeff Lebo talks, but Curley redeemed himself in the end. Here’s a few reasons why Pat Chambers can make a difference in this program:
Attitude. This is going to be Coach Chambers’ motto, I’m sure. We’re going to hear him say it thousands of times while he’s here. But the reality is his ideals, standards, ethics, morals, whatever you want to call them are right in line with Coach DeChellis’, one of Ed’s actual strong-suits. I’m one of those nerds who is tremendously proud of the Success With Honor motto of our athletic department, even if it is a cliche. No, we’re not perfect and not all of our student-athletes are pristine citizens. But DeChellis brought in honorable players into this program and built a strong chemistry with his ‘Family-on-3′ attitude. He made it very easy to root for the players, and it’s a big part of the reason I enjoy this program so much, despite its lack of success. Chambers seems to share these same visions.
His basic MO leads me to believe that this is going to be the polar opposite transition from when Ed took over for Jerry Dunn. I think a lot of the current players on scholarship are going to be convinced to stick around and play for coach Chambers. I don’t expect a situation like Ed suffered, with multiple defections preventing him from fielding a complete team in his first two years. Chambers is a man of integrity, who built BU’s on a foundation of emphasizing the student in student-athlete. Don’t believe me? Check out the last question in this interview when he was first hired as BU head coach:
Some of the players already have been tweeting positive reviews of Chambers.
(See how cool our new site is?)
Now many critics might say his stalement with the scholarship situation is a negative. Penn State will honor their scholarship commitments to the current players and will not allow for them to be ‘run off’, nor do I think Chambers is the kind of guy to attempt that. DeChellis certainly wasn’t a game recruiter and since Battle and company are out, the presumption is Penn State’s cupboard is bare. While Tim Frazier is the only proven commodity, but I believe there are enough parts on the incoming roster to mold together a quality team. Maybe not immediately for next year with such youth and inexperience, but definitely over time. I look forward to seeing what Chambers can make of them.
Pat earned a Marketing degree with a Finance minor when he played for the legendary Herb Magee at Philadelphia University in the early 1990s. He was in the sales field for almost 10 years, while holding down various coaching jobs, which included assistant positions at Delaware Valley, Episcopal Academy, and Philadelphia U. He didn’t get into full-time coaching until becoming Villanova’s Director of Basketball Operations in 2004-2005. From there he progressed to assistant coach for three years, then became Jay Wright’s right-hand associate head coach in 08-09. He moved on from Villanova when he was offered the head job at Boston University, where he’s been the last 2 years. Sorry for the quick bio sidetrack, now back to the topic. If you want a more complete bio, check out PSU’s official release.
Why this background is an important plus on Pat’s resume is because salesman skills are essential for selling the program both to prospective recruits and the fans. BU is a prestigious hockey school, always has been. Basketball is second-fiddle on campus, as the hockey team regularly has priority of the Agganis Arena. This is obviously a similar situation to Penn State, where football is king. Pat, as he showed at BU, is a young guy that can excite the students and attract interest among the PSU apathetic. Ed never excelled in this department. He was just that nice guy that you respected, but never truly got excited about. Pat’s going to be a guy the students are going to love and fight for. He’ll be animated on the sidelines, which that fact alone is going to be a nice change of pace from the previous coach.
At Boston University, he coached hard and recruited well, the two biggest tools in a head coach’s tool belt. But he also recognized that involving the fans and inspiring the campus was key. So he did goofy videos, bringing a cameraman into his home to give fans a day in the life of their head coach. He hopped on a golf cart and toured the campus.
Was it hokey? Sure, but it was fun and it was different and it was young.
I can’t wait to see what gimmicks he comes up with for our program.
3) IN WEST PHILADELPHIA, BORN AND RAISED
I personally think this might be a point that’s over-exaggerated, but regardless, it still is a positive. This program has absolutely no recruiting pipelines anywhere. That’s always been excuse #1 for why PSU basketball sucks. They can’t get players from NYC, Baltimore, DC, and most importantly, Philadelphia. But with coach Chambers, they have a coach who has Philadelphia in his heart and soul. He was born in Radnor, PA, and as mentioned previously, his entire coaching career was in Philadelphia until he took the BU job two years ago. He immediately gives PSU connections in the city that Ed DeChellis couldn’t build after 8 years. I personally don’t think just because Pat Chambers is from Philly, the recruits are going to start flocking to PSU. There is a lot of competition in this hotbed, including Pat’s mentor Jay, who has quite the stranglehold on the area. But if down the road, PSU can tap into Philly, which is virtually untouchable to the rest of the Big Ten…
Pat knows how valuable this can be for our program, too. He’s already making claims:
“We are going to get into Philadelphia,” said Chambers. “We’re gonna recruit Philadelphia hard. But we’re gonna recruit Jersey hard. We’re gonna recruit New York hard. We’re gonna recruit D.C. hard. Wherever the players are that fit The Penn State Way, that’s where we’re gonna be.”
This ties into #2, but Pat Chambers is a guy everyone can get excited about. He’s a go-getter with a very inspirational story with his near death experience when he was stabbed at a bar. He’s a young up and comer, who might be too inexperienced for a jump this big in his very young career. But you gotta love how he responded when Jones asked him that question.
What would he say to fans who might wonder if he’s ready for a leap to the Big Ten?
Without hesitation, Chambers replied: “I would say, ‘Jim Calhoun, Jay Wright, Mike Brey.’”
“I think I can be just as good as those guys,” said Chambers. “Obviously, I have to put the years in and get the wisdom and knowledge and get a great staff around me. But I’m confident we’re gonna turn this thing around.”
He’s saying all the right things, and he truly believes that this can get done. I personally was encouraged to hear him acknowledge the administration’s support that continues to get a terrible rep. He believes in them, they believe in him and it looks like Penn State has a basketball coach capable of making waves in the Big Ten. You just can’t help but get excited about everything this guy says. His press conference is set for Monday at 2:30 PM. I expect it to be awesome.