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Pat Chambers Should Be the Next Coach at PSU

Submitted by on May 30, 20114 Comments

When Ed DeChellis left Penn State, under strange, and immediately unclear circumstances, I met the news not with the unbridled excitement of a long awaited accomplishment, but with skepticism, with confusion, and, perhaps, with a hint of cautious optimism.

Of course, though the man I’d been railing against for more than a year was finally separated by the institution I love, the outcome of his untimely departure put Penn State behind the proverbial eight ball. It left the fates of our incoming recruits  in the air, and, of course, posed the difficulty of naming a replacement for the departing DeChellis. Although the latest hires have been relatively high-profile, even in relatively inconspicuous sports (see: Jeff Tambroni, Bob Warming, and Cael Sanderson), the recurring theme of the Penn State powers that be ignoring the men’s basketball program has long been established, and equally maligned.

With the coaching carousel all but stopped for the summer, one could not guess the direction Tim Curley would go in hiring a new coach. I half expected Dan Earl or Kurt Kanaskie to be named “interim coach,” and for that tag to last longer than anyone, but either of them, would have liked. Thankfully, he has made this search a truly national one by employing Eddie Fogler to assist, and looking beyond the Penn State family, as he is nearly certain to do, is the only way this situation can have the payoff we figured it might.

8 years ago, Curley had the chance to hire Steve Lavin–who brought UCLA to the Sweet 16 or deeper in 5 of his 7 years–or Fran Dunphy–who dominated the Ivy League at Penn–but instead put his faith behind a coach whose greatest asset was that he was a dedicated Penn Stater, who’d accept lesser pay and stay out of trouble.

It’s overdue, but nearly a decade later, he has the opportunity to right that wrong. And though a number of candidates, both confirmed and rumored, offer impressive resumes, and possess the ability to turn around a program so desperately in need of fresh blood, one is separated from the pack. As you may have surmised–it’s the freaking title of the post, after all–we at quebecpenspinning believe that man is Pat Chambers, and fully endorse his candidacy to become the next coach of the Nittany Lions.

Whatever credentials one might require for the job, Chambers fulfills them in spades. You want someone who has significant experience at a top program? Chambers was a top assistant at a successful program for a number of years, where he was known and respected as a phenomenal recruiter. A guy who had success after branching out on his own? Well, after that, he moved on to a mid-major program, and took a team that hadn’t reached the NCAA tournament in 7 years there in his second. Looking for the anti-DeChellis? Chambers is young, energetic, and a force on the recruiting trail. Are you going to require that he’s got some connection to our school? Well, Chambers has a link to Penn State–it’s the alma mater of three siblings.

Chambers has worked his way up since his college days, when he walked on the team at Division II Philadelphia University and sooner rather than later became the school’s assist leader as he led the team to four D-2 Sweet 16s, and two Elite-Eights. He’s worked his way up the coaching ladder since, first working as an assistant at tiny Delaware Valley College–enrollment 1,600–then moving on to coach top prep schools, before returning to his alma mater for a 4-year coaching stint that caught the eye of Jay Wright. For five years, he gained the experience of working for a winner, eventually becoming the associate head coach, recruiting coordinator, and Wright’s right-hand man before moving on.

Those at Boston University had grown frustrated with Dennis Wolff, and Pat Chambers, even in two short years, has impressed the fanbase. The only question they asked was how long he would remain at BU, before some other, bigger fish, would steal him away.

At Boston University, he’s reinvigorated a mid-major that, despite historic successes, had fallen into disarray. Upon his hire, Chambers said that he wanted to turn BU into “the Gonzaga of the Northeast” and he’s backed the bluster up. In his first year, he guided the team to an 11-5 conference record, an upset win at Indiana, and a stunning upset of conference champions Stony Brook in the semifinals of the America East conference tournament, before bowing out to Vermont–but the team was invited to the CBI, and reached the semifinals, losing only to eventual champions VCU. This year, he went one step further, guiding Boston University to the NCAA tournament where they hung with Kansas for 35 minutes before falling to the #1 seed.

Chambers was responsible for bringing in most of Villanova’s top talent, including players like the Coreys Fisher and Stokes, Maalik Wayans, Isaiah Armwood and Mouphtaou Yarou. At BU, he’s continued to get talent out of Philadelphia–a region that Penn State has ignored for far too long. Though basketball recruiting is much harder to gauge than is football, especially once you’re outside the power conferences, he’s certainly brought in talent that wouldn’t have been out of place at Penn State.

Ed DeChellis was–and is–a good man, a hard-worker, and an excellent representative for Penn State. But so too is and would be Pat Chambers–and many, if not most, of DeChellis’ flaws are absent in Chambers. He’s young. He’s energetic. He boasts an impressive pedigree, and has experience tapping one of the greatest hotbeds of high school talent in the country. He’s built a program around hard-nosed defense, winning 21 games a year ago despite ranking 270th in the country in scoring. It won’t be easy to right the ship, but if there’s a man to do it, it’s Pat Chambers. We might not be Villanova, but we’re a sleeping giant–a power conference school in a phenomenal college town, with a giant potential fanbase just begging for a team to get behind. Read this reaction–from PSU grad Dana O’Neil–to Chambers’ hire at BU, then tell me he wouldn’t do the same for Penn State.

Yes, I’m fairly smitten with Chambers, but don’t just take my word for it. Perhaps the most impressive page on BU’s website is Chambers’, which lists the accolades he’s received from some of the most respected minds in college basketball.

His former boss, Jay Wright, described Chambers as “enthusiastic, passionate and a great communicator.” Jeff Goodman, then of FoxSports and now of CBS, wrote that ”Pat Chambers was a terrific hire for BU. He’s a guy who has learned from one of the elite coaches in the country in Jay Wright and possesses some of the same attributes that have made Wright successful.”  To those fans clamoring for Larry Brown, he’s gone on the record in endorsing Chambers, saying, “I think he’ll be a phenomenal coach.”

Trust those guys. Trust Chambers’ track record. And trust that Tim Curley recognizes that he’s the right answer to the question, “Who should replace Ed DeChellis?”

Unfortunately, I think that last part might be the toughest. But if Curley can come to his senses, I think the only question we’ll have is the same one BU fans had–how long before he moves up one more rung on that ladder?


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  • Nitt

    God help us.  Another nobody.  Ed didn’t even PLAY college hoops except at the JC level.  This guy couldn’t get a scholarship and has no track record – except like Ed – at the low major level.  Is this really the best we can expect?

    • Devon Edwards

      Here are a handful of coaches who didn’t play Division 1 basketball:
      Tom Izzo
      Roy Williams
      Bo Ryan
      Jim Calhoun

      We’re not poaching a coach from a high-major program, so I’ll take a former top assistant at one who in two years has turned around a mediocre program. This, you realize, is how most schools–even high majors–get a coach, right? They either promote an assistant or take a successful coach from a smaller school. Thad Matta was the coach at Xavier before moving on to Ohio State. Before Providence hired him, Rick Pitino coached at BU. Ben Howland was at Northern Arizona before Pitt. What, exactly, is the problem here?

  • Nitt

    God help us.  Another nobody.  Ed didn’t even PLAY college hoops except at the JC level.  This guy couldn’t get a scholarship and has no track record – except like Ed – at the low major level.  Is this really the best we can expect?

  • Jay Pagliaro

     PSU isn’t getting a “name” coach. Sorry to burst your bubble.

    If you get a Pat Chambers, it’s a major win for the program. The guy is a star on the rise who has yet to be discovered. He’s a great recruiter (from his time at Villanova, where he was Wright’s right hand man) and has turned Boston U around in a quick manner.

    Everyone was a “nobody” at first. Don’t rule him out because you haven’t heard of him.