Penn State's hiring of Pat Chambers is getting high marks almost all the way around. Even some of the athletic department's toughest critics are giving athletic director Tim Curley and his staff credit for going out and finding a good fit for Penn State basketball.
The high praise is deserved. Whether Chambers will be able to make a difference remains to be seen, but for the first time in a while, there's a feeling in the fan base that he can, which is in and of itself a real cultural change for the Nittany Lion basketball program.
That said, turning things around doesn't end with a good hire, it starts with one. If administration wants to maintain the momentum it has built with this hire, it has to support this new, young coach the best way it knows how. It can't slip back into the bad habits of the Ed DeChellis era. It must give Pat Chambers the tools to be the absolute best coach he can be.
Chambers told David Jones of the Harrisburg Patriot-News last week he believes the support will be there. We'll see over the next few years whether he has a good read on the situation.
If Chambers is correct, Penn State will open the wallet when the time comes to do so. The hiring of Chambers itself does not indicate Penn State is willing to boost its financial commitment in the program as he'll likely make in the neighborhood of what Ed DeChellis had been making early on.
The real test will come in a few years. Penn State should be able to compete for NCAA Tournament bids in 2013 and 2014. If Chambers can get the Lions to the promised land, suitors will be lining up to steal him from Happy Valley. If Penn State ponies up to keep him here in the even her has early success, then that will tell us it's truly invested in supporting the program.
Commitment goes beyond simple dollars and cents, though. In the short term, before the big check are written for any kind of success, we'll see whether administration is committed to Chambers and his program by paying attention to detail. Making sure the Bryce Jordan Center is properly staffed for a big crowd will be key, as will ensuring the team has a proper practice space save for the absolute most dire of circumstances will be key.
A committed athletic department will not let what happened at the Wisconsin game this past season, where many fans missed half the game waiting in line for tickets. nor will it let the BJC overlords evict the Lions from the building when a big tour wants to use the building to practice as it did this past season.
Support and commitment of the men's basketball program has been lackluster at Penn State for a long time. That doesn't change overnight with one good hire. Commitment is a process, and while administration is off to a very good start in bringing in a man many are excited about, it has to keep the momentum going in the coming months and years ahead, We'll see if Curley and Co. are up to the task.