My name is Tim, and I am a Penn State Basketball Fan...There, I said it. Yes, it's been as rough of an existence as you might think, although oddly enough, my fandom began after watching the infamous double overtime loss at Rec Hall to top-ranked Indiana in 1993 (burn in hell, Sam Lickliter...you're an awful person). In fact, my fandom only grew despite the dearth of successful seasons that followed.
Such success however, may be on the horizon in a more consistent form: We're talking about a program that year-in and year-out finds itself playing in the NCAA Tournament and is not seen as an afterthought in the college basketball universe. While such a statement may induce laughter amongst many, it is no longer a laughing matter thanks to the recent hiring of Pat Chambers as head coach to replace the suddenly-departed Ed DeChellis. In just six weeks at the helm, Chambers' infectious enthusiasm and energy has an eternally downtrodden and cynical fan base suddenly believing that the program can achieve what was once thought to be virtually impossible. Couple that with Chambers and his coaching staff's staunch ties to big city basketball Meccas such as Philadelphia and Washington D.C. and it's hard not to believe that he is setting himself up to help write the greatest chapter yet in Penn State basketball history. Here' s a few brief reasons why great days are ahead for the program:
1. Resources - This is one area where DeChellis deserves some praise for leaving in better shape than when he found it. When Ed arrived in Happy Valley in 2003, the coaches' offices were embarrassingly small, there was no Director of Basketball Operations (DoBo) or basketball-specific strength coach, and the video coordinator was allegedly still using VHS tapes instead of DVDs to record and play back game film. Furthermore, there was no organized student section whatsoever. It was one giant, discombobulated group of people that showed up without any color-coordination and thought it could replicate college basketball's most storied student sections.
Flash forward to today: Pat Chambers finds himself with coaches offices that are right on par with the rest of the Big Ten, a well-organized and hopelessly dedicated student section in the Nittany Nation, and there are DoBo and basketball-specific strength coaches in place. Everything is set in place for Coach Chambers to take the program to the next level in these regards.
2. A "Family" atmosphere already in place - Yes, the 'Family' theme and 'Family on Three' chants from the DeChellis era were the butts of many jokes amongst the fan base. In all seriousness though, Ed really does deserve credit for fostering an atmosphere of team unity, because the chemistry during the tail end of the Jerry Dunn era resembled that of a Real World cast. Chambers' main emphasis may be on ATTITUDE, but much like DeChellis, he understands the importance of having a non-toxic, family-type of environment in the locker room and you can rest assured that part of DeChellis' legacy will carry on.
3. A bonafide salesman on a mission - For those of you who may not be familiar with his life story already, Chambers was a very successful salesman who did coaching as a side hobby and was fairly successful from a financial standpoint. Everything changed however, when Chambers got stabbed in the neck and barely survived. Aside from gaining mad 'street cred', the near-death experience caused him to re-evaluate what was truly important to him in life and thus, he left sales and began a full-time coaching career.
Make no mistake, though: Chambers continues to use his sales background every day at his current job, whether it involves using a private plane to fly all over the country in an effort to meet with recruits or attend major AAU tournaments, or riding around campus in a golf cart and passing out t-shirts to passer-bys , Chambers has a vision for what Penn State Basketball can be and he showcases that vision in every little thing that he does. Combine Chambers' salesman-like talent with having deep-rooted connections to a Philadelphia area rife with basketball talent, and you have the potential for the holy grail of recruits to finally take a chance on a school that has been an eternal afterthought in that area.
Surely, one can come up with more reasons why Chambers may be the one who finally turns Penn State into a yearly winner. The aforementioned reasons however, are arguably the most essential and are part of the core of what it takes to field a quality basketball program. Only time will tell whether Chambers' ATTITUDE and salesman magic will translate into enough actual wins on the court, but one would be foolish at this point to bet against him.