When Pat Chambers was announced at his introductory press conference, he offered us the usual coachspeak for how his teams' are going to play. They're going to bring an uptempo, exciting brand of basketball to the BJC where they get lay-ups on fast breaks and drain treys in the half-court. They're going to go all out on the defensive end, diving for loose balls and taking charges. After improving day-by-day, they will eventually reach a level of dominance not seen since the Monstars.
But what can we realistically expect from Chambers' teams? It's tough to say for sure, because he's only spent two seasons as a head coach at the D-I level with players he inherited. I reached out to Chris over at The Nova Blog in an attempt to educate ourselves about Jay Wright's Villanova program, which obviously has had a great impact on Chambers' coaching philosophy. Read what he had to say after the jump.
It's expected that Pat Chambers will bring his version of the Villanova model from Jay Wright. So what exactly is the Villanova model all about?
The 'Villanova model' that you reference is what we refer to within the program as 'Villanova basketball.' The key principles behind that are play hard, play tough, and play smart. Chambers, as I'm sure you're beginning to find out, is a bit of a bulldog. He demands the most out of his players, and usually his players are ready to run through a brick wall for him. He was the key figure at 'Nova who toughened our program up. As most of you are probably aware, we've generally been an undersized team in recent years and caught a brief run of fame for the 4-guard offense. But ask coaches around the league and they'll tell you we're one of the toughest teams to play because you're going to get 40 minutes of effort and no possessions off. That's the primary thing that Pat Chambers will bring to Penn State - the right attitude to play with.
Can the 4-out 1-in motion offense work in the Big Ten? How much does it depend on the quality of your players?
I'll admit that I'm not a Big Ten guru, so I'm not sure I can definitively say that - but what the 4-out-1-in offense needs is ballhandlers, shooters, and a big man who is confident away from the hoop. He doesn't need to be able to stroke it from deep, but he can't be panicky out there. A high basketball IQ is required, and a high basketball IQ will help offset the lack of quality of the team. The best example I can think of is Dante Cunningham. He wasn't the biggest or the strongest, but he was a smart and confident player.
The basic principles of the offense are going to be drive and kick, drive and finish, and drive and dish down low. Point guards who also have the ability to score (think Corey Fisher & Scottie Reynolds) are typically very successful in this system. Being able to take your man off the dribble is really what sets the entire thing in motion. I know defense is stressed in the Big Ten, so you're going to need a PG who is both confident and savvy. A PG who is going to go out there gunning and go 5-20 is a recipe for disaster.
PSU's biggest problem under the previous regime was defense. Playing 4 perimeter players at once seems like it could put you at a disadvantage on the defensive end. How has Villanova managed?
The 3/4 court press is something that has helped us a ton. It causes lots of bad decisions from the opponent and having 4 players who are quick and can read those mistakes will help with the lack of size. In the half-court game it's a bit different. You need to teach guards how to defend the post and your forwards to guard the perimeter because the defensive scheme involves a lot of switching, especially on pick and roles.
The biggest component is faith. If you're a big man and you get switched onto a point guard, have faith that your teammates can help you if you get beat. Don't react and foul unnecessarily. If you're a guard being posted up by a forward, be confident that help is coming and don't hack. Now, this help will lead to some open shots from the doubling (and trust me, 'Nova has been burned by some 65%+ shooting nights), but it can also lead to some overanxious passing by the opponent (cross court passes and the like), and that brings us back to the benefit of having several guards on the floor that can read and react properly to those plays.
Chambers was at Villanova for 5 years. What were his biggest achievements while he was there, recruiting or otherwise? Is he a good fit at PSU?
Being from Delaware County, Chambers was a big influence in the Philly area for Villanova. He's got deep, deep ties there. So his prized achievement would probably be his assistance in getting Kyle Lowry to Villanova. Even more so though, he was instrumental in Villanova's run to the Final 4 with a group of players (Dante Cunningham, Shane Clark, Antonio Pena, Reggie Redding) that weren't exactly considers stars. As said above, he gets the most out of his players. They work their ass off for him.
I told Eric separately in our email exchange, but I consider this a home-run hire for Penn State. Pat Chambers is not only a great coach, but he's a great recruiter with great ties in the area (which primarily are going to be PA, NJ and NY I would imagine). Now, don't expect to be competing with the bigger Big East programs just yet (just because recruits don't think of Penn State as a basketball power) but Chambers' connections in Philly, NYC and Jersey are going to pay off eventually. He's got a great rep amongst the better programs in those areas.
Are you hopeful for any Penn State-Villanova series in the future?
Now that those Pittsburgh bastards (#amiright?) bolted for the ACC, we're probably going to lose what was a budding in-state rivalry. And no, Temple and St. Joe's (PA) do not count (by the way, we all hate the Big 5).
I'd almost guarantee that because of Jay Wright and Chambers' history together that we'll see a Villanova-Penn State series within the next couple of years. If that can develop into a yearly occurrence and an OOC rivalry, I'm all for it. Because God knows our OOC schedule is regularly a list of crap. Here's to hoping Pat Chambers can bring PSU ball to a whole new level of success. As a former Wildcat, we're all rooting for him!
A big thanks to Chris for the great responses. Be sure to check out The Nova Blog (@SBNTheNovaBlog)
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