Penn State and Princeton's showdown at Rec Hall is one of the most anticipated Penn State basketball games in recent memory. So much so, that instead of a small announcement, coach Pat Chambers and AD David Joyner called a presser to announce it, with the help of former Nittany Lion coach Bruce Parkhill. Below is the full transcript that features both the announcement and a Q+A with the three men.
David Joyner: Thanks everyone for coming today. We have a special announcement that we're very excited about. Number one, we're very excited about our basketball program coming into this season and one of the ways that we've been talking about for a long time, listening to our fans, since 1996 there's not been a Penn State basketball game at Rec Hall. And we're gonna have a retro game at Rec Hall, December 14th against Princeton University and we're very excited about that, that brings back a lot of memories from that era with Senator Bradley, Princeton vs. Penn State, etc. And so we're very, very excited to announce today that we will be, as I say again, having a game against Princeton University, December 14th, this year.
Pat Chambers: Just to follow up on that, it's an historical day for Penn State basketball, men's basketball. To have coach Parkhill here, who, his success in Rec Hall was amazing, and to go back and think about being a spectator there, I mean, I just get goosebumps. It's an amazing feeling to know we're gonna be back, playing a game, in Rec Hall, with that type of atmosphere. And none of that gets done, and a lot of you don't know the red tape and the obstacles and the challenges we faced, but because of Dr. Joyner and his administration, any time we butted up against something, there was always a solution to be had. And never did they waiver one time to say, "we're not doing this." It was always like, "How can we make this happen? How can we get this done?" And we just saw it through. And because of Dr. Joyner and his administration, the possibilities we talked about for 17 and a half years is now reality. It's reality because of their leadership.
And I also wanna thank the coaches over at Rec Hall: wrestling, men's and women's volleyball, men's and women's gymnastics, without them, this is not possible. They made sacrifices for us to go into their gym for two days to take over. And we appreciate the One Team mantra. Like I always said, One Team is not a gimmick. It's very real. And because they're allowing us to do this, it just brings that One Team, it brings us even closer, closer together. And I know these guys don't want a shout out but I have to give it to them: Loren Crispell, Dave Caporaletti, Brian Siegrist. They were my team, as we said, and we just kept coming up with different ideas, different ways, different solutions, different avenues to go down to make sure that we got this done. And this was timely, it wasn't done over 30 days. It was a year-long process and everything came together. And again, thanks to Dr. Joyner.
So we're fired up, we're excited, our players are excited. Obviously I'm very excited to play and have a game at Rec Hall and see Jean Row and to see all the students on the...you remember that, coach? To see all the students across the front row? And have that incredible home court advantage. I think it was what, 75 percent winning percentage in Rec Hall? Which is an amazing statistic. Yes, it was definitely coach's coaching and it was definitely the players, but the fans, we thank you. We listen to the fans. We listen to our alums. We listen to our former players. We heard you. And that's why this game is now a reality.
Question: This is for Patrick or Dave: what were some of the biggest obstacles you had to negotiate when you talked about, you know, these are the things we need to find solutions for, what were they? Was it getting a floor in, was it anything you guys had to get through to do this?
PC: I would say yes, the floor. That was probably our biggest challenge because you don't wanna damage the current floor that volleyball plays on, that's important. Plus it's a smaller venue. We have to worry about all the logistics that goes with that: ticket sales, enough bathrooms, parking. You name it, we went through a ton of red tape. When we sat down and we just put our heads together and we just came up with every solution you could possibly think of.
DJ: Absolutely. The physical space is one of the issues that we transform it into a basketball floor, and part of that is baskets. What do we do about baskets? We saw that issue getting proper baskets in because the placement for them isn't there anymore so we had to do another was of doing it. And we solved that problem so we're off and running.
Q: Coach Chambers, you said that you attended a few games at Rec Hall back in the day?
PC: Back in the day, I see my brother-in-law in the back, my sister went here, I have two brothers that went here, so I came up, actually, I hate to bring this up, coach Parkhill, I was at the Indiana game...he's still mad about it. But it was one of the most amazing experiences I've had as a fan. I was just a fan, and it was just a thrilling event to be at.
Q: Is that when you were like in high school or college?
PC: I was in college.
Q: I was gonna ask third grade.
PC: Are you trying to find out my age?
Q: This has been something that's been talked about for a while but what made this the right time?
DJ: I think the excitement, number one, about the basketball program, just trying to be innovative in general in the athletic department, to do some things that are exciting and sort of change it up a little bit in the middle and because of, also, Patrick being a student of the game and watching that indiana film and us watching the Indiana film got us really revved up about doing this, and so I just think it's the right time to inject some energy, some extra energy in a different way into the program and get fans and our players and our coaching staff excited.
PC: I would piggyback that, and Doc hit it right on: we listened. We heard what the fans were saying. We heard what the students were saying. We heard what the ex-players were saying. They wanted to go back. They wanted to go back in time to be a part of that tradition, to be a part of that history. And there's nothing like it. There's nothing like being in that arena. Nothing like it. And I know, I'm sure coach is over there fired up, goosebumps just like me. Just thinking about roaming those sidelines. I think that's what we did a real good job of, is hearing what our alumni base had to say and coming through.
Bruce Parkhill: If I could piggyback on that too from Patrick's statement: I think it's so special that the people involved here have gone through the effort that they have to make this happen because it's really important to me, having kinda having been a part of both pre-Big Ten and Big Ten eras at Penn state that the student athletes that participated before we got into the Big Ten, in all sports, Rec Hall sports, I think sometimes get lost in the shuffle. And this is a great way to kinda go back and recognize them and I think it's, to me, a wonderful thing that they're doing because there are a lot of great student athletes that played in Rec Hall, that wrestled in Rec Hall, gymnastics, the whole bit, I see one of them in here today, as a matter of fact, who put a lot of sweat on the floor in Rec Hall in Brian Allen. It's just wonderful to kind of go back, take a night to go back and reminisce and appreciate what all those student athletes did through the years for sixty some years, what was it? Sixty some years, that was our indoor venue.
Q: Bruce can you speak to, I know your thoughts on this, but if you could kinda speak to what Rec Hall at its best was like to coach and to have teams play, especially in big games.
BP: I'll tell ya, when things got going, and the student body started standing every game, all game, and the place was full, I know when I was coaching at William & Mary, we played at Duke. And some ACC places that were supposed to be the best in the country, and I think Rec Hall was right there with any of the best venues in the country. It was just a, the crowd was actually part of the game. There's no question the crowd effected the game. And it was the best.
Q: Is there any plans to do this on an annual basis? Have you guys thought about that at all?
DJ: There's no plan in place that, "yes, we're gonna do it exactly every year." But I'm sure that we'll entertain doing more of this kind of thing and I think it will be fun for everybody.
Q: Coach, can you talk about the personal significance of Princeton being the opponent of you guys?
PC: Well we look at Princeton as a top-100 RPI type team. They're gonna battle for the Ivy League championship this year and they're an NCAA tournament team almost every year or year in and year out, they're right there battling. So I felt like they were a great opponent for us, to bring a team like that is gonna challenge us and I think for the fans, they want to see a great opponent. They don't want to see a blowout of any sort, and Princeton will definitely not be that type of team, we know that. We know where they're positioned right now in the Ivy League. So I think for us, and going back to Rec, I think it ties in a lot of things.
Q: The history of the game seems to be important for you and sharing that with your players, we did that last year we went down to play in Philly at the Palestra. What does it mean from the player's standpoint, what do you want the players to get out of this, and why is it important for them to know the heritage and history and tradition here at Penn State?
PC: You nailed it. It's exactly right. And that's why we practiced at Rec Hall last year. I think people need to know there's a 117 year history, now 118, going on 118. Our players, our current players need to know about that. They need to know of the guys that came before them. And know that they're playing for them, too. They take great pride in Penn State basketball, and we just need to continue to bring that out. We need to continue to talk about the history, the tradition, and the winning ways of coach Parkhill and the other coaches that have coached here, and the great players that have come through here. So I think it's really important, I'm a student of the game, but I'm also a historian. And I think they need to know what Penn State basketball is all about.
Q: Coach Parkhill, can you tell everybody, students, current students, former students, people who haven't seen a basketball game at Rec Hall meant to you, when you were coaching here and looking back on all the years there and all the tradition?
BP: Probably the most significant thing relevant to coaching there was the fact that the crowd had such an impact on the games themselves, and there's no getting around that. The atmosphere there was as good a home court advantage as you could have. It was kind of a double-edged sword. For recruiting, it wasn't a great place. I remember walking out of my office one summer and there was a father and son walking out of one of the portals. I happened to be walking behind them, and the kid said to his day, "they really play their games in here?" And I felt like saying, "yep, you oughta see the games in here, because when it's full for wrestling, gymnastics, basketball, whatever, it's the best." It's a grand old lady, it's just the best. And for us at the time, it was just a wonderful...our guys loved playing there, I think Brian will agree with that. They loved playing games there, so it meant a lot to us.
Q: Coach Parkhill, just a follow up on that, what are some coaching exchanges that you could make, or advice you could give to Pat for playing in this type of environment? Is there anything you do differently as a coach and something he can learn from?
BP: I'll tell ya, I like what they're doing. I don't think from a coaching perspective I would change anything. You know, he's enthusiastic, his players play hard, they're enthusiastic. I've been to a couple of practices this summer as they prepare to go to Europe. I really like what I see.
Q: Specifically Rec Hall and that environment, how do you change your gameplan when you're coaching in that environment?
BP: Well, I don't think that you really coach in order to establish an environment. You coach to try to get the most out of your personel. When happens is, when you win, people come. And they're gonna win, and people are gonna come, and people are gonna fill this place. And that's really...and I told the guys last week when Patrick had me talk to the team, I said, "when I first came to Penn State, we weren't filling the place." And some of the guys were saying, "hey coach, how come we're not filling the place?" And I said, "that's something you gotta earn, you earn that by winning, and when you win, they'll come." And that certainly was the case, and the fans here at Penn State can be as good as anywhere in the country, in all sports, not just football and basketball, too.
I remember, I don't know how many times, they were sleeping in the halls in Rec Hall to get tickets for certain games. When we were playing Temple, when we were kinda turning things around, Temple was great, they had been #1 for a long time, they had Macon and Perry and those guys, and I, we came back from a pregame meal and I was walking to my car, and I looked out the window of Rec Hall down toward the library, and the students were lined up all the way down to the library to get in that game and when I came back for the game, like an hour and a half before the game, the crowd was lined up, 2, 3, 4 deep, all the way down to Pollock Road. And I understand they had to turn a couple thousand away. That was just a regular league game, and like I said, the students started standing, all game, every game, here, my last year, they had a tent city across from the Bryce Jordan Center for student season tickets. I mean, that whole field over there was a tent city for student basketball season tickets. I got a call, I was getting ready to go to York to speak at an alumni function, I got a call from a buddy of mine who said, "you gotta drive by Beaver Stadium." I said, "I can't, I gotta go to York." He said, "you better come by." And I drove by there and I couldn't believe it, and it got bigger as the week progressed. So, the point is, the fans will support a good team, and I think that's happening here. I think our coaches and our players here are gonna see that happen.
Q: Pat, the carryover effect that I imagine you're hoping for, you've got generations of students and young alumni who have not seen a game at Rec Hall, who haven't been a part of that, who are used to games here that are tough to fill out, it's a big room. What sort of carryover are you hoping from this for folks who are gonna come to the rest of the games over here?
PC: Again, you wanna pack that place, which I know we will. And you wanna win that game, you gotta win that game, and we gotta win some games, that's important, just like coach was saying. And you're hoping they feel that buzz, they feel that connection, they feel that relationship. And once you build that relationship, they're gonna start filling this place. That's ultimately the goal. I've seen this place filled. I've seen it. I've seen it on TV, I've seen it with pictures around. We can fill this place as well, we can do it. But it's gonna be nice to go back in time, just a little bit, just to give them of taste of what it used to be, and hopefully we can tap into that tradition, tap into that history, and people can feel more connected, and then come over here.
Q: There seems to have been a conscious effort by you to sort of engage the tradition of the program with where you're trying to go. Having former players help with summer camps, Bruce has been around at a lot of practices, why is it important for players that are here and fans that are here to engage with the history of the program while you're trying to move it forward at the same time?
PC: Again, they need to understand, these guys have been there. They need to understand the history of the program. They need to understand they're not just playing for themselves. They're playing for all the guys who have worn that jersey before. And they're playing for an incredible university. So let's meet the old coaches, let's meet the ex-players. Let's tap into their wisdom, their knowledge, of their experiences, what they went through. And if they can understand that then maybe that just gives us a little bit extra in a game. Maybe that'll just push us over the edge here and there. And the last thing I would say, I want them to come back. We want them to be a part of, and I think football does a phenomenal job, everybody comes back. I want men's basketball players to come back, I want them to see and feel the tradition, feel that they're wanted, welcomed back for everything that we do. And if they feel that they're a part of it, I think that you're building something special.
Q: Pat, what have you been able to gauge from the team from the first practice for the foreign tour, if anything and then specifically how Tim's doing
PC: Practice is going well, guys are competing. I think our strength coach and our trainer have done a great job of managing their bodies and their minds. I feel like we're in mid-October with the way they're competing and the way they're getting after it, and I think this is gonna be a great time for us and these ten practices are a great time for Tim and his injury, I mean, he looks like he's almost back. He split a ball screen the other day, he has a little floater. I mean, he looks like Tim Frazier. And then I think it's great for Allen Roberts, fifth year senior, to get him accustomed, because he only has nine months here, ten months. And then obviously it's great for the freshmen because they get to learn the terminology, they get to know our defensive rotations, our sets, things like that, drills. So when we come back in December we know exactly what we're doing, we don't have to waste time and we can just get moving. And obviously the foreign tour is really about bonding. I mean, team chemistry. I have a new picture that Brian put up in my office that says "Championship Are Won Here," and it's a picture of our locker room. I know coach and Dr. Joyner, being on all the teams they've been on, they will agree: games are won in the locker room. If you get great chemistry and cohesion in the locker room, you can do great things.
Q: You said that this was a year long process, and you mentioned some of the other people involved in getting it done. How many meeting and discussion are we talking in the last year and was there a point, kind of a turning point when you really knew that you were gonna be able to do this?
PC: You know what? Before we went to Dr. Joyner and his administration, we had to make sure we came with a fool proof plan. Brian, LC and Cap, we all got together, with the help of Brian and some other people on the idea of how can we get this done. My brother's in the flooring business, my brother Bob, so I tapped into his wisdom and knowledge about how to get that done as well and, I mean, it started to come together, and once I felt like we had a good plan and a lot of solutions to what we thought might be obstacles, I brought it to Dr. Joyner, and I could see the twinkle in his eye. I'm almost positive you wrestled in there, right?
PC: Would I be incorrect with that?
DJ: No, you're correct.
PC: So there's a special place in his heart for Rec Hall as well, and once I came to Dr. Joyner and we looked at him, he's like, "alright, well here are some of the problems, not some problems, but some issues we might have," so we go back and work on these and let's go back again. But I knew from the first time that we met with the fool proof plan with Dr. Joyner that he wanted to do it, and that made me feel great and that's when we really started full steam ahead, because he was on board. And as long as Dr. Joyner and the administration were good, I felt really comfortable about what we had to get dome.
Q: You had a successful basketball alumni weekend last year during Big Ten season. Any plans to maybe do something similar for this event, having it take place in Rec Hall?
PC: You know what, we have a lot of things going on after this announcement and we're gonna meet again as a team, as a staff and see how we can position thing. I mean, we want players to come back, we want all the former coaches to come back, there's a lot of work that still needs to be done. But we have some ideas and we'll see how it all unfolds.
Q: In addition to going back to Rec Hall...any opportunity either collectively or just yourself with uniforms? Gonna break out any old time uniforms?
PC: We're in discussions about that right now. We actually were in coach Parkhill's house, taking down pictures, there's some old video that we have that we've looked at for uniforms, we were talking about that this morning at a meeting, so it's something that we are discussing currently and we'll see how we can take care of the uniform situation.
DJ: I'm not sure how the players will react to those little shorts.
PC: I don't know if they'll be down with the short shorts. But Brian Allen would be fine with them.
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