Let's get this out of the way right now: if you just look at Penn State's record, this year was disappointing for Nittany Lion basketball (this, of course, is assuming that Penn State doesn't win out and win a conference tourney game or two and make the NIT). Even the most optimistic Penn State basketball fan will admit that.
Despite this, if you can't see that there have been signs of progress for Nittany Lion hoops, you probably need to take off your #FIURCHAMBERS blinders. There is a foundation of young talent who shunned other major programs to come to Happy Valley. Penn State is on the verge of bringing in the best recruiting class in school history, while the 2016 class already has a verbal commitment from a four-star recruit and there are plenty of other high-level recruits who are interested in playing in State College. Hell, there is actual, tangible excitement around the future of the program, which for Penn State, is kind of weird.
For reasons like those, Sandy Barbour told David Jones of PennLive today that Pat Chambers will at least be back for the 2015-16 season. Here's a clip from the full article:
I asked Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour by text this morning, just to make certain: Was Chambers secure for next season as the PSU basketball coach, no matter whether his team loses its last three games to finish 3-15 in the Big Ten. This seemed like a germane question in light of a lifeless 60-39 loss at Northwestern on Saturday that sent the Lions to 3-12 in conference play in his fourth year on the job.
Her response, reiterating previous affirmations, was immediate and emphatic:
"Yes. He deserves more opportunity than he's gotten. And we need to help him more. No one wins if we just keep turning over men's basketball coaches.
"These things take time. I believe we have the chance to turn a corner."
Basically, Barbour is saying that Penn State basketball historically sucks, and that it isn't getting a savior unless Gregg Popovich decides he wants to spend the next decade in Happy Valley. She knows that Penn State needs to build a program from basically nothing, and in her eyes, Pat Chambers is the man to do it.
She also knows that if you keep firing and hiring coaches -- especially at a program like Penn State, which won't exactly attract the best coaching talent -- there will never be any kind of foundation for the program to be built upon. Building a program from nothing isn't a three or a five year task, it could take years and years, and when you have your guy, you don't let him go. Barbour thinks Chambers is that guy. She's not going to let him go.
The really fortunate thing is that Barbour seems to understand that shootyhoops hasn't always gotten the support that a major college basketball program deserves from an athletic department. Barbour sounds like she wants to put money towards helping the basketball program in any way possible, which is awesome and hopefully something she follows through on. Whether that means putting money towards upgrading facilities, helping with recruiting or anything else remains to be seen, but still, it's a good sign.
Of course, there is still one underlying aspect to this: while Barbour is supporting Chambers heading into next year, there's nothing in there about his status beyond 2015-16, when his contract is up. Could this mean that next year is a "put up or shut up" year for Chambers, and if he doesn't put up, he's gone? Does it mean that the two sides -- Chambers and Penn State -- will sit down and work on a contract extension once this season ends?
I don't know. There are a lot of question marks heading into next year. However, there is one thing that is certain: Patrick Chambers will be Penn State's basketball coach in 2015.