Penn State has had four basketball coaches since joining the Big Ten conference in 1992. All three other than Pat Chambers walked away from the program on their own. Bruce Parkhill shocked the program when he decided to step down just weeks before the 1995 season began. Parkhill’s team was coming off an NIT Final Four appearance and went on to win 21 games and reach a top-10 ranking under Jerry Dunn in 1995-96.
Jerry Dunn coached until he stepped down following the 2003 season. Ed DeChellis coached until he decided to leave for Navy in May of 2011. If you are noticing a trend, it is because Penn State men’s basketball has never fired a head coach.
Dating back to 1950, the year Joe Paterno arrived at Penn State as an assistant football coach, the Lions have had 8 basketball coaches. Elmer Gross retired from coaching in 1954 after taking the Lions to the NCAA Final Four. John Egli then coached 14 seasons, leaving the team in 1968. Johnny Bach coached from 1968-78 and then left for a career in the NBA. Dick Harter did the same after 5 years, leading up to the hiring of Parkhill.
So Much Attention On Sandy Barbour
The newly-extended Athletic Director has a contract that runs through 2023. She mentioned during the negotiations that she feels that Penn State is her final professional stop. Barbour extended Pat Chambers less than a year ago, taking his contract through the 2021-22 season. The numbers align in such a way that it is likely that if Chambers is to be extended further, it would be Barbour that would make the decision.
As with every Penn State men’s basketball coach in the history of the program, another extension from Barbour would likely mean that Chambers will remain in place until he decides that it is time to retire or move on to another opportunity.
Considering Barbour has supported Chambers both contractually and publicly, it seems unlikely that she would decide to fire the head coach so soon after extending him. Here is what Barbour had to say following the win against Maryland less than a week ago.
Barbour has given her support to Chambers all season, even while the team struggled to an 0-10 Big Ten start. In early January, some speculated that the support of the Athletic Director was a kiss of death. Now it seems like the support was genuine.
Chambers has gotten a great deal of credit for the coaching job that he has done this year, but unless you read publications outside the Penn State sphere, or watch the games and hear the various announcers singing their praise, you may have missed it. For those who analyze more than just wins and losses, the Lions have over-achieved this season. The record is exactly what it should be, 12-17. That’s what happens when you lose so many close games, your record stinks.
However, lying within the same statistics as the win/loss total is a different story. For those who watched each game there is no surprise that on paper Penn State is much better than their record.
Since the 0-6 conference start, the worse loss for the Lions was a 12-point defeat on the road against Purdue in a game that was close until the end. A missed shot at the buzzer in Minnesota that could have won the game, the 85-83 lead against Purdue with 14 seconds to play with possession of the ball, both came since then.
Many analysts acknowledge that Penn State was one of the best teams in the Big Ten, if not the country, during the month of February. In retrospect, it appears that the team turned a corner. It is hard to believe that a bad team, or coach that is unable to perform, could have gone on the run that the Lions did last month.
Ken Pomeroy, the leading statistician in NCAA basketball, gave Penn State a rare endorsement last week. In a twitter thread by John Templon, Pomeroy shared his feelings that Penn State deserves to be the first team with a sub-.500 record to be allowed into the NIT field. The rule that a team must have a record above .500 no longer applies to the NIT, but the committee has yet to select a team with a losing record.
Sign my petition to allow Penn State to defend its NIT title— Ken Pomeroy (@kenpomeroy) February 28, 2019
In Ken Pomeroy’s own rankings, including the close loss to Wisconsin this weekend, the Lions stand at 43. In the new NET rankings that the NCAA releases, to replace the old RPI numbers that guided the selection committee in the past, Penn State is currently ranked 49th, that’s one spot higher than before the loss to Wisconsin.
Neither the KenPom rating or the NET is the deciding factor for the NCAA tournament field, and Penn State will not make the NCAA tournament unless it wins the Big Ten automatic bid. However, it is amazing at how high the Lions are in the two most reputable rankings, even with a 12-17 record. That result is no surprise to fans and analysts that have watched the entire season play out with unbiased eyes.
Pat Chambers gets credit for the way the team is playing and for keeping them together through the early-season adversity from all but a tiny handful of fans that have been banging the drum to fire him for years. Last year was no different, next year will be the same. Some fans simply want a new coach, thinking that it will provide better results.
It was once believed that until Sandy Barbour agreed with the vocal minority, Pat Chambers would remain in place as the head basketball coach of the Nittany Lions. It is becoming much more likely with each well-coached game that the head coach will remain in place until, like every other coach before him, he decides to leave the team.