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As the PSU hoops world turns: Barbour, Ferry discuss ins and outs of coaching search, situation

Photo by Penn State Athletics

Penn State will hire a new men’s basketball coach immediately after this season ends, AD Sandy Barbour said Tuesday, and the school already has been vetting candidates.

Interim coach Jim Ferry wants to be and is a candidate to be the full-time head coach, with Barbour saying he’s auditioning with everything that’s happening this season.

“Obviously not a typical situation,” Barbour said of the current hoops scenario. “But there is one advantage that people know the job is is open, they don’t have to speculate or it doesn’t have to be a surprise. So in terms of vetting candidates and developing our list and kind of getting ahead of the game, we’ve been doing that. So the plan would be to name a head coach immediately following the conclusion of our Penn State men’s men’s basketball season.”

Barbour also was asked to evaluate the job done so far by Ferry. The Nittany Lions are 5-6 overall and 2-5 in the Big Ten, but they are ranked No. 39 in the NCAA NET rankings and still have a chance to make a run at the NCAA Tournament.

If the Lions do make the tournament, Ferry’s audition obviously will have gone tremendously well.

But if PSU doesn’t make the tournament — and depending on how close it gets or not — the school clearly would have an easier time moving on from him.

Ferry took over after Patrick Chambers was forced to resign in late October after school investigations into his behavior.

“My evaluation of Coach Ferry has really been outstanding,” Barbour said. “He obviously took over, stepped in to a difficult situation. The Big Ten is an absolute beast. And you add COVID-19 and having to hit pause, and now our opponent — supposed to be our next opponent — has a pause. I think, number one, in terms of managing the great young men in our program, he gets stellar grades.

“Certainly, we had a little bit of a losing streak there. But you’ve to give the guys and you’ve got to give Jim a lot of credit for keeping the faith keeping, the confidence. We’ve gotten two winds under our belt and certainly look to see what what we can continue to do.”

Barbour later was asked what metrics Penn State would use when looking for a new coach and if Ferry has done enough so far to warrant consideration for the job.

“Jim has certainly, from the beginning, indicated his interest in being a candidate,” Barbour said. “And as somebody asked me my evaluation, I think that Jim’s done some great things. I’m not gonna make that decision until the end of the season. But he’s got he’s got a hands-on audition in order to to make his case. Other other candidates are auditioning elsewhere, which is obviously very useful.”

As for the metrics and particulars of what will go into the hire …

“There certainly are some on-court metrics and in terms of how teams play, and outside of metric piece, style and those kinds of things,” Barbour said. “And I’m certainly relying on experts around some of that.

“But my biggest contribution, if you will, is to really look at fit — fit for Penn State, fit for for our students, our expectations for coaches around being educators and and how they work with and help our students develop and grow. So, in the end, we’ll put all that together and figure out who the best candidate is.”

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Ferry held a press conference earlier Tuesday to preview tomorrow’s game at Ohio State and was asked about how he and the team have handled everything with so much uncertainty around the future.

“We’ve been having the mentality of staying present from day one, and that’s what we’re doing,” Ferry said. “Our guys are doing a fantastic job of it, our staff is doing a fantastic job. I think I’m doing a good job of it.

“Listen, I’m not out here to politic for this job. That’s not what I’m doing. I’m coaching this team. That’s my job. It’s about these kids. I am here to give these guys the best experience that they can have in an unprecedented year in this world. And that’s been my focus. And you can ask anybody. I haven’t worried about what’s going to happen after this.

“If I’m telling the kids to stay present, I have to stay present. I’m the one with the most experience. And we are focusing on this group, these guys and making sure these guys have the best experience. We’re trying to win. We’re trying to compete. We’re trying to get to the NCAA Tournament. I haven’t had time to focus on what’s next, and like I said that stuff will take care of itself. And like I said, I’m certainly not going to use a platform like this that to take anything away from my guys and politic for a position.”

At that point, Ferry was asked if he thinks his players are indeed doing as he mentioned and staying in the present.

“I really do,” he said. “I don’t think they’re focused on that (the future uncertainty). For us to do what we’ve done this week, I think shows that. It shows how connected we are, it shows that we’re in the present. They’re not thinking about what happened in the past. They’re not looking to see, OK, when the season ends, what’s this gonna be, who’s gonna be the coach. I think we’ve done a good job — everybody, all of us — of staying present. And you have to, all of us.”

Before the season, some Penn State players expressed frustration over how things transpired with Chambers. They wanted more answers than they received from school officials, and apparently still haven’t received any more answers.

Barbour was asked if she has any misgivings with the way everything was communicated to the players.

“Look, I understand the question,” she said. “And I understand the interest in the answer to that question and I respect you asking it. But certainly I made a statement in October. I know it fell short of what you all wanted. If there’s any group that I would like to provide information to, it would be our students. But we’ve made all the comment that we’re going to make, and we’re focusing on, I’m focusing on the season, and I think our students have done a really good job of doing that.”

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Cory Giger is a 15-year veteran of the Penn State beat and a journalist with 28 years of experience. He has won more than 100 state and national journalism awards during his career, plus he's a voter for the Heisman Trophy in football and Wooden Award in basketball.

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