The following graphic is from just 14 months ago, when Patrick Chambers had Penn State on the verge of an NCAA Tournament berth before the coronavirus pandemic wiped out the tourney. As you can see, he was one of the top 10 candidates for national coach of the year, an incredibly difficult feat for a basketball coach at Penn State.
.@NaismithTrophy Coach of the Year Semifinalists:
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 6, 2020
Less than eight months later, Chambers was out of a job, forced to resign after an internal PSU investigation (more on all that in a bit).
And here we are in early May, a month after the end of the 2020-21 season, and Chambers still doesn’t have a job.
That’s after there were 60 — yes, a whopping 60! — Division I head coaching openings after the season. All of the major jobs have now been filled, and just a few small DI jobs remain.
Chambers not only didn’t get one of those 60 jobs, his name really only came up in connection with one of them. There was this report on March 5 about Fordham being interested in Chambers, but nothing ever came of it, and Fordham hired Kyle Neptune, an assistant coach from Villanova.
It’s possible Chambers was in the running for a job somewhere else and it never made the news.
Regardless, it appears that Chambers will not be coaching a team during the 2021-22 season.
Will he get another shot to coach a Division I team at all? And should he?
Those are the difficult questions that only time can answer.
By now, everyone should know that Chambers used the word “noose” while talking to former Penn State player Rasir Bolton a few years back. It was such a foolish, foolish thing to say, and while the story remained hush hush from the outside world for a while, it eventually blew up when The Undefeated published a story with the details on July 6.
Bolton, who had since transferred to Iowa State, provided a lot of details himself in the post below. Bolton describes how Chambers used the word “noose” and how it impacted him personally. Bolton also wrote “Coach Chambers never apologized,” which is further troubling.
Former Penn State basketball player Rasir Bolton transferred to Iowa State after coach Pat Chambers made a comment about a “noose” around Bolton’s neck. pic.twitter.com/3t3FDLlMJZ
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 6, 2020
In today’s social climate, where racial issues are at the forefront seemingly every day, a coach being so careless with his language that he used the word “noose” to a young Black man could be enough to keep that coach from getting another job — at least for a good while.
If that were the only thing Chambers had ever done wrong, his chances of landing another job still could be good. We are a forgiving society, and Chambers had proven to be a solid coach given enough time at Penn State, so there would be reason to believe some other school might give him another opportunity.
But the comment to Bolton apparently is not all that Chambers has working against him.
The following three paragraphs written by David Jones of PennLive shed a great deal of light on the way Chambers was running things in the PSU program. The headline of Jones’ story from Oct. 22, the day after the coach’s resignation, describes how Chambers had “piled up enough enemies” during his tenure at Penn State that they “buried him” in the school’s investigation.
These are the three key paragraphs from that story, and they could be damning to Chambers’ chances of landing another job.
The more you dig down about the behavior of Chambers with his former players and assistant coaches who’ve rotated in and out of State College during his nine years, the more you find people who are willing to speak negatively about the way they feel about him.
Call it verbal abuse, rule through fear, apprehension about an emotional explosion, what have you, Chambers has built up enough enemies that when an extensive Penn State internal investigation got rolling this past summer and confidentiality was guaranteed, plenty of venom was loosed upon the PSU head coach whose tenure began in 2011.
I’ve spoken to a number of former Penn State assistant coaches, players and their parents since the allegations of racially charged rhetoric from ex-PSU guard Rasir Bolton, now at Iowa State, were published on July 6. And several cited encounters with Chambers that went beyond any racial component and simply focused on the coach’s hair-trigger temper and abritrary eruptions that left them filled with contempt.
Jones later went on to write that he spoke with two former Penn State assistants who said of Chambers, “He’s an ass****.”
There are a lot of those in the coaching profession, by the way. Anyone who’s been around sports for any length of time understands that.
Being an ass**** isn’t enough to keep a person from getting another job. But that element, in conjunction with the insensitive “noose” comment and other undisclosed factors, apparently were enough for Penn State to cut ties with Chambers.
The school chose to cut ties, mind you, with a coach who had proven to be successful given enough time and who appeared to be in position to have a pretty good season. And Chambers was ousted in late October — a month before the start of the season — while the nation and sports world were dealing with a pandemic.
If Penn State and highly respected AD Sandy Barbour were willing to go to such lengths to move on from Chambers despite all the potential issues it could cause, then you know the school must have had very good reasons for doing so. At least, that’s how the outside world is likely to view what went down.
Understandably, the PSU players were pissed about what happened to their coach. Many of them stood up for him during the season and still stand up for him, even after some have transferred. There can be a lot of loyalty between college players and coaches, and surely Chambers did a lot of good things for many of those players.
But again, we’re talking about whether Chambers will get another job or not.
Other schools out there probably will consider that some former PSU players have stood up for the coach. But they’ll also have to balance that with potential sources they reach out to who, as Jones wrote, may think Chambers is an ass**** and will have bad things to say about him.
Even if some school can reconcile all of that, the “noose” situation will still be out there. Any school that wants to hire Chambers will have to fully vet that scenario and be able to explain this to its boosters and alums: Exactly why would you choose to hire a coach who used such a racially charged word during a time in our society when he absolutely should have known better?
Personally, I believe Patrick Chambers is a good man, and he was always courteous and professional in my dealings with him as a media member. But I also can understand, given what I know about his often fiery personality, how it’s certainly possible that he may have rubbed some people the wrong way over the years by being overly intense.
Will Chambers land another Division I head coaching job?
He’s only 50 years old, he has enjoyed some success at a high level and he will have some former PSU players and Big Ten coaches who will vouch for him. All of that will bode well for him, and all it will take is for one school to give him a shot.
But as we just saw over the past month, when Chambers apparently didn’t come close to any job, he still may be considered too controversial for a school to take a chance on. And it wouldn’t be surprising if that stigma lasts for at least another year or two, if not longer.