STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) – With a firm handshake and confident voice, Patrick Chambers told nearly everyone he encountered Monday that a new era of hoops had dawned in Happy Valley.
The energetic Chambers didn’t hold back while being formally introduced as Penn State’s next basketball coach, declaring his Nittany Lions would “scrap for every inch to make sure that we can compete on a daily basis.”
“The foundation is here, the bricks have been laid,” Chambers said, pointing to Penn State’s 2009 NIT championship and NCAA appearance this spring. “We need to continue on the path of consistency.”
The Philadelphia-area native and former Villanova assistant parlayed a successful two-year stint at Boston University into a head coaching job at a power conference program at age 40. He took the Terriers to the NCAAs this spring, too, a second-round loss to Kansas.
Once a salesman, the eager Chambers may need to draw from his strengths in his current and prior professions to sell a Penn State program that, over its recent history, has been consistently inconsistent.
“This will be the finest chapter in our history,” athletic director Tim Curley said. “His contagious, positive attitude; confidence in the program and the university … and his values inspired us to believe he is the perfect (coach) to lead program into greatness.”
There’s seemingly much work to be done to become a consistent contender in the competitive Big Ten.
Sandwiched between the two postseason appearances over the last three years was an 11-20 season in 2009-10. The Nittany Lions’ visit in March to the NCAAs — a second-round loss to Temple — was their first in a decade. Penn State has struggled to fill the 15,000-seat capacity Jordan Center, and attract top recruits.
Former coach Ed DeChellis was a Penn State graduate known for his work ethic. He developed players who hit the books and who, for the most part, stayed out of trouble. His specialty on the recruiting trail was developing under-the-radar prospects, such as career-leading scorer Talor Battle.
But the program faced another rebuilding campaign in 2011-12 with Battle and three other senior starters out of eligibility — and that was before DeChellis departed May 23 to take the same job at Navy.
Some fans and students view men’s basketball warily given the lack of long-term success, while some others view it with apathy.
Chambers praised his predecessor and said DeChellis left a solid foundation. Chambers also said he was tabbed in part to shake up the perception of the job and program.
“That’s why they hired me,” he said later Monday in a 15-minute round-table with reporters. “I think we’re slowly changing the perception. That’s Phase 1. Phase 2 is you’ve got to get out in the community. You’ve got to recruit players. And then you have to win some games.”
Chambers also shook off questions that Penn State isn’t committed to basketball. Both the men’s and women’s teams in February had to spend a few practice sessions at an intramural building court typically reserved for pick-up games after the Jordan Center was booked for events like a job fair or Bon Jovi concert.
“The whole Bon Jovi thing is comical to me,” he said. “As long as there are 94 feet, two rims and a basketball. … I’m not saying it wouldn’t have bothered me. All I am saying is we’ve got to find solutions.
“I think this administration is going to find solutions, and they’re committed to winning and to me.”
Chambers said his next priority is to put together a staff. He’ll interview the two remaining assistants left over from DeChellis’ staff, but also said he would like to be loyal to the assistants remaining at Boston.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)