Earlier this year we asked the simple question — can Patrick Chambers save his job along with Penn State basketball? On Feb. 4 we got the answer, as Penn State lost at home 70-68 to Rutgers.
This was the same Rutgers team that blew a nine-point lead to a horrifically bad shooting Wisconsin team just a week ago. It’s also the same team that spanked by an Iowa team without Peter Jok earlier this week.
If we were to believe the preseason hype from Chambers and Co. at Penn State, this team was the best collection of talent the Nittany Lions have ever had. Yet, that same collection is producing the same underwhelming results that have become the hallmark of the Chambers era.
So, why was a two-point loss to Rutgers telling? It was telling because these are two teams with the same hope of showing they are an improving and quality team. Only Rutgers has the victory to show they are the ones moving forward this season.
Even those who don’t believe the sky is falling in Happy Valley recognize something needs to change. In fact, most are arguing not about Chambers, but over just who would want the Penn State job.
Sure, you could fire Pat Chambers, but then who are you going to get?
— MYERS (@2112marc) February 4, 2017
While it is an interesting question, the reality is that college basketball is full of great coaches looking for a chance.
Penn State just needs to look at the guy who coached Rutgers to a win at the Bryce Jordan Center for all the proof they need. After all, Steve Pikeill wasn’t exactly a household name, but he has transformed Rutgers in to a team that plays tough defense and is actually competitive overnight.
That’s what a coach with new energy and some talent to tap in to can do. No one should be suggesting there isn’t talent to tap in to at Penn State, because it is clearly there.
Getting talent to Happy Valley is great, but Chambers hasn’t done a thing with said talent once it has gotten to Penn State.
So far he has one postseason tournament appearance, making the 2014 CBI tournament. That’s not exactly what should be expected from a Big Ten program, even if it is one that doesn’t have a great basketball tradition to build off of.
Chambers has been given five years already and year six is proving to be just as bad as the previous five. At some point it is time to realize when things aren’t working out.
Rutgers at home should be a winnable game, no matter how improved the Scarlet Knights are by year six of your coaching tenure.
Some will point to early-season success as a sign that there are signs of hope for the future. There’s just one problem with that — those wins are far from the meaningful ones you thought they were at the time.
The earlier win over then No. 24 Minnesota has proven to be a “so what” kind of win as the Gophers sit at 3-6 entering their Saturday contest at Illinois. The Michigan State win? Well, MSU is proving to be a shadow of its national title contender self from most years.
The harsh reality is that Penn State is who it is at this point under Chambers — a mediocre team at best, and an underachieving team with Philly talent to tap in to at worst.
Chambers got his foot in the door of the Philly recruiting game and that is a huge step forward for Penn State, he just can’t get said talent to produce consistent victories for him.
Rutgers wasn’t the straw that broke Chambers’ back, it was just the latest sample of what isn’t working in Happy Valley.
2017 talking10 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Awards Special
The Big Ten may have its awards, but what is the point of watching endless hours of Big Ten basketball without putting our two cents in, right?
Welcome to the 2017 taking10 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Awards special. Our hope is to educate you on the names that dominated our conversations and the hardwood across the Big Ten this season.
So, sit back and enjoy our special for your viewing pleasure.
Can Patrick Chambers Save Penn State Basketball and His Job?
This was supposed to be the team that finally turned the corner for Penn State basketball coach Pat Chambers.
His time in Happy Valley hasn’t been all that happy, between player transfers and plenty of stumbling blocks on the court, nothing has really gone right. But, with arguably his best roster of players the 2016-17 season was supposed to be a good one.
Much like the rest of Chambers’ tenure, not much has gone to plan this season. That was specifically highlighted in the Nittany Lions brutal 85-66 loss at home to George Mason.
No, not the George Mason of Jim Larranaga, but the one that has struggled to be relevant even in the re-built Atlantic 10 conference. That’s not to say the Patriots aren’t quality, as they are on a six-game win streak, with wins over Kent State and Northern Iowa in that win streak.
However, the loss said more about the Nittany Lions than the Patriots, as they were out worked and out hustled in the loss. Defense and hard-nosed basketball have been the hallmarks of Chambers’ Penn State tenure, but that wasn’t the case in this loss.
Instead, George Mason had a 44-16 advantage on points in the paint and 14-2 on the fast break. That’s about all one needs to know about this loss.
Chambers didn’t sound the panic alarm after the loss, noting that all that went wrong against George Mason is correctable.
“That’s why with them, I’m not freaking out because it’s correctable,” Chambers said, via the Centre Daily Times. “These are all fixable things that we can get better at, that we can control.”
That’s well and good, but with a player like Shep Garner in the mix things should be far better than they are in the 10th game of the sixth year of Chambers’ era.
But, it isn’t just the performance of the team in this game, rather it was that this game was indicative of a larger problem with this team. This is a Penn State team that is 12th in scoring offense (), 13th in scoring defense () and field goal shooting (.413), are dead last in scoring margin (+0.9) and rebounding margin (-4.1), and finally 11th in field goal percentage defense (.420).
I think you get the point — things are as bad as a 6-4 record in non-conference play for a Big Ten team would suggest.
That kind of performance has also led to perhaps the most dangerous sign that things are over…fans giving up on you. While Penn State has never really packed the Bryce Jordan Center for anything other than Thon or the occasional concert, what is happening this season is awful.
Penn State has played seven of 10 games at home and are averaging just 5,833 fans per game. That number is down nearly 1,000 from the final attendance figures of the entire 2015-2016 season.
Chambers is a good coach and a good man. He’s run a clean program and done things the right way. But, this is a win-first business and Chambers has had five seasons to build his program.
He also continues to show this program isn’t getting over the hump, despite increasing the level of play from his team. Being a .500 program six years in to your tenure? That’s not a good look.
Even in Happy Valley, there is a level of losing that won’t be tolerated and Chambers has been given every opportunity to get his program in order. It just hasn’t happened.
If things don’t improve and quickly, Chambers could be looking for other employment by the end of the season.
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