Column: Time for a New Leader

Story posted January 23, 2014 in Sports, CommRadio by Andy Madore

There weren’t many expectations going into this season for Penn State men’s basketball. No one expected a NCAA Tournament berth, or an above .500 Big Ten conference record. No one believed Pat Chambers’ squad would suddenly turn their losing ways around.

However, most college basketball analysts and experts did expect Penn State to at least improve upon their abysmal 2-16 conference record from a year ago. How could you not? On paper, the Nittany Lions look, at the very least, competitive. With a backcourt featuring dynamic guards in Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill and a frontcourt led by the hard-working Ross Travis, the consensus was that Penn State would be able to challenge some of the Big Ten’s second-tier teams.

But this year has proven to be much of the same old. The Lions currently stand at 0-6 in Big Ten play, and 9-10 overall.

So what is the problem? Why is it that a team that seems to have enough talent to contend in conference play continues to lose?

The answer: head coach Pat Chambers.

This is Chambers’ third year on the job and his teams have yet to show any signs of improvement. In fact, they have regressed. His conference record his first season, 4-14, was better than his conference record last season, and with a 0-6 start to this year, an even more embarrassing conference record looks to be on the horizon.

Chambers has been given leeway in the past. He was dealt a tough hand his first year, with a very limited number of players left behind from the Ed DeChellis era. Things did not get any easier in his second season, when star guard Tim Frazier was sidelined for the entire season, after an Achilles tendon injury.

This year, however, Chambers has a healthy roster and a backcourt duo that is considered to be one of the best in the Big Ten. There are no more excuses for why Penn State is losing. Chambers is simply being outcoached.

Ever since the Princeton debacle – where the Nittany Lions were outscored 24-6 over the final 6:34 and ended up losing the game in overtime – Penn State has not looked the same. Pat Chambers’ unit often comes out of halftime looking like they know that they will be unable to protect their lead.

The Nittany Lions have blown six halftime leads this year, five on their own home court. Three of those six have been against Big Ten teams inside the Bryce Jordan Center – Michigan State, Minnesota, and Indiana. While opposing coaches have been using halftime to make adjustments and put their teams in a position to make a comeback, Chambers is unable to get through to his players and make the necessary changes to preserve a lead.

Penn State lacks a killer instinct that good basketball teams have. When Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin jump out to early leads, they suffocate their opponents, constantly putting pressure on them. When the Nittany Lions get a lead, the first thing that goes through everyone’s mind is how quickly it will be given up.

There is a losing aura around the Penn State basketball team, and that is a reflection upon the head coach.

This does not necessarily mean Chambers is a loser as a coach. He led Boston University to a NCAA Tournament berth in his second year, before taking the job at Penn State.

However, it does mean Chambers and his team has grown accustomed to losing, and they seem to be comfortable as the doormat in the Big Ten Conference. Losing is an illness and Chambers has been unable to find the remedy for a cure.

Chambers brings fire and energy to the table, but it has become obvious that his players are in no way responding to what he has to say.

At this current rate, the Nittany Lions will once again only have two or three conference wins by the end of the season. That number is totally unacceptable.

It is time for a change. Penn State needs a new voice inside their basketball locker room for there to be any hope of success on the hardwood in the near future.

Andy Madore is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email andymadore19@gmail.com.

Photo Courtesy: (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)