Late Thursday afternoon, Sandy Barbour and Pat Chambers finally dotted the T’s and crossed the I’s on a long-awaited and often-debated contract extension for the seventh year head coach.
Figures on the four-year extension that runs through the 2021-’22 season have yet to be announced, but a press release from the university did state those numbers will be made available once the contract becomes Facebook official.
Making the salary of its head basketball coach public knowledge breaks from tradition for Penn State, so fans around the Big Ten will finally have some concrete insight on what type of financial commitment the athletic department is making on its much-maligned hoops program.
And speaking of folks around Big Ten country, many will find fault in handing out a four-year extension to a head basketball coach with exactly zero NCAA Tournament appearances during his tenure in State College.
However, that thought pattern is misguided and looks past the job Chambers has done to elevate the Nittany Lions program despite being dealt a hand no one could have anticipated at the start of his Penn State career.
Lest we not forgot, Chambers was hired in June of 2011, roughly five months before the biggest scandal in the history of college sports rocked central Pennsylvania. The epicenter of that earthquake fell squarely on the school’s football program, but the aftershock reverberated all across the athletic department and university.
Chambers felt those effects in a big way as only a few short months after landing one of the biggest commits in program history in then-top 50 prospect Brandon Austin, the Philadelphia native decommitted as sanctions and stigma continued to cloud over Happy Valley.
With the dust having yet to settle, no one would have faulted Chambers if he had cut bait and ran for the hills. Instead, he did the unthinkable by gaining recruiting traction in Philadelphia and the DMV - something Penn State head coaches had long tried with little to no avail.
This recruiting strategy started to bear fruit in 2015 when Chambers landed the commitments of his first two four-star players in guard Josh Reaves and Philadelphia big man Mike Watkins.
And while having a top 50 recruiting class would have been a big accomplishment in its own right, Chambers followed that up with the greatest class in Penn State basketball history when he once again dipped into his recruiting well at the corner of Broad and Vine by landing a trio of talented Roman Catholic High School players in Tony Carr, Lamar Stevens and Nazeer Bostick.
Fast forward and all five of those players just contributed to a team that won the NIT. On top of that, Chambers developed Tony Carr into Penn State’s first real NBA draft prospect since Calvin Booth was selected by the Washington Wizards back in 1999.
Glossing over many additional accomplishments during his seven years in State College, this is a roundabout way of saying Chambers has the needle of Penn State basketball pointing consistently in the right direction, NCAA Tournament appearances be damned.
At the risk of beating a dead horse, people need to look at the job Chambers has done through the lens of how difficult it is to build something at Penn State. State College is roughly three hours in each direction from the biggest population centers in Pennsylvania. And in both of those cities reside collegiate basketball powers that have long been the bells of the ball in the Keystone State.
Imagine if you took the University of Michigan and moved it to the upper peninsula. Then, you moved Michigan State, Detroit Mercy, Oakland, and Western Michigan into Detroit and gave them all decades worth of relevancy and success. That’s the battle Penn State has been fighting for years. And that’s the battle Pat Chambers has finally started to win.
Not extending Chambers would have thrown away seven years of progress because you couldn’t see the forest through the trees.
Luckily for Penn State, Sandy Barbour is giving her coach an opportunity to see things through to the end. And for a school that’s never been able to cash any basketball lottery tickets, it’s a gamble that’s smartly worth taking.