By now, you’ve all seen the incident that occurred between Penn State head coach Pat Chambers and freshmen guard Myles Dread on Thursday night in Ann Arbor.
In the midst of a failed upset bid over No. 2 ranked Michigan, Chambers turned a fairly innocuous first half timeout into a poop storm when ESPN cameras caught the head coach push Dread following a defensive miscue by the freshmen.
Penn State Men’s Basketball Coach Pat Chambers has been suspended one game for this pic.twitter.com/gisFxG4dm2— Shoot The Jay (@SportsManCave) January 5, 2019
This resulted in media coverage not normally afforded to the Nittany Lions, albeit for all the wrong reasons, and a one game suspension for Chambers that was served during Penn State’s 71-52 loss against Wisconsin Sunday night.
Watching the game live, my initial reaction was “ehhh, this isn’t going to end well” as it’s never a good look to put your hands on a player. And while one could argue that Chambers’ suspension was more a result of talking head outrage than the act itself, this is obviously far from a good look for the program (not to mention Chambers who is in the midst of his worst start since taking over as head coach in 2011-’12).
Ironically, the incident occurred just two days after athletic director Sandy Barbour threw water on any hot seat talk regarding Chambers, which has now intensified to some extent following ‘the push’.
“Are there some disappointments in there? Sure, absolutely,” she said during Citrus Bowl media availability last Tuesday. “But all in all, I’m excited about going into the core of Big Ten play this season and seeing what these guys can do. I’m not generally committed, I’m fully committed to Pat and his leadership of our program.”
One can only assume she was less than thrilled to have her next basketball-related statement be one admonishing her head coach for an on-court incident involving a player.
In Chambers defense, he took responsibility for his actions in a statement released by the athletic department Friday evening, saying “I apologized to Myles after the game and I have spoken with his family. My actions were inappropriate; that’s not what Penn State stands for or what I stand for. I told Myles I was sorry that it happened. Sandy and I have spoken and agreed there are some things I need to address. I’ve assured her this won’t happen again and understand my actions last night come with consequences”.
Also coming to Chambers’ defense was a familiar face for Penn State fans — four-year forward turned NFL tight end Ross Travis.
Four years I played for Chambers! He coaches with a lot of passion and all of his players know this. After watching the video, it’s clear that he was challenging his player to rise-up to the challenge. Man to man. I see nothing wrong with this. #Soft https://t.co/5sXp9JcrpR— Ross Travis (@RossJTravis43) January 5, 2019
In a vacuum, this lone incident wouldn’t be enough to tip the scales against Chambers one way or another. Something similar to this tends to pop up once a year or so in college basketball (why that’s the case is another column for another day), so it’s not without precedent to see this type of altercation occur only for the involved coach to keep his job.
But as said before, this isn’t just an aberration— it’s another lowlight on a relatively crappy season of Penn State basketball. One would be more than justified in wondering how ‘the push’ ultimately impacts Chambers standing with Barbour when all is said and done come March, past statements of support notwithstanding.
For now, the Lions really only have one option — move on and hope this marks the absolute rock bottom of a season it’ll hope to salvage in some way, shape, or form.
But if this ends up being less of a footnote and more of a final straw, it’ll be a microcosm from a rotten season Penn State would rather soon forget and the lasting memory of when things really went off the rails for Nittany Lions basketball.