In a dramatic twist of events last week, the Penn State Nittany Lions announced Pat Chambers was stepping down as head coach. That move came after an internal investigation into allegations Chambers made racially insensitive remarks earlier in his tenure at Penn State. The school has remained vague about what was discovered in the investigation. Either way, we know it culminated in Chambers’ departure.
And with Chambers leaving town, Penn State now has an opening and speculation has started about who might be taking over. Assistant coach Jim Ferry has been named interim coach in the meantime. So, let’s get into some of the potential options.
NOTE: This is simply speculation and is not a report of considered candidates.
Penn State Head Coaching Candidates:
1. Jim Ferry (Penn State Interim Head Coach)
Let’s start with the most obvious candidate. Ferry has been named Interim Head Coach following Chambers’ resignation. He joined the program in 2017 after five years as head coach of Duquesne. And while his overall record there (60-97) was underwhelming, he would be a safe pick. The hope would be to keep Penn State’s recent success going.
Unfortunately, the downside to Ferry would be the same as its upside. Chambers was forced out for a reason and it’s hard to see why Penn State would handcuff itself to a member of his coaching staff as a result. As such, the odds of this hire seem low.
2. John Becker (Vermont)
Vermont has quietly been one of the brighter stories in college hoops over the last few seasons. Becker took over in 2012 and has led the Catamounts to nine straight 20-win seasons and two NCAA Tournament appearances. The natural next step for him is to elevate to the Power Five level. He should be at (or near) the top of Penn State’s list.
3. Jeff Boals (Ohio)
There are a number of coaches on the rise nationally and Boals is certainly one of them. He spent years as an assistant under Thad Matta at Ohio State before moving on to Stony Brook and then Ohio. He has an encouraging overall record (72-57) and plenty of experience recruiting and developing Midwest talent.
Like Becker, the natural next step for Boals is to move into a Power Five opening. The only question is whether this is the right spot for Boals. Penn State is a tough job that involves a lot of risk. It’s not for the faint of heart. Boals would be a great hire. We’ll just have to see if it’s in the cards.
4. Steve Donahue (Penn)
If Penn State is looking for a coach with experience in the region, Donahue fits the bill. He spent eight years as Cornell’s eight coach and just finished his fifth season at Penn. Donahue had a rough run at Boston College between 2011 and 2014, but he’s done enough with the Quakers to deserve a look. However, he doesn’t seem to be a high upside candidate.
5. Rick Pitino (Iona)
This is a bit of an odd inclusion, but it deserves mention. Pitino is one of the most successful coaches in college basketball history. Unfortunately, he also has a sketchy history, including some major NCAA infractions. If Penn State is willing to look past his issues, Pitino would easily be the most accomplished option. And with his inability to get a top-tier job, perhaps Penn State can capitalize.