Penn State Basketball: Chambers Dodges Credit As Nittany Lions Trend Upward
You can ask Pat Chambers about the job he's doing this season, but he doesn't want to take much credit for it going well.
"It's the players that have really responded to our coaching," Chambers said on Tuesday. "They've stepped it up. We didn't know that certain guys were going to step up at timely spots over the course of the year. I've heard the word transition this year more than I've ever heard it in my entire life. When I think transition I think we're going on the offensive end."
The response is somewhat expected, the question; if this is the best job Chambers has done with a team during his coaching career. To take a roster seemingly lacking a major star and full of unproven role players and turning it into a team with a real shot to hit the 8-win mark in conference play.
So when things finally start going Penn State's way, Chambers is giving the credit to the players on the court, not the coaches shouting from the bench.
Which makes sense, if anyone deserves praise for not jumping ship on a program not with a rich history of reasons to stay optimistic, it's the players.
But this season has been a group effort, and a lot of that comes back to the man in charge.
It's amazing really that Penn State sits in the position it's in right now. The Nittany Lions are 5-9 in conference play with a very real shot at picking up three more wins. A single win ties Penn State's highest conference win total under Chambers, more than any with Tim Fraizer or DJ Newbill, two wins puts the program in rarified air compared to its own past.
Consider this, in the past 24 seasons the Nittany Lions have had seven or more wins in Big Ten play just seven times. Penn State has made it to the nine win or more total just three times in that same span.
And that makes the unexpected success of 2015-16 all the more impressive.
Take Brandon Taylor, a player who has completely retooled his game to turn from a big man with three-point potential to one of the toughest matchups in the conference. Payton Banks, who has gone from an unknown redshirt player to a 9.8 ppg average threat. Seven different players average four or more points a game, Shep Garner has found a way to make timely shots and get white hot from beyond the arc. His 13 ppg would be more if not for a few cold shooting nights, he's truly a 20 point scoring threat on any night.
In short no player has truly underperformed and if anything nearly everyone on the Nittany Lion roster has met or exceeded expectations. If that's not the sign of good coaching, then nothing is.
But again, Chambers won't take credit for it.
"I'm just proud of the way they've responded to tough love and hard scheduling," Chambers added. "The coaches and the players, we're together on everything, more than anything that's what happens this year, we stand united this year, to continue to compete and battle and try and get through those tough stretches that we've had."
There is work left to be done, but the Nittany Lions are within reach of a program first ever first round bye in the Big Ten tournament, an NIT bubble conversation and a high water mark under Chambers.
It may not turn heads around the nation but if this team, one very few expected to find this kind of success, then it's not hard to imagine what a few good recruits and a little bit of experience can do for success down the road.
Which is what makes that highly touted recruiting class all the more intriguing come next year.
"You can ask me anything you want," Chambers said with a smile. "About the players."