Penn State Basketball: Chambers To Return In 2019, But Goals Must Be High
First reported by The Athletic in Chicago and confirmed by StateCollege.com, Penn State coach Patrick Chambers will be back for his ninth season following a 77-72 loss to Minnesota in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament.
Penn State finishes the season 14-18 on the year after winning seven of its final 10 regular season games.
The news in and of itself was not much of a surprise. Barbour had been a fairly consistent and public supporter of Chambers' efforts all year long. While administrators are certainly prone to saying one thing and doing another, firing Chambers would have been a hard 180-degree turn from her public comments.
"My support for Pat has never wavered," Barbour told StateCollege.com in a statement following the initial report on Thursday night.
From the outside it seems to be a pragmatic move, if nothing else. Penn State was competitive in nearly every game it played this season despite being one of the younger teams in the nation going up against one of the toughest schedules.
Lamar Stevens and Josh Reaves were consistent forces on both ends of the floor while Myles Dread, Rasir Bolton and even Myreon Jones proved to be more than competent additions to the roster as freshmen. It stands to reason that all three will continue to improve and if Stevens returns for his senior season that Penn State is more likely to pick up where it left off in the regular season than find itself headed toward another 0-10 start in Big Ten play.
Of course all of this comes with a caveat.
It's hard to ignore the longevity of Chambers' tenure at Penn State and the relatively forgettable spurts of success along the way. The NIT title victory in 2018 was a nice exclamation point on a fairly successful season, but one couldn't help but wonder what might have been if that same team had improved just a bit faster and had won just a few more games. The Nittany Lions were as good as nearly anyone come late March, but to most everyone that didn't matter.
In many ways Chambers shouldn't be judged by how long it took him to get to this position, one where Penn State can argue it has a chance to win nearly every game. He should be judged by what he does now that he has reached this point. It's hard to make the claim that the first four or five years of his time at Penn State were full of missed opportunities and mismanagement of talent. And while the previous three haven't been overflowing with greatness, they have bucked the program's own norms.
The glare of Beaver Stadium often masks a very harsh reality that Penn State basketball has never been a good program and that for the vast majority of its existence good players have not wanted to play there. Wanting Penn State basketball to be better doesn't make it happen. Being angry that it isn't better doesn't make the problems go away or make a high level coach appear and money to pay for one to materialize. It's hard to argue another coach would have won many more games the first few years of post-2011 given that roster, or that, in a vacuum, he would have recruited better those years.
All of that being said, Penn State finds itself in the place it has wanted to be, even if it has taken longer than most would have hoped. If Stevens returns next season, Penn State should enter the year fully embracing the NCAA Tournament as its goal. It should be held to that standard and failure to achieve that goal — to the extent it has this year — should not be tolerated.
If it does, then Chambers should be rewarded for a decade's worth of work that pulled an often forgotten program out of the depths. It has never recruited better, it has never been more competitive in the Big Ten than it is right now and it has never had more administrative support.
But if it doesn't, especially by virtue of its own play and the things that it can control, Chambers won't be able to say he didn't have enough time.
And then it will be hard to say he should have more.