There’s a lot to unpack in the Bryce Jordan Center these days, or maybe for some, a lot that will soon need to be packed.
For one, short of an unexpected Big Ten Tournament run, Penn State’s season is set to end in roughly 10 days. And while Penn State could – in theory – accept an NIT bid if given one, it does not seem like the most probable decision given the program’s future changes. In either event, a 2020-21 that had outside NCAA Tournament hopes will find itself ending on a far different note than anyone expected just months ago.
The conclusion of every season brings with it the same bittersweet moments of excitement and sadness. It can mark the end of a collegiate career, sometimes the end of a basketball career not long after. It almost always marks the end of a team in its current configuration. Nothing will be the same after the horn blows one final time, this team will never see the floor again together.
There is a sadness in that for the players, coaches and managers involved in the moment.
Beyond the routine, there is the uncertainty of what lies beyond. Penn State basketball could very well – if not almost certainly – see the arrival of a new coaching staff in the coming months, perhaps the departure of players along with those changes.
That’s a lot to digest with at least three games left on the schedule and nothing left on the docket after that.
“I met with them Sunday,” Penn State interim head coach Jim Ferry said on Tuesday. “And we talked about – we’ve done such a good job of staying present and caring about ourselves as a team.
“And being unselfish. It’s going to show great character of who we are, that we’re able to do it all the way through. Let’s all just keep staying together and working for each other. And staying present I think that’s the best thing for this group to do.”
Generally speaking few have questioned the intestinal fortitude of a Penn State program that has historically pulled out 11th hour upsets late in the season. The Nittany Lions have never been ones to pack it in when the going gets tough.
That said, as Penn State fell by 21 to Purdue this past weekend, it wouldn’t have been unreasonable to raise an eyebrow and wonder if this was the moment – one that comes after a canceled season, a departed coach and a pandemic, that everything finally caught up to a team just looking for an excuse to pack it up.
And maybe they will, but as Penn State takes part in Senior Night on Wednesday evening, the Nittany Lions will likely do the same thing they’ve done all year: take the floor for each other, record be damned.
For Ferry, the oddity of the times don’t appear to be getting to him when in public. He remains positive, upbeat and optimistic. He of course is playing with house money, but he also is auditioning for the job he wants to keep long term, which makes the distinct possibility that Ferry could be unemployed in a week’s time an odd dynamic for a coach who is just taking things a day at a time.
“As the leader of the group and the older guy in the group, you can’t focus on what you can’t control and we really can’t control what’s going to happen in 8- 10, four days from now,” Ferry said. “So let’s focus on who we are, what we do. And the rest of the stuff will take care of itself.”