Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour offered public support for men’s basketball coach Patrick Chambers after the team’s 60-39 loss to Northwestern last Saturday.
Barbour told David Jones of PennLive that Chambers will be back next season even if the Nittany Lions lose their final three games and finish 3-15 in the Big Ten.
“Yes,” Barbour told Jones in a text message in an article published Monday. “He deserves more opportunity than he’s gotten. And we need to help him more. No one wins if we just keep turning over men’s basketball coaches.
“These things take time. I believe we have the chance to turn a corner.”
It was the second time Barbour expressed confidence in Chambers and his program in the last two weeks. She first stood behind the coach during an interview on the Steve Jones Show on Feb. 17, saying, “Patrick Chambers is my guy. He’s going to be with us and I believe he’s going to build us a long-term sustainable winner at Penn State, and I support every ounce of that.”
Chambers, who is in his fourth season at Penn State, appreciates the support.
“It’s huge,” Chambers said at his weekly press conference Thursday. “I know what people are saying. It’s huge. I’m not going to deny the fact that I don’t see it. I see it. It’s huge to have that type of support. It gets you up even earlier in the morning to get to work and want to fight for Sandy and work even harder if that’s possible to prepare your team, to prepare yourself and to keep a great attitude.
“Because this is a process and we’re doing some good things, and I think Sandy understands the position we’re in and where we started and where we are and there’s progress.”
Chambers has gone 53-72 overall and 15-54 in Big Ten play at Penn State.
The Nittany Lions went 16-18 overall and 6-12 in the conference last season. They went 12-1 in non-conference play this year, but they’ve struggled to a 3-12 record in the Big Ten heading into their game against Iowa at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Bryce Jordan Center.
Chambers put together the best recruiting class in the program’s history in November, signing Josh Reaves, Mike Watkins and Deividas “Davis” Zemgulis to NCAA National Letters of Intent. The trio make up Penn State’s Class of 2015 currently ranked 36th in the country and sixth in the Big Ten by 247Sports.
The coach has seen small victories for his program since taking over.
“Sandy and I are going to sit down after the year and talk about investing and what that investing is,” Chambers said. “We’re near finalizing a deal for the film room and new training table, which is a step in the right direction.”
Chambers points to signage and branding in the Bryce Jordan Center as examples of progress.
“All these are small successes and victories that the people on the outside might not know of,” Chambers said. “But internally, they’re going not according to the timetable, but they’re at least getting, we’re getting there. We’ll meet after the Big Ten tournament. We’ll sit down. We’ll see what’s in store for Penn State basketball, that means men and women and what we need to be successful.”
Chambers also said he wants to turn the Jordan Center into a great home environment — the Nittany Lions currently rank 12th in the Big Ten in attendance with an average of 7,862 — as he continues to build the program with Barbour’s support.
“I have a very, very detailed plan,” Chambers said. “Very detailed plan of what I think this could be and how I want to get it done. And it’s just going to take some time, but so far, so good. I appreciate that she came out as hard as she has the last few weeks.”
Week off comes at right time
Penn State has had a week to recover from its 21-point loss to Northwestern.
“After that game, we looked like a beaten team,” Chambers said. “We did — mentally and physically drained. And I think this week off, I’m just going to be honest with you, this week off came at a great time, a really good time.”
It was the Nittany Lions’ third double-digit loss this season, following a 17-point setback to then-No. 4 Wisconsin and a 20-point loss to then-No. 23 Ohio State. Penn State shot a season-worst 27.3 percent and scored a season-low 39 points in the loss to the Wildcats.
“When you’re so close so many times, it starts to wear on you,” Chambers said. “It starts wearing your psyche and it just affects you and I think that’s what we saw a little bit the last six minutes of the second half of Northwestern. So I gave them two days off, reboot, reset, refresh, everybody needs it and then we’ve had some really healthy practices the last two days.”
Chambers said football coach James Franklin spoke to the team Wednesday, telling the players to stay the course.
D.J. Newbill joined the coaches at a staff meeting this week.
“You don’t get to see all the work the coaches put in preparing for practices and game planning and practice planning to get us ready for the next upcoming opponent,” Newbill said. “So for me to just sit in there and be a part of that and also for them to ask my input on certain things was good for me.”
Newbill was limited to a season-low three points against Northwestern.
Newbill said he was impressed to see the coaches’ detaild approach up-close.
“He was all ears and kind of just looking around going, ‘Wow,’ taking it all in and kind of understands the mission that there’s no let up,” Chambers said. “We’re going to keep pushing, keep driving and I felt like he learned a lot from that meeting and took it into practice and had a clear understanding of why we’re doing what we’re doing.”