I’ve tried to stay out of the cancel culture wars because there’s enough craziness on the internet already, but today Pat Chambers came under fire for comments he made to former Penn State basketball player Rasir Bolton in 2019, and I had no choice but to jump into the fray.
This is my basketball coach we’re talking about. The guy I agonized over for the past decade as he recruited athletes who couldn’t shoot and “shooters” who also couldn’t shoot. The guy whose lineup choices made me feel like I was watching a blogger play a college basketball video game instead of an actual college basketball game. But more importantly, this was the guy who led Penn State to what would have been an NCAA Tournament berth if not for COVID-19 in 2020. I didn’t think Chambers would ever do that, but he proved me wrong in a big way.
Even with Lamar Stevens graduated, there was a lot of momentum heading into the 2020-21 campaign. Chambers has a chance to prove that last season wasn’t a flash in the pan. Or he will, if he doesn’t get fired for making problematic comments to Bolton.
Bolton left Penn State following the 2018-19 season and found a new home at Iowa State. We didn’t hear anything about a noose comment until now. The timing is curious considering how cancel culture has run rampant since the tragic death of George Floyd. Is Bolton coming forward with this because he feels more comfortable talking about due to recent events? Is he thinking that the consequences should be more severe for Chambers give what happened with NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace? Or does Bolton just have an axe to grind and is taking advantage of the current climate?
Assuming the latter is not going to do anything to advance the conversation, but even if Bolton is still troubled by his former coach’s comments, that doesn’t mean the grievances should have been made public. Now we have all sorts of people who aren’t familiar with Bolton or Chambers weighing in on what they think should happen. Whatever Chambers said to Bolton in the aftermath of the incident wasn’t enough for Bolton, and so Chambers apologized on Twitter Monday.
I hope the coach apologized on the phone or in a Zoom conference as well, because Twitter apologies these days aren’t worth the non-existent paper they’re printed on. And that should be the end of the matter. Chambers made a mistake and it cost him a talented basketball player. Bolton used his right to transfer and is in a place where he feels more welcome. But what if it’s not the end? It wouldn’t be beyond the media to pressure Penn State to make a change and reverse the progress that Chambers has made with this program over the years. All for a mistake that Chambers says he will learn from.
I might not be the biggest believer in Chambers’s skills as a coach, but I am a big believer in his character and love for his players. That’s why I was happy to see Stevens and senior point guard Jamari Wheeler stand up for their guy.
Both guys have played under Chambers for four years. Based on their comments, I’m confident that Chambers can learn from his mistake and is fit to continue leading the Penn State program. Kicking him out now would be bad for the program’s future and bad for the young recruits looking for a great place to play Division I hoops.
Wait until the team flops because Stevens is gone and no one can score. Then you can fire him.