For the first time since head basketball coach Pat Chambers was forced to resign, Penn State basketball players were able to meet with the media via Zoom on Wednesday. The focus of the press conference was the start of the 2020-21 season, but several players spoke about Chambers and the impact he had on the program.
A month ago, Chambers was shockingly let go by Penn State as a result of an internal investigation that was prompted by the coach making “noose” comments to former player Rasir Bolton, who transferred to Iowa State after the 2018-19 campaign. The controversial conversation between Chambers and Bolton was revealed by The Undefeated and Bolton in July of this year.
In the announcement of Chambers’s resignation, Penn State said that the investigation was based on “new allegations of inappropriate conduct” that came to light following Bolton going public. However, we have let to learn what these new allegations are that apparently cost Penn State its basketball coach.
That’s frustrating because athletic director Sandy Barbour effectively nuked the hoops program with this decision. The Nittany Lions have already lost all three commitments for the 2021 class, and we probably won’t find out about the next full-time head coach until the spring.
What’s even more frustrating is that on Wednesday we learned that the players themselves are also in the dark regarding these additional allegations.
“I was shocked and hurt by the decision that Coach [Chambers] made, but as a team we’re all committed to this season, committed to winning and getting back to where we were last year and finishing business,” junior guard Izaiah Brockington said. “As a team, we decided we want to play this season out for Coach [Chambers] and for each other, and that’s really the number one thing on our mind right now.”
Izaiah Brockington is referring to the “decision” that Chambers made to resign in October. Also, the team has dedicated the season to its former coach as though he was just diagnosed with a terrible disease.
“I’m still confused and don’t understand how that happened,” Wheeler said. “I just want to give a shoutout to [Chambers], and we love him so much, and hopefully he gets another chance to coach at a high major and be a head coach again because he’s one of the best coaches I ever played for.”
“I know there’s a bunch of things about him being racist,” Wheeler said. “I’ve been here four years — a Black athlete that plays for him and is all the way from Florida… not one time was Coach [Chambers] racist or anything like that — so it’s just confusing and a misunderstanding.”
Senior guard Jamari Wheeler’s comments are the most telling because he’s the likely leader of this team and has played for Chambers for three seasons. Worst of all is that according to Wheeler, the Penn State administration kept the players in the dark about what was happening with Chambers right up until the announcement.
“It was hard because earlier that day, before he announced it, we had a meeting with a couple people on the staff because we knew something kind of off, during the two weeks leading up to it, we just felt the vibe,” Wheeler said. “So me and a couple of guys on the team had a private meeting with a couple staff members that’s up above, and we were told that everything was good.”
Does that mean that none of the current players were even questioned during the investigation? It makes you wonder who the administration spoke to for the three months between the Bolton story and Chambers leaving. Former players? Assistant coaches? Does anyone care to find out?
Barbour can’t make a decision that affects the future of the basketball program and the lives of student-athletes without a real explanation. I’m afraid, though, that Penn State basketball fans don’t care enough to press the administration on this. Someone has to, though. Remember, this is two basketball coaches in a row that PSU has had resigned following breakout campaigns. Ed DeChellis stepped down after leading the team to the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
Meanwhile, Chambers was supporting last year’s senior star Lamar Stevens as he hoped to get drafted into the NBA.
Stevens ended up signing a free agent contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Who knows how many young men will miss out on that opportunity because Penn State let a good coach get away?
Led by interim head coach Jim Ferry, Penn State opens up the 2020-21 season on Wednesday against Drexel.