STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – With the members of his family leading a standing ovation, Patrick Chambers was introduced Monday as the new head basketball coach at Penn State and promised to work hard to bring recruits from the Philadelphia area and other major Eastern cities to Happy Valley.
About 200 people, including an estimated 50 members of his family, welcomed Chambers, a former Villanova assistant coach and most recently the head coach at Boston University, at a reception and press conference on the practice court at Bryce Jordan Center.
The Nittany Lions have had persistent problems trying to recruit big-name players, which is a dilemma given that they play in the rugged Big Ten. They did make it to the NCAA tournament last season, losing to Temple in the first round, but key performers of that senior-laden team are gone.
Chambers, 40, who replaced Ed DeChellis as the 12th head coach in Penn State history, said he will immediately address recruiting, noting that he will be traveling this week to scout players.
“We have to tap into our relationships, relationship that I built all my life in Philadelphia when I was in high school and college and when I got to Villanova,” he said. “You have to go back to where people know you and people trust you. When people trust you, they’re going to send you their kids. I think that’s the most important thing.
“I’ve built a lot of good relationships. A lot of Philly-area kids and from the surrounding area came to Boston so if we can do it at Boston, we can do it at Penn State.”
Chambers said the Nittany Lions would conduct an up-tempo style emphasizing the three-point shot, and also be a team that will hustle on defense and on the boards, “scrap for every inch to make sure we compete on a daily basis,” he said.
“The goal is to be the best team that we can be by the end of the year,” he said. “The foundation is here, the bricks have been laid – an NIT championship (in 2010), an NCAA tournament berth. We need to continue on that path of consistency.”
Chambers said he paid a visit to legendary football coach Joe Paterno and quipped, “That was a thrill. I almost asked him for his autograph but I think I’d better wait a couple of weeks on that.
He added, “Coach Paterno said to me, ‘We want to do great things, we want to win.’”
He said athletic director Tim Curley and university president Graham Spanier, both of whom were in attendance at the press conference, wanted the same thing, “and that’s why I wanted to be a part of this incredible Penn State family.”
Chambers also thanked all the coaches for whom he played – Dan Dougherty at Episcopal Academy and Hall of Famer Herb Magee at Philadelphia University – and one – Villanova’s Jay Wright, for whom he served as an assistant coach.
“Jay taught me how to build a program, to run a program, to build a championship program, how to recruit and how to build relationships,” he said. “I owe so much to him. He gave me an opportunity out of high school, one that many people probably wouldn’t have given me. He gave me that shot. He saw something in me, and I will be forever indebted to him.
“Herb Magee gave me a scholarship when I had no place to go. He taught me so many things about basketball, about X’s and O’s. He was truly a father figure.The legendary Dan Dougherty taught me about discipline, taught me about loyalty, taught me about hard work.”
Chambers was clearly touched by the reception he received, which made the occasion sound more like a pep rally.
“It just feels like home,” he said. “It feels right. I feel like we have come here. We’re going to anchor in and hopefully we’ll be in here a long time.”