The Coach Chambers version of Penn State basketball constantly preaches #ATTITUDE. What some of my fellow students may not know is that #ATTITUDE in the Penn State basketball program existed long before Pat Chambers in the form of Frank Brickowski.
Meet Frank Brickowski – the name doesn’t lend itself to any hint of basketball prowess. But Brickowski may in fact be the best Penn State basketball player of all time strictly based on NBA success.
“The Brickster,” as my buddies and I have taken to calling him, played 12 years in the NBA for the Supersonics, Lakers, Spurs, Bucks, Hornets and Celtics. My roommate and I like to think we’re two of not many Penn State hoops junkies on campus. We had heard the names Arnelle, Amaechi and Booth, and had the privilege of watching Cornley, Crispin and Battle. But Brickowski had flown under our radar until now. It was actually NBA 2K13’s 3-point shootout mode that alerted us to Brickowski’s greatness. He’d always finish last in our shootouts, which forced us to find out who the heck this guy was. Ironically enough, in the year Penn State remains winless in the conference; the guy who finished last in all of our games was the Brickster, a Penn Stater.
Little did we know, Brickowski was a YouTube sensation. In 1996, his, yes his Supersonics (I’d argue Brickowski’s role was far more important than Gary Payton’s) took on Jordan’s Bulls in the NBA Finals. Brickowski vs. Jordan – a matchup made for the headlines. But it was Dennis Rodman who took the brunt of the Brickster’s wrath. One could assume Brickowski didn’t want to embarrass Jordan on basketball’s biggest stage.
In case you didn’t already think Brick was an NBA legend, pay close attention to Phil Jackson’s words in the video. Here is one of the greatest basketball minds of all-time talking about a Penn State basketball player. Oh, the irony. Watch carefully as Brickowski loses his temper, mouths off Rodman and the Bulls bench and gets within inches of a referee’s face all while being tossed out of the game. Talk about #ATTITUDE!
Brickowski wasn’t all “goon,” as Phil Jackson so kindly categorized him. The Brickster’s reign of terror on the NBA saw him post some pretty legit numbers. We’re talking 16.9 points per game in his 1992 stint with the Bucks and 16 points a game as a Spur in just his sixth year as a pro. For his career, Brickowski averaged an impressive 10 points and 4.7 boards. One could argue he was the greatest Penn Stater of all-time in the NBA. Extensive research will show LeBron James only has one more championship ring than Brickowski.
So what about his time at Dear Old State? Well, that’s where things become a bit muddy. In his first two seasons at Penn State, Brickowski only played 10 and 14 minutes a game respectively. He averaged 3.8 and 5.7 points in those seasons. His junior year saw some improvement. His minutes upped to 25.6 minutes per game as he averaged 11 points and 7 boards for the season. In his senior season, the Brickster still hadn’t hit his full potential. He averaged 13 points per game and 6 rebounds. For his total college career, dear old Frank Brickowski only averaged 19 minutes per game, 8.5 points per game and 5.3 rebounds per game. What gives?
I’ll leave it to some older Penn State alums to clear it up in the comments section, but based on articles and editorials I found in Google archives, the Brickster and his coach, Dick Harter, didn’t exactly see eye to eye.
A 1981 Pittsburgh Press article (“Brick” Bats as Sub”) by Bob Black hints at this player-coach clash. It reads: “Contrary to what Dick Harter says, Frank Brickowski still appears to be very much in the Penn State coach’s doghouse. After being benched for three of four basketball games against soft opponents, Brickowski has returned to the lineup – but not as a starter.” In his first game back from the doghouse that season, the Brickster (a team captain) scored 15 points, led the team in rebounds with nine and in assists with four. Black writes, “Yet, when asked afterwards if Brickowski had turned in a good game, Harter’s reply was, ‘No.’” Clearly, this Harter character had no grasp of Brick’s untapped hoops greatness.
I’d look into the dynamics of this Brickowski mystery more, but I’d be ignoring schoolwork and that’d mean I have a Culture problem, right? So, Penn Staters out there who’ve been following hoops since the 80s, what’s up with the Brickster’s time at Penn State? The man defined #ATTITUDE. Until I hear Phil Jackson talk at length about Talor Battle, Frank Brickowski will be the greatest basketball player to have called himself a Penn Stater.