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Hot Seat Or Cool Throne: Evaluating Penn State Head Coaches’ Job Security

You don’t often hear about Penn State firing its athletic programs’ head coaches. The last head coach to be fired by the university was Jeff Thompson, who sued Penn State after being relieved of the women’s gymnastics head coaching job in 2017.

It’s been even longer since a head coach was fired for unsatisfactory performance. Could that change this year? We examined some of Penn State’s current head coaches’ job securities based on their performance as the winter sports season comes to a close.

For the sake of clarity, we’ll use a 1-10 scale to determine how hot or cold each coach’s seat is. A score of 1/10 means the coach shouldn’t be going anywhere, while a 10/10 means they’re as good as gone.

Pat Chambers, men’s basketball: 7.5/10

The #FirePatChambers crowd may not like to hear this, but Pat Chambers has made a case to stick around Happy Valley for at least one more season.

Obviously, there are tons of reasons why Penn State needs to move on from Chambers. The team’s 0-10 start to Big Ten play is inexcusable and an NIT title is only satisfactory if the team takes strides forward in the next season, which it hasn’t by any measure this year.

So why would Penn State keep a coach who’s had as rough of a go at it as Pat Chambers has in Happy Valley? Whenever I’ve watched the Nittany Lions, they’ve played hard for Pat Chambers. I’ve rarely seen a group of players go out and battle as much as Penn State has in recent weeks, so this team clearly has some chemistry with Chambers in that sense.

You also can’t argue against his recent results. Penn State has rattled off four wins in its last five games, two of which were upsets over then-No. 6 Michigan and No. 17 Maryland at the Bryce Jordan Center.

Chambers’ recent contract extension complicates things, but his future in Happy Valley should at least be under intense scrutiny right now. That said, you can’t ignore the team’s recent run of form when making a decision on the head coach’s future.

Coquese Washington, women’s basketball: 8.5/10

The writing may be on the wall for Penn State women’s basketball head coach Coquese Washington, who’s in the final year of her current contract.

Athletic director Sandy Barbour made her feelings clear on the current state of Penn State women’s basketball at her most recent media availability ahead of the 2019 Citrus Bowl.

“There’s no doubt where that program has been for the last four, now into five years is not up to Penn State standards,” Barbour said. “It’s not Coquese’s standards, and it’s certainly not my standards.”

At the time, the Lady Lions were 7-5. They’re 5-11 since Barbour made those comments on New Year’s Eve. Washington’s coaching may not be the only reason why the team is struggling; a host of players have been sidelined by injuries. That includes star guard Teniya Page, who’s sat out of the last three games due to an ankle injury.

Regardless, it’s hard to imagine Washington re-upping with Penn State after this season. Barring unforeseen circumstances, the Lady Lions will miss out on the NCAA tournament for the fifth straight year.

Guy Gadowsky, men’s hockey: 2/10

Guy Gadowsky’s job security is still pretty much a lock, but it may be lower than it’s ever been since he took the helm of Penn State’s hockey program.

Prior to the 2016-17 season, Gadowsky did a brilliant job of steadily improving the team during its first years back in the Division I ranks. That, of course, was the season when the Nittany Lions famously won the Big Ten and beat Union 10-3 in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Penn State hasn’t matched that success in the past two years, but it may just be regressing to the mean after overachieving. The Nittany Lions were back in the big dance last year, but they got smacked 5-1 in the first round after earning an at-large bid.

The team currently has a 17 percent chance of qualifying for the NCAA tournament again, and consecutive seasons of regression is a cause for concern. If the Nittany Lions do get back to the NCAA tournament, however, this isn’t an issue.

Regardless, the former Princeton bench boss seems to be the best man for the job going forward. He and his coaching staff have done an excellent job of getting their players to buy into the team’s philosophy over the past seven seasons. They’ve also been excellent on the recruiting trail in particular — bringing in blue-chip talents like Evan Barratt, Aarne Talvitie, and incoming goalie Liam Soulière is no easy task.

Cael Sanderson, wrestling: 0/10

How much do I even need to say here? Fifty-nine consecutive dual meet victories and seven of the last eight national championships really speak for themselves. Cael Sanderson will be the head coach of Penn State’s wrestling program for a long, long time.

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About the Author

Mikey Mandarino

In the most upsetting turn of events, Mikey graduated from Penn State with a digital & print journalism degree in the spring of 2020. He covered Penn State football and served as an editor for Onward State from 2018 until his graduation. Mikey is from Bedminster, New Jersey, so naturally, he spends lots of time yelling about all the best things his home state has to offer. Mikey also loves to play golf, but he sucks at it because golf is really hard. If you, for some reason, feel compelled to see what Mikey has to say on the internet, follow him on Twitter @Mikey_Mandarino. You can also get in touch with Mikey via his big-boy email address: [email protected]

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