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Next Man Up: Who Could Replace Pat Chambers?

Penn State men’s basketball’s nine-year Pat Chambers era officially came to a close last week when the head coach stepped down following an internal investigation into misconduct allegations.

While the news came as a shock to many, one thing is for certain: Penn State needs to find a replacement sooner or later. For now, Chambers’ assistant since 2017, Jim Ferry, will take the reins as interim head coach with more than 30 years of coaching experience under his belt.

Penn State plans to begin a nationwide search to find the next coach to lead the Nittany Lions. Let’s take a look at some options to consider in the pursuit of Penn State mens basketball’s next leader.

Jim Ferry

Interim head coach Ferry is the first and most obvious option, and he’ll have a season to win the job.

In her press conference last week, Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Sandy Barbour said she was confident in Ferry’s ability to lead the team this season and he would get the chance to remove the interim tag moving forward.

Ferry has been the offensive mastermind for the Nittany Lions since coming to Happy Valley in 2017. The Nittany Lions shot 46.1% during the 2017-18 campaign, the team’s best-ever mark in Big Ten play. Penn State also put up a single-season record 2,915 total points.

Before his time aat Penn State, Ferry posted a 60-97 record during five years at Duquesne. He was fired following the 2017 season.

Ferry found his most success between 2002 and 2012 as head coach at Long Island University. LIU made the second round of the NCAA tournament in 2011 and 2012, surpassing 25 wins in both campaigns.

Ferry wouldn’t be the flashy pick, but he could be a solid one. Can he move the needle in State College? Unlike other candidates, we will have the chance to see what he can do for the program this coming season.

Phil Martelli

Martelli is “The Godfather” of Philadelphia basketball. Before taking his current job at Michigan, Martelli was the head coach of Saint Joseph’s for 24 years. He became the most successful coach in university history, turning the Hawks into one of the most consistent program’s in the country. He left in 2019 after accumalted a 444-328 record over his 24 years at the helm.

He also has postseason success, going as far as the Elite Eight back in 2004. He won Coach of the Year in the same year after the Hawks went 27-0 and sat at No. 1 for the first time in program history,

Penn State embraced the Philadelphia pipeline under Chambers, and Martelli could keep that trend rolling. The real question is whether Martelli is willing to build up a program like Penn State so late in his career.

Steve Donahue

Donahue, Penn’s head coach since 2015 is another candidate who personifies the Philly pipeline.

Donahue is the only coach in Ivy League history to win the conference with two different programs. He won it three times with Cornell and most recently with Penn in 2018. He turned the Penn program around in a short time, going from 11 wins to 24 and an NCAA Tournament bid in a three-year span. He also made it to the Sweet 16 with Cornell back in 2010.

The Delco native would be a risk for the program. He hasn’t done it in a big conference yet, but Penn State could be his big break. And think about the camaraderie with the Delco King himself!

Kenny Atkinson

Atkinson could be the best candidate to come from the NBA. He resigned as the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets back in March following four seasons at the helm. He left Brooklyn with a 118-190 record.

Atkinson doesn’t currently have a job, even though he’s rumored to be joining Ty Lue’s staff with the Los Angeles Clippers. He has his flaws as an in-game coach, but no one can question his ability to develop young players. Players such as former Ohio State guard Deangelo Russel and former Michigan guard Caris Levert thrived under Atkinson early in his career.

Will this happen? There’s a 99% chance it doesn’t, but it wouldn’t hurt to give him a call and try and get some NBA experience to Happy Valley.


No matter who the next head coach is, the foundation for success is there. It will be important to make the right hire, especially after the successes of the 2019-20 campaign. We will need to see what Ferry’s Nittany Lions can do come tip-off in about a month.

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About the Author

Connor Donohue

Connor is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. He hails from the great state of New Jersey and is proud of it. Lover of the greatest city in the world, New York City, he strongly dislikes the city of Philadelphia and will not hesitate to tell you that. He's also been cursed as a Penn State fan since birth. If you want to call him a bum or maybe go out on a date with him, follow him on twitter @ConnorDonohue00 or email him at [email protected]

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