Penn State Hoops Owes Players Explanation On Pat Chambers’ Resignation
In the wake of a coaching change, Penn State men’s basketball’s media day was going just fine last Wednesday. Interim head coach Jim Ferry made it seem the team was adjusting well to Pat Chambers’ absence and it would be business-as-usual at the Bryce Jordan Center.
Until the players stepped up to the podium, that is.
Izaiah Brockington was the first player to talk to the media. He started by speaking his mind on Chambers’ sudden resignation.
“Obviously, I was shocked and hurt by the decision that coach made,” Brockington said. “As a team, we decided that we wanted to play this season out for coach and for each other, and that’s really the number one thing on our mind right now.”
Ferry spoke for a half-hour and barely touched on Chambers’ resignation, only mentioning the former coach in the context of basketball and team logistics. This made Brockington’s statement even more jarring and concerning.
Things got worse when senior guard Jamari Wheeler spoke.
“I’m still confused and don’t understand how that happened…but I just want to give a shoutout to [Chambers] and we love him so much,” Wheeler said. “He was one of the best coaches I’ve ever played for and I’d still love to play for if he was here.”
Things continued to get worse when Wheeler recounted the weeks leading up to Chambers’ resignation. He said the team “knew something was off” and sought out answers from staff members.
But Wheeler was cut off by a member of Penn State’s strategic communications team before he could finish telling the story.
“Next question, please. Sorry about that,” he said.
If Penn State doesn’t want its fans knowing the details surrounding Chambers’ resignation, that’s no issue. Obviously, people outside the program aren’t owed information about an internal investigation into alleged misconduct. But players, on the other hand, deserve answers.
The players are what power the program and, quite frankly, are what make the program money. If they are still at odds with a decision that was made, how can you expect them to still play for the team? At the very least, they deserve to know what happened.
Their frustration and confusion was evident throughout the entire media day.
“We haven’t gotten any answers,” Wheeler said.
“I’m not at peace with it, and I will not be at peace with it until everybody has answers as to why [Chambers resigned],” Myles Dread added.
Is this how Penn State wants its star players to feel? Angry at the program and at a loss for answers? Many of the players still have strong relationships with Chambers, and perhaps he’s the only reason they’re all sticking around this season.
Brockington said they’re playing the season out for him, after all. After this year, all the wheels could fall off. The entire Class of 2021 has already decommitted, and without a new head coach, none of the current players will have any allegiance to a program that left them out in the cold.
It’s possible that Penn State resolved some of these issues with its student-athletes following the media day fiasco. But a recent tweet from Wheeler suggests he’s still spiteful about the whole situation.
Wheeler was showing off Penn State’s new locker room (which looks sweet, by the way) to the former coach.
“Thank you for making this happen for us and we appreciate you so much coach and love you,” he said in the tweet.
“Facts!!!! PSU Basketball wouldn’t be what it is without him. The real ?,” former star Lamar Stevens added in a quote tweet.
The video is pretty heartbreaking. The former coach, with his kids in the back seat, is smiling at what he helped create. Wheeler and many others will reap the fruit of Chambers’ work for years to come, perhaps never knowing why he needed to leave.
Penn State never gave a reason for Chambers’ resignation but said the decision was made after an internal investigation.
One could conclude the investigation was related to allegations made by former guard Rasir Bolton, who alleged Chambers made a comment involving a “noose around [his] neck.” These allegations surfaced in July, and no updates were given until Chambers resigned in October.
Wheeler suggested that he, as a Black athlete, was never involved in an investigation into these comments.
“I’ve been here four years, a Black athlete that plays for him that’s all the way from Florida, and I didn’t get a question one time ‘Is coach racist?’ or anything like that,” Wheeler said. “It’s just confusing.”
You get the feeling Chambers was forced to step down rather than resigning on his own terms. Wheeler even said during his press conference he was trying to figure out the reason Chambers got “fired,” which he quickly corrected to “step down.”
Again, nobody outside the organization is owed this information. In fact, it’s probably better if it stays inside closed doors. But the players still have a strong relationship with Chambers and are actively confused.
For the sake of the program, and for the sake of closure, Penn State would be doing itself a favor by walking its players through what happened. A group of players with active disdain for its school won’t end well for either party.
Penn State shouldn’t expect loyalty if it doesn’t express any honesty.
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