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‘He Was Our Heart & Soul’: Izaiah Brockington Opens Up On Pat Chambers Scandal

Former Penn State men’s basketball guard Izaiah Brockington spoke about the October 2020 resignation of former head coach Pat Chambers in a podcast interview with Zach Schumaker Wednesday night.

After Chambers’ resignation, Brockington and seven teammates entered the NCAA transfer portal. Prior to the 2021-22 season, the Nittany Lion transferred to Iowa State, where he has averaged 17.1 points per game, in 34.5 minutes per game this year.

Chambers resigned after a months-long internal investigation into allegations that he made racially insensitive remarks to the team. Former Penn State guard Rasir Bolton alleged Chambers said, “I want to loosen the noose that’s around your neck.” In the aftermath, several players penned statements defending their coach.

In the interview with Schumaker, Brockington opened up about the days leading up to Chambers’ resignation, the team’s reaction to the allegations, and their perception of the investigation.

“It really came out of nowhere,” Brockington said about the coaching change. “Guys had gotten interviewed by internal affairs, and we had gone through that during summer session…and then we heard nothing about it for a while, so everybody on the team assumed…it was over.”

Brockington described the season preparation as feeling normal, with the team and Chambers engaging in typical workouts and official practices.

Sometime before the 2020-21 season, Brockington said Chambers took multiple “team leaders” out to dinner. Throughout their conversations, Chambers continuously referred to the players as “you guys” and told them to “stick together no matter what.”

“I was like, ‘Why do you keep saying [you]?'” Brockington said. “[It’s] ‘we’..’us.'”

When asked by the team about the investigation’s conclusion, Brockington remembered Chambers as noncommittal, alluding to the university’s treatment of the situation as still underway. The ongoing status was a surprise to the team.

“The next day, we went to the AD [Sandy Barbour] and the assistant AD,” Brockington said. “And we were like, ‘Should we be worried about anything? He’s still gonna be our coach, right?'”

“They kept it kind of vague,” Brockington continued. “They said no official decision had been made, that they were looking into it, but they did want him to stay. Literally like the next day at practice, he told us all that he was going to resign.”

Brockington described feeling personally hurt by the situation but also feeling for his teammates — specifically John Harrar, Jamari Wheeler, and Myles Dread. Brockington additionally recounted harboring sympathy for his former coach.

“For [Chambers] to be gone like that so close to the season and for people to question his character and the type of person he was, it was really sad to see everything ended like that,” Brockington said.

The publication of the allegations in July 2020 was met with swift comments from Penn State’s athletic director Sandy Barbour, who recently announced her impending retirement. Though Barbour’s statement made mention of “taking action” and “supporting growth and change,” Chambers’ employment status was left untouched for months.

That publicly remained the case until Chambers’ eventual resignation in October 2020. Despite acknowledging Chambers made a mistake, Brockington suggested the media played a potentially unintentional role in exacerbating its impact.

Brockington says his perception of the school’s role in the situation was more calculated.

“I see how the school couldn’t tolerate having their program viewed like that,” Brockington said. “But as players, we felt like it was more about protecting the school’s image than us.”

“We felt like it was a decision the school made for themselves at the end of the day, especially at the time they made it,” Brockington continued. “We felt like they could’ve done that in the summertime. We felt like they could’ve done that before official practices started.”

Chambers vacated the head coaching position roughly a month before the beginning of the 2020-21 season, leaving the team to rely on an interim head coach for the year. Jim Ferry, a former assistant, filled the role for the entire season.

“We kinda felt betrayed that they let it drag out…until a couple weeks before the season start,” Brockington said. “We felt like they did it so we would all be stuck there.”

When asked whether or not he would have stayed for Chambers, Brockington offered a strong affirmation.

“I was ready to play for him, ready to bring us back to the tournament,” Brockington said. “That was the goal since it had been taken from us the previous year.”

“I still wanted him to coach me that season, for sure,” Brockington continued. “He was our heart and soul. He was the one who was motivating us.”

The former Penn State star said Chambers’ absence was directly related to his transfer decision.

“I had no intentions of leaving, honestly, before he got fired,” Brockington said.

Brockington’s use of the word “fired” is noteworthy. Officially, Chambers voluntarily resigned, but this is interestingly not the first time a former player has described the former coach as being “fired.”

At a November 2020 press conference, after interim head coach Jim Ferry sidestepped commenting on Chambers’ exit, players began to openly express confusion, frustration, and disappointment. Point guard Jamari Wheeler specifically discussed struggling to understand the reason Chambers was “fired” before correcting himself.

Do these word choices hint that Chambers was forced to step down? We may never know for certain. But that appears to be the perception of Brockington and his former teammates.

Brockington’s comments Wednesday night seem to indicate the Nittany Lions’ loyalty to their coach still persists a year and a half later. The former Penn State guard asserted the team could have “definitely” stayed together over the last two seasons, instead of dealing with various transfers, if Chambers still manned the program.

“He was one of the nicest, realest guys I had been around,” Brockington said. “He was a coach that I hadn’t had before.”

According to Brockington, Chambers would frequently call individual meetings with players to discuss non-basketball-related topics and life in general as a way of building personal relationships. Brockington revealed he and his former coach stayed in touch throughout the 2020-21 season as well as after it. The pair still keeps in touch to this day.

“He’ll tell me that he’s proud of me,” Brockington said. “[He tells me] he loves seeing what I’m doing and that he loves seeing me at a place where I can show all I can do.”

“It never really stopped, having a good personal relationship with him,” Brockington continued. “I feel like that spoke volumes about how much he did care about us.”

Chambers has since taken over the head coaching position at Florida Gulf Coast. Brockington and the Iowa State Cyclones, meanwhile, will take on the Miami Hurricanes in the Sweet Sixteen round of the NCAA Tournament.

The No. 11-seeded Cyclones previously defeated No. 6 seed LSU and No. 3 seed Wisconsin in the first and second rounds, respectively. Tip-off against Miami is scheduled for 9:59 p.m. with television coverage on TBS.

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About the Author

Sam Fremin

Sam is a senior from Ashburn, Virginia, majoring in journalism and political science & minoring in German and creative writing. He is a Dallas Cowboys fan who relishes the misery of Eagles fans. All hate messages can be sent to [email protected] or @SamFremin on Twitter.

He may or may not read every single comment he gets.

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