Central Pennsylvania Basketball Legend Pat Flannery Building Out Penn State Hoops’ NIL Initiative
The bounds of Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) have endlessly transformed since NCAA student-athletes gained the ability to monetize their personal brands beginning in 2021.
Though the sphere of modern collegiate athletics is at the forefront of development, 66-year-old Pat Flannery is leading the NIL charge within the Penn State men’s basketball program.
Flannery, the general manager of “More to Give,” Happy Valley United’s basketball-specific initiative, grew up with a basketball, baseball, or football in his hand in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. The former Bucknell point guard went on to coach Division III Lebanon Valley and Flying Dutchman Mike Rhoades to a 1994 National Championship victory, lead his alma mater Bucknell to back-to-back ranked NCAA Tournament wins, and become a household name in Pennsylvania basketball culture.
Though Flannery’s playing and coaching accolades speak for themselves, it’s the lessons he learned from former coaches and mentors that helped him become the team-first basketball mind he is today, which benefit the Nittany Lions’ NIL fundraising and networking efforts.
Flannery was the first of his family members to attend college after his recruitment by Bucknell to play basketball and baseball in Lewisburg. Flannery was Bison head coach Charlie Woollum’s first-ever recruit at the helm of a Division I program — a job Flannery took over 14 years later.
A homegrown Pennsylvania athlete, Flannery started as a freshman at Davis Gym and remained integral to the lineup for all four years as a Bison to help Bucknell win two ECAC West division titles.
Though 43 years removed from tournament victories and packed barns in Lewisburg, Flannery’s most cherished moments came on and off the court with teammates he keeps up with today.
“We came together. We stayed together. We’re friends together. We’ll pass away together,” he said. “We’ll always stay in touch… It’s a bond that you build that has always been special to me in sports and teamwork. I remember that more than I remember any W or L. It’s not a cliché. It’s just a fact.”
After graduating from Bucknell with degrees in economics and political science, he served as an assistant for the Bison, then moved into assistant coaching gigs at Drexel and William and Mary.
Flannery’s eight years in assistant capacities largely taught him how he wanted to run a program after learning the ins and the outs of college basketball on the other side of the clipboard.
“As an assistant, you try to soak up as much as you can. You try to do as much as you can,” Flannery said. “Certainly, one of the biggest things in the business I was in is you had to be a recruiter.”
Once he got his first posting as a head coach at Lebanon Valley College in 1989, Flannery utilized relationships in recruiting to keep Central Pennsylvania’s best ballers at home and envelop them into his family of Flying Dutchmen. A self-described Division I “snob,” Flannery’s recruitment process boiled down to people and the ideals of building his program the right way with “a Central Pennsylvania flavor.”
In Flannery’s third season on the job, he locked down a commitment from Mahanoy City native Rhoades. The pair knew each other from the early days of elementary school basketball camps and Rhoades was comparable in age to Flannery’s nephew, and the Schuylkill County duo eventually teamed up at Lebanon Valley College in 1991.
“We probably saw Mike [on recruiting visits] 28 times that year,” Flannery recounted. “Mike was destined to play at a higher level. That was never a question. The question was who was recruiting him and giving him the time?”
Though Flannery was on Rhoades’ list throughout his decision-making process, the Lebanon Valley coach was simultaneously calling schools throughout the Patriot League and in New England on behalf of Rhoades because his talent was undeniable.
Ultimately, Rhoades chose Flannery and the Fighting Dutchmen, leading the group to a 1994 Division III National Championship and pages upon pages in the school history books. The relationships built, history created, and memories fashioned over five years in Annville led Flannery to Happy Valley 29 years after departing Sorrentino Gym.
Flannery returned to coach at Bucknell while Rhoades cultivated his coaching career at Randolph-Macon and Rice before landing at VCU in the wake of Shaka Smart and Will Wade’s departures.
“So when all this happened and [Rhoades] went to VCU, it was kind of like, ‘Oh, this is fantastic. Central PA, Yuengling, pierogies. Oh, this is kind of cool.’ Then, when I got a phone call, he said, “Hey, Coach, I want to talk to you about something,’ and that’s when it got real where he wanted some help.”
After Rhoades reeled in two regular-season titles, Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year honors, and four NCAA Tournament appearances in Richmond, he was named the leader of the Nittany Lions in 2023. Simultaneously, Flannery had wrapped up his 40-year coaching career and was working in development for Bucknell when Rhoades tapped him to lead Penn State’s NIL fundraising efforts.
Flannery wasn’t particularly familiar with NIL but realized during his time with Bucknell that fundraising is largely the same as recruiting: “Approach it with honesty and straightforwardness, go after what you want, and if you don’t get what you want, know you gave it your best shot.”
Rhoades found exactly who he needed to lead More To Give in Flannery — a loyal basketball brain who can speak the development language while understanding how Rhoades functions to his core and how to best support him.
Rhoades’ family hasn’t made the move to State College since his hiring in March, so the head coach and Flannery spent plenty of quality time together throughout the season that isn’t lost on Flannery.
“It’s just been wonderful to share the journey together,” Flannery said.
In the naturally fitting role, Flannery connects his network with Happy Valley United to create a web of donors for the hoops program and believes his Pennsylvania blood aids in his sustainable fundraising success.
Still, as the world of paid college athletics continues to evolve, Flannery is spearheading the development from inside the Bryce Jordan Center alongside Rhoades to create long-term basketball success in Happy Valley.
“All I know now is that right now in this day and age, you can build a program in your vision,” Flannery said. “NIL has to be part of that vision because it’s real, and there’s not schools that are going to play at the level Penn State’s going to play out without an NIL collective.”
Flannery’s future-forward mindset, with historical Pennsylvania basketball ideals grounding him, is leading the blue and white to keep pace with and innovate alongside the rest of the college basketball world.
“I’m 66 and trying to give every ounce I got, but I am up there a little bit,” Flannery said. “This is a young man’s game, but it’s been a heck of a lot of fun.”
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