Chambers not PSU hoops’ big problem

Welcome to the greatest two days of the sports year — the beginning of the NCAA Tournament. Enjoy the madness, folks. I know I will.

Once again, Penn State is nowhere to be found.

What else is new?

Did you know the Nittany Lions have been in the NCAA Tournament just five times in the past 63 years? On a national level, Penn State has been irrelevant in college basketball for pretty much your entire life, no matter your age.

I don’t point that out to be mean. I point it out to so that you find some level of perspective.

When the topic comes up about whether Patrick Chambers should still have a job, so many people will jump immediately to the fact that he hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament in his eight seasons in Happy Valley.

“Chambers has got to go,” some people say. “He can’t get this team to the tournament!”

OK. Who can? Who has ever been able to, on any kind of consistent basis? The answer is pretty much no one.

n Ed DeChellis went to the big dance once in eight years.

n Jerry Dunn went twice in eight years and in 2001 delivered the school’s first Sweet 16 trip since 1955. Shoot, they might as well build a statue of him outside the Jordan Center for those accomplishments.

n Bruce Parkhill went once in 12 years.

n Dick Harter never went in five years. Johnny Bach never went in 10 years. John Egli went once in 14 years.

n Elmer Gross took PSU to the Final Four in 1954, but the NIT was still a bigger deal at that point, and basketball and the NCAA Tournament overall have changed by light years since then.

I point out all of the history to make sure that everyone is judging Chambers in the proper light. You don’t judge Penn State basketball by getting to the NCAA Tournament, but rather: What does the product look like on the court, and is it competitive?

In those regards, Chambers is doing a good job, and no, he doesn’t deserve to be fired. He deserves more time to keep climbing and see if he can get the Lions to the next level, which is some sort of consistency year in and year out.

If you actually watch PSU games, and not just see the scores or get judgmental because the team isn’t in the NCAA Tournament, you’ve seen that the Lions have a great deal of talent and can beat anyone on a given night.

Chambers has been a terrible coach in the final two minutes of games. The Lions blow way, way too many games down the stretch, which is obvious.

But if you want PSU to change coaches, you run the major risk that the Lions won’t even be competitive enough for 38 minutes to make the final two minutes even matter.

Chambers has recruited well, and with the team he has back next year, the Lions could be an NCAA tourney contender. That’s if Lamar Stevens comes back. They would have made it this year if Tony Carr hadn’t left.

If you’re looking for someone to blame, then blame the PSU administration, not Chambers.

Penn State doesn’t really care about success in men’s basketball. The school cares that the men’s program makes more than $3 million a year in profit, no matter the record, and that helps pay the bills.

If Sandy Barbour could find a way to pump another million dollars a year into the men’s program, we might see some real improvement and consistency. Until then, nothing will change over the long run.

Chambers has his issues, but he isn’t the biggest problem with PSU basketball.

History, finances and apathy are much bigger problems.

BTW: My Final Four is Duke, Texas Tech, Virginia and North Carolina, with Zion and Co. cutting down the nets.

Cory Giger is the host of “Sports Central” weekdays from 4 to 6 p.m. on ‘Toona 1430.


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