I need to start off by saying there’s been nothing as excruciating as recently trying to come up with something good to say about what we’ve witnessed on the basketball court this year. A month or so ago, we were going toe-to-toe with a .500 record taking one step forward and one step back for the most part. Our trio of freshmen were learning on the fly and showed glimpses of great potential in the process. Our big man, Mike Watkins, was showing glimpses of his old self here and there, at times looking as dominant as ever, only to fade down the stretch as he worked his way back into playing shape. So they said. Pat Chambers and the Nittany Lions toppled No. 10 ranked Virginia Tech and gave a scorching hot Maryland squad all they could handle, and then some, on their own home court before falling flat in Alabama near the end of non-conference play back in December.
Things weren’t great but there was potential. Shots weren’t falling but there was no way they’d keep missing their mark forever. Right? I waited game after game after game, once the Big Ten slate started, to re-ignite my weekly updates on a positive note, only to watch them find another way to come up short. Again, and again, and again. There have been opportunities for sure. There have been games they should have won, even against the best the conference has to offer. And yet, they keep coming up short. The infamous ‘shove’ in Ann Arbor that grounded Chambers for that dismal display at home against Wisconsin only served to make matters worse than before in more ways than one. Combined with the loss in a must-win contest, it was a glaring reminder that although they can’t seem to find a victory this year with him on the bench, it’s almost dire straits with him off it, considering how bad they looked against the Badgers.
It’s inevitable that the pitchforks have risen once again against a coach that has poured his heart and soul into trying to get this program on stable ground. Even a sucker for positivity like me is forced to admit it just might be the beginning of the end of an era that had us all willing and excited to climb along. The fun from that take no prisoners run and raising nets on the hallowed grounds of Madison Square Garden as the NIT Champs is nothing more than a distant memory at this point. Two key ingredients from that gauntlet last March are gone and they took their leadership and a shooting touch that could spit daggers at opponents with them. What’s left is a squad that can’t buy a bucket when it counts and that one word that might very well do Coach Chambers in, winless.
Is it all too much to overcome? Only AD Sandy Barbour knows the answer to that at this point and I’m willing to bet she’s not sure herself. It’s not a position I envy at all but one she gets paid the big bucks for. Say what you will about his offense or how he operates at the end of close games, but those players have all bought into what he’s trying to do in Happy Valley. Losing Pat Chambers would be nothing short of catastrophic in the near future.
Those of you that are relishing in the thought of someone being fired may very well get your wish, but I’ll tell you this if it does come true, empty stands and an arena that echoes aren’t going to get it done either. It’s no longer about the coach it’s about supporting those student-athletes that bust their rumps trying to get us over the hump. They want a winning product on the court more than any of us combined, but it’s you that hold the keys to the direction Barbour decides to take. If you want a big name coach and big money spent on this program, Sandy needs to see a big game crowd to justify it.
Penn State takes on Rutgers this Saturday at the BJC in a battle of conference cellar dwellers. Tipoff is at 4:30 and all proceeds go to THON, which should be reason enough to pack the house. For all our jokes and fun poked at the Scarlett Knights, Rutgers has one thing we don’t at the moment, a couple of conference wins. So now’s as good a time as any to lay down those pitchforks and put your money where your mouth is. Go out there and rock the house. If you can’t make it in person, give BTN the highest ratings they’ve ever had and roar those Lions onto VICTORY. Anything less, we’ve got nobody to blame but ourselves once the winds of change come blowing in.