Paul Zeise: Pat Chambers didn't win enough for Penn State to justify keeping him

By Paul Zeise, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on

Published in Basketball

By now you have probably heard the story of Penn State parting ways with men's basketball coach Pat Chambers. It was technically a "resignation," but that was Penn State letting him leave with some shred of dignity. If he did not resign, he still would not be the coach today because he would have gotten fired.

Chambers and his program were at the subject of an internal investigation by the school's Affirmative Action and Athletics Integrity offices, and it is clear there were a number of issues that were uncovered.

The one that has gotten the most publicity was an interaction Chambers had with former Nittany Lion Rasir Bolton.

The interaction, as told to The Undefeated by Bolton, had Chambers saying, "I want to be a stress reliever for you. You can talk to me about anything. I need to get some of this pressure off of you. I want to loosen the noose that's around your neck."

Although I kind of see where Chambers was going, the remark was at the very least insensitive and at the very worst straight-up racist. I don't know if it rises to the level of a fireable offense on its own, but a white coach who recruits primarily Black players should probably know the history of lynchings in this country and avoid references to a noose.

There were a number of other incidents, as documented by David Jones of, that don't shine a positive light on Chambers. The school also was in the midst of investigating an incident separate from the Bolton interaction.


None of it on its own is automatic in terms of what is fireable, even in this climate. All of it together paints the picture of a coach with some anger and control issues who is either ignorant of race issues or just insensitive.

Here is the key that seems to be missed in all of this: Chambers would still be the coach today had he won more and if Penn State valued basketball like many other schools do.

The lesson here isn't "coaches, watch what you say and watch your step." It is "coaches who have produced mediocre results (and that's probably being kind), don't give them a reason to fire you."

What Chambers said to Bolton was stupid and insensitive, but he apologized for it and was probably going to survive it until the subsequent investigations uncovered more dirt. And we have seen examples all over the country of coaches saying they are sorry and then surviving.


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