STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - There doesn't seem to be any doubt that the hiring of Patrick Chambers as Penn State's men's basketball coach will fix one problem that persistently confronts the Nittany Lions: the lack of crowds for non-marquee opponents at Bryce Jordan Center.
That's because Chambers, the Newtown Square native who is the youngest of 12 children, has a rather large family.
"I didn't count, but I'd say it's anywhere from 45 to 50 family members here today, and that's not counting my wife and two children," he said Monday after being introduced as the Lions' 12th head coach in their history. "Thank goodness for E-ZPass."
But a much bigger and more serious issue for Chambers, 40, as he takes over the Lions is recruiting. He was a key member of Jay Wright's staff at Villanova for five seasons, the last being the Final Four team in 2009, and now he must bring in the same type of talent for Penn State to compete and succeed in the rugged Big Ten.
Penn State's rural location traditionally has been rejected by talented recruits from large East Coast cities. Chambers thinks he can change the mind-set, and that means capitalizing on contacts he made at Villanova and in his two years as Boston University's head coach.
"We have to tap into our relationships, relationships that I built all my life in Philadelphia when I was in high school and college and when I got to Villanova," he said. "You have to go back to where people know you and people trust you. When people trust you, they're going to send you their kids. . . .
"I've built a lot of good relationships. A lot of Philly-area kids and from the surrounding area came to Boston, so if we can do it at Boston, we can do it at Penn State."
Chambers also said he will emphasize the Penn State basketball tradition. While not as full as Villanova's, the recent tradition consists of a Sweet 16 appearance in 2001, an NIT championship in 2009, and a late surge last season that led to an at-large NCAA bid.
"I know this is going to sound crazy, but football does it, why can't we do it?" he said.
"I know it's JoePa [head football coach Joe Paterno]. I know the tradition. I get it. Why can't we do it? There's tradition here. Nobody knows about it. Nobody wants to talk about it. I'm going to talk about it. I'm going to bring it out. I'm going to make sure the players come back."
Athletic director Tim Curley, who was joined at the introductory news conference by Chambers and university president Graham Spanier, said he felt the new coach possessed the "it" factor that would sell the program and bring in highly talented high school players, with the Philadelphia area being an area of focus.
"Once you get it turned, it really goes in the right direction," Curley said. "I really believe strongly that Patrick can get it turned, get those first couple of guys up here, get them out of Philadelphia and see that we can play some good basketball up here in Happy Valley."
Chambers has to hire a coaching staff. But first, he will take to the road to look at high school players.
"I asked the [holdover] assistants, 'What's the greatest challenge?' " he said. "We can give you every excuse in the book, but we don't have any. We've got to go out and find players. You've got to go out and recruit. We have to get a couple of pros with a couple of four or five-year guys.
"Once you do that, you've got something going on. Now you have consistency. That's what we're looking for. You've got to stay in the top six of the league. You've got to fight and scratch for everything you can. And that's what I'm hoping we're going to do."
Pat Chambers File
Here is a look at the coaching career of new Penn State men's basketball coach Pat Chambers:
1995-96: Chambers began his coaching career as an assistant at Delaware Valley College.
1996-2001: He became the top varsity assistant coach at Episcopal Academy.
2001-04: He was Herb Magee's assistant at Philadelphia University.
2004-05: At Villanova, he was director of basketball operations.
2005-09: Villanova coach Jay Wright promoted Chambers to assistant coach and then associate head coach in 2008.
2009-2011: He left 'Nova to take over at Boston University.
2011: He accepts the top job at Penn State.EndText