The Bill & Patrick Show
I’m back on the bus now between Baltimore and Washington, en route from the third to the fourth stop on the Penn State Coaches Caravan. As has been the case for every leg of our trip so far, Bill O’Brien and Patrick Chambers are posted up in the back of the bus, each habitually working their phones. They’ve been on those phones quite a bit over the past day and a half, but they’ve also spent a lot of time trading stories and banter. Watching and listening to them interact has been a blast.
Anyone who’s paid attention to Chambers since his arrival 11 months ago knows what the Nittany Lion basketball coach is all about: energy, intensity, and passion. O’Brien’s public personality isn’t quite as obvious; he’s intense, certainly, but not the non-stop salesman that Chambers (literally, a salesman before he was a coach) has shown himself to be. But these guys have enough obviously in common that it wasn’t hard to guess they’d get along.
Do they ever.
What I’ve been fortunate to see on the bus, alumni and fans have gotten a taste of at the three caravan stops so far. O’Brien and Chambers play off each other perfectly, riffing on each other’s roots in provincial East Coast sports towns (greater Boston for O’Brien, the Philly burbs for Chambers), their similar no-nonsense haircuts, and their insistence on being not just colleagues but teammates at Penn State.
That last part is worth talking more about. These men are similar in age (O’Brien is 42, Chambers 41) and experience. Both have young children. Most important, both have been on campus less than a year. As the football coach at Penn State, O’Brien will always be the focus of greater public attention, but in all the ways that matter to these guys, they genuinely seem to see each other as equals, and men who can contribute to each other’s success.
On the stage Tuesday in Baltimore, O’Brien joked about bringing the football team to watch basketball games next season “whether they like it or not” and opening up the revamped Nittany Lion weight room to other student-athletes. Chambers mentioned a burly incoming basketball recruit who “looks like a defensive end,” then glanced back at O’Brien as he warned the coach off his soon-to-be player. It goes on and on. There’s a natural vibe between these two—fellow jocks, to be sure, but not dumb ones. It’s been great watching it develop.
Ryan Jones, senior editor