Posts tagged ‘Patrick Chambers’

Mutual Admiration on the Back of the Bus

So I’m sitting on the back of this bus, rolling through suburban Maryland, listening to a couple of guys talk sports.

In general, I don’t really enjoy listening to other people talk about sports—I abhor the shouting and cliches of sports talk radio, and unless the subject is a team I really care about, I’m probably not interested anyway —but this is a little different. These guys have great stories. These guys know what they’re talking about.

Put it in writing: Cael Sanderson is Bill O’Brien’s biggest fan.

Cael Sanderson and Bill O’Brien spent Thursday morning trading stories as the Penn State Coaches Caravan rolled from Washington, D.C. to Lancaster, and I was lucky enough to be sitting a few feet away. We’ve had a different coaching combination on each leg of the trip—Tuesday it was O’Brien and Pat Chambers, who are famously close, swapping tales about recruiting and rival coaches. Wednesday brought Sanderson to the mix, and with Chambers back home in State College on Thursday, Penn State’s football and wrestling coaches were talking shop.

As a lifelong sports fan, and as a sportswriter for most of my career, I find this all to be very, very cool.

The details are all very much off the record, of course, but what I can tell you is how much fun it’s been to watch these guys interact. There’s such an obvious mutual respect between them, and it comes across most clearly in how they listen to each other. With Sanderson and O’Brien in particular—despite having very different personalities and working in arguably polar opposite sports—you could sense a genuine interest in learning from each other. Since arriving at Penn State, O’Brien has spoken repeatedly of how much he enjoys interacting with his fellow coaches. He pretty clearly means it.

I was bummed to learn that Coquese Washington (who joined the Caravan on Wednesday) and Russ Rose (who arrived in time for the Lancaster stop Thursday morning) wouldn’t actually be on the bus; in both their senses of humor and their coaching acumen, both would have added much to the conversation. As it is, I consider myself lucky to be able to listen in; Penn State fans should consider themselves lucky to have such capable men and women in charge.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

May 2, 2013 at 2:13 pm 2 comments

A Reunion at the Coaches Caravan

One of the unexpected highlights of tagging along on the Penn State Coaches Caravan has been the chance to run into old friends. Last year in Baltimore, it was Katy Whalen ’09, who was a student a few years ago when I taught a section of Comm 462, and who was nice enough to tell me that, honestly, she had no idea it was my first teaching experience. (She might well have been trying not to hurt my feelings, but I’ll take it.) Tuesday night in Philadelphia, it was Stephen Bogush ’91, ’94g, my old Penn State football teammate.

Well, sort of.

Stephen Bogush and his wife Mary with men’s basketball coach Patrick Chambers

Back in 2006, Bogush—a Philly-area anesthesiologist—and I were fellow campers at the very first Penn State Fantasy Football Camp, which I covered for The Penn Stater. I got to meet his wife, Mary Tillman ’94g, and Bogush and I reminisced about the terrific experience at the inaugural Fantasy Camp—the laughs, the array of “old-man” injuries, the rush of getting to play on the Beaver Stadium turf on a glorious summer day. John Lagana ’62, who if memory serves was the senior member of that first fantasy camp, was there as well.

I ran into a few other old friends and acquaintances Tuesday night—always great to see my fellow soccer fanatic and occasional tailgating partner Brad Youtz ’96—and made a few new ones as well. While the coaches understandably remain the draw—as well they should: Bill O’Brien and Patrick Chambers were at turns impassioned, thoughtful, and hilarious on Tuesday’s stops at Penn State Berks and in downtown Philly—it’s a blast to see so many Penn Staters come together on the road. I’ve already heard from a few folks on Twitter who I’m looking forward to meeting or catching up with on upcoming stops. Hope to see you there.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

May 1, 2013 at 10:28 am Leave a comment

Backcourt Valuation

For Patrick Chambers and the Nittany Lion basketball team this season, it’s all about the backcourt.

For months, Chambers has been talking up the Lions’ 2012-13 backcourt as (possibly) the best in the nation. It sounds like craziness from the second-year head coach, but think of it as exaggeration with a purpose. Chambers absolutely believes that his starting backcourt of Tim Frazier and DJ Newbill can be among the best in college basketball this season; just as important, he wants to make sure Frazier and Newbill believe it, too.

“I have to do a great job of managing expectations, because I put it out there—but why not?” Chambers said Monday at the team’s preseason media day. “Why not us? I know people are shocked, because usually when people say that, it’s Ohio State or Michigan State. But it’s Penn State. I’m saying it, I’m the head coach at Penn State, and I think we have a great backcourt.”

The presence of Frazier alone means the claim isn’t that far-fetched. A first-team all-Big Ten pick as a junior last season, Frazier averaged a league-high 6.2 assists per game, and ranked second in the conference in points (18.8) and steals (2.4). Statistically, it was one of the best seasons ever by a Penn State guard.

Newbill is the unknown half of this potentially dynamic duo. A redshirt sophomore from Philadelphia, Newbill sat out last season after transferring from Southern Mississippi, where he made the Conference USA all-freshman team. Word of Newbill’s athleticism, intensity, and defensive prowess trickled out last season, when he and Frazier battled relentlessly during practices. Now, they get their chance to work together.

“If we keep working hard, the sky’s the limit,” Newbill said Monday. “I think Coach said what he said because he knows that. Me and Tim, we heard him make the statement. We’re glad he believes in us, to make a bold statement like that.”

Belief isn’t lacking in the Penn State locker room; now they just have to convince everyone else. The Lions were picked near the bottom of the Big Ten by the league’s coaches and media, folks who know little to nothing about Newbill (a team co-captain before he’s even played a game) and don’t see enough talent elsewhere on the roster to help Frazier win games. We’ll find out soon enough: A 79-54 exhibition win over Philadelphia University last Saturday was a nice warm-up for the games that count, starting with Friday’s tip-off against St. Francis. Not for the first time, a Penn State basketball team will be out to disprove the doubters.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

November 5, 2012 at 9:05 pm Leave a comment

Mr. O’Brien Goes to Washington

He signed 21 autographs. He posed for 68 photos. He shook 101 hands.

That was the tally—part of it, anyway—for Bill O’Brien Tuesday night in Washington D.C., on the fourth stop of the Penn State Coaches Caravan. For about 40 minutes—from the time he entered the ballroom at the Washington Hilton until the time he excused himself to make his way up to the stage—I watched O’Brien stand at the front an impromptu receiving line and greet Penn State alumni and fans. For those 40 minutes, I tracked every interaction O’Brien had.

Washington seemed the right place to document the most campaign-like aspect of the caravan, and O’Brien’s role in it. I joked before I stepped onto the bus Monday morning that I felt a bit like a reporter embedding with a presidential candidate; seeing O’Brien address the handshake line for the fourth time in two days—knowing how many more hands he’ll shake, pictures he’ll take, and autographs he’ll sign in the coming days and weeks—only reinforced the analogy. (more…)

May 2, 2012 at 2:24 am 2 comments

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

May 1, 2012 at 3:36 pm 2 comments

Blair Thomas Joins the Caravan in Drexel Hill

The second stop on the Penn State Coaches Caravan came Monday night in Drexel Hill, a short drive from downtown Philadelphia. Patrick Chambers and Char Morett were buzzing about being in front of a hometown crowd, while Bill O’Brien brought out the PowerPoint presentation he put together to outline his philosophy for the Penn State football program. (You never saw a crowd so interested in a PowerPoint.) It was a terrific night in front of 600 or so Penn Staters.

The evening featured one unexpected highlight: The presence of local product and Nittany Lion legend Blair Thomas, who took pictures and signed autographs for much of the evening.

We’re in Baltimore today for lunch, then on to D.C. tonight for dinner. Much more to come.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

May 1, 2012 at 10:17 am Leave a comment

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