Posts tagged ‘Penn State Coaches Caravan’

Alumni Volunteers Keep the Coaches Caravan Rolling

I’m writing this from Dickson City, where we’ve arrived for the Wednesday night stop on the Penn State Coaches Caravan. It’s a huge turnout—close to 1,000 people, I’m told—coinciding with the annual scholarship dinner held by the Alumni Association’s Greater Scranton Chapter. Watching folks file in, I can tell you the volunteers manning the door tonight will have their hands full. I can also tell you that’s been the case at every stop along the way.

LV volunteers

In addition to the Alumni Association and Nittany Lion Club staff—whose efficiency at setting up and breaking down every one of these events I’m in awe of—the volunteer members from local chapters have played a huge role in the success of the Coaches Caravan. At the Allentown stop on Tuesday, Charles Adomshick ’59, Tom Newell ’85, and Richard Garber ’59 (above) were among the Lehigh Valley chapter members who handed out name tags, directed guests, and answered questions. Mostly, though, they just seemed to be having fun connecting with other Penn Staters.

From Reading to Baltimore, Williamsport to NYC, fun in familiar company seems to be the theme. Last week, I met Naomi Williams ’06, who serves on the executive committee for the African American Alumni Organization of Philadelphia, and who was in her second year volunteering at the local Caravan stop. For Williams, it was a chance to network, trade stories, and catch up on Penn State news—but mostly, she said, “just a great time.”

Ryan Jones, senior editor

May 8, 2013 at 7:11 pm Leave a comment

So Long to My Favorite Chess Teacher

I’m writing this en route to Williamsport for the first stop on the second leg of the Penn State Coaches Caravan, with field hockey coach Char Morett ’79 and men’s volleyball coach Mark Pavlik joining Bill O’Brien on the bus. I’ll have more from the Caravan—on our blog, and on my Twitter feed—over the next couple of days.

Being on the first leg of the Caravan last week, I was mostly out of the loop for graduation weekend, and I’m already missing the energy that a town full of students brings. Like many of us in the Alumni Association, I’m lucky to occasionally get to know some current undergrads: interns, student leaders, Lion Ambassadors for whom the Hintz Family Alumni Center is a second home. Over the past year, my family and I have added “chess teacher” to that list.

James Bischoff ’13 graduated last week, and my 8-year-old son is still getting over it. James is outgoing president of the Penn State Chess Club, one of a handful of students who restarted the dormant club a few years ago. My son had developed an interest in the game playing with his grandfather, and since my wife and I aren’t players, we thought we’d try to get him lessons. Last fall, I emailed the chess club asking if anyone there gave lessons to kids; James replied, and nearly every Friday afternoon during the ’12-13 school year, he and my son sat at our kitchen table for an hour or more, working out the basics of the game.

I can’t say enough about this guy. James was a finance major, and I know he’ll do well in his chosen field, but I think he’d make a terrific teacher as well. He’s personable and patient, and he kept my son motivated with rewards for figuring out strategic puzzles, letting him “win” their matches just often enough, and rewarding him every couple of months with a new comic book. After their last session, James gave my son a trophy engraved with his name and the title “Chess Master;” my son gave him a copy of The Hobbit, which I trust he’ll read this summer…

We also started Spanish lessons this spring, and I’m excited that Suzy Peevey, our patient and trilingual tutor, will be back for her senior year next fall. It’s been a pleasure getting to know these impressive, conscientious Penn State students. I only wish we could keep them around for a few more years.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

May 7, 2013 at 10:09 am 1 comment

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

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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