New coach Chambers wants to revive Pitt-PSU series
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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Newly named Penn State basketball coach Pat Chambers already is willing to do something that football coach Joe Paterno won't.
Chambers wants to revive the Nittany Lions' series with Pitt.
"I like [Pitt coach] Jamie Dixon," Chambers said Monday after his introductory news conference at the Bryce Jordan Center. "He's a friend. I would definitely be open to playing Pitt."
Penn State and Pitt last played in basketball in 2005. The Panthers rolled to a 91-54 victory, the most lopsided win in the series that began in 1906.
After that, former Penn State coach Ed DeChellis decided not to continue the series. According to Penn State's records, the Lions hold a 78-68 all-time advantage over the Panthers, but Pitt won the final five meetings.
Penn State's most recent basketball win against Pitt came in 2000, the same year the two schools last met on a football field.
"I would like a rivalry," Chambers said. "I think [Pitt] would be great. I think Pennsylvania would come out and watch that game.
"Am I trying to schedule that game next year? Probably not. But in the future? Yes."
Dixon has said on more than one occasion that he, too, would like to renew the rivalry with Penn State.
Chambers, 39, signed a five-year contract Friday to replace DeChellis, who unexpectedly resigned May 23 after eight seasons to accept the same job at Navy.
Chambers compiled a 42-28 record in two seasons at Boston University and led the Terriers to an NCAA tournament berth and the America East Conference title this year.
"He is going to bring us a great attitude, exciting basketball, fabulous people skills, [and] wonderful marketing savvy," Penn State president Graham Spanier said.
"You are going to see him. You are going to know him. He's going to win a lot of games for us. He's going to produce great basketball players for us."
Chambers has numerous ties to Philadelphia. He grew up in nearby Newtown Square, played for Hall of Fame coach Herb Magee at Division II Philadelphia University and was an assistant coach for five seasons (2004-08) under Jay Wright at Villanova.
The Wildcats reached the NCAA tournament every year and had a record of 126-45. Four players Chambers worked with during his tenure have reached the NBA and five others have played overseas. He also recruited four McDonald's All-Americans.
Chambers hopes to establish a recruiting pipeline from Philadelphia to Penn State, but he won't turn his back on Pittsburgh.
"I can think of two pretty good players [from Pittsburgh] -- DeJuan Blair and D.J. Kennedy," Chambers said. "So, yes, we'll definitely look at that area.
"And Jamie Dixon does a pretty good job in Philadelphia, if you look at their roster. If [those] players are going to go to Pittsburgh, why not here?"
One major reason for DeChellis' sudden departure was the perceived lack of commitment from Penn State's administration.
This season, which ended with a 19-15 record and a loss to Temple in the NCAA tournament, the program had some of the lowest-paid assistant coaches in the Big Ten Conference.
And the Lions had to vacate their home court for practice at the Jordan Center for 10 days while Bon Jovi tuned up for the start of its "Live 2011 Tour."
Chambers, who insists he has the support of the Penn State administration, still has to hire a coaching staff. He also faces a major rebuilding task in 2011-12 as the Lions lost star guard Talor Battle and three other starters.
"We got to go out and find players," Chambers said. "We got to go out and recruit. Football does it. I know it's JoePa. I know the tradition. I get it. Why can't we do it?
"You got to have consistency and that's what we're looking for. You can't go to the NCAA tournament one year and be at the bottom of the league the next."
First Published June 7, 2011 12:00 am