Pat Chambers resigned a month ago as Penn State men's basketball coach, but his players still harbor questions, and some lingering frustration, about what happened. Asked whether he has made peace with the decision as a new season approaches, junior Myles Dread was clear.
"No, I'm not at peace with it," Dread said, "and I will not be at peace with it until everybody has answers as to why. But that is all I have on the subject."
During a virtual media day Wednesday, six Penn State players offered testimonials to Chambers, their former head coach who resigned abruptly in October. Penn State announced the decision Oct. 21, the same day Chambers told his players of the decision at practice.
Penn State Athletic Director Sandy Barbour said that an internal investigation produced a new allegation of "inappropriate conduct" by Chambers but wouldn't discuss details. Barbour said then that she understood why the players "were in a little bit of shock and very disappointed."
A month later, Penn State is practicing under interim coach Jim Ferry for its Nov. 25 opener against Drexel. But the disappointment remains. In their first public statements since Chambers' departure, all six Lions delivered some sort of message to the former head coach.
Several players began their sessions Wednesday by mentioning Chambers' impact on them and their careers. Junior Izaiah Brockington said the team is "playing this season for Coach and for each other," and senior Jamari Wheeler said players are "still confused and don't understand why this happened."
"It's been tough, because I came here from Florida to play with coach Chambers," Wheeler said. "... We just have to stay to the principles and the basics that he taught us when he was here."
For Penn State basketball, this has been an emotionally trying year. Chambers guided the Lions to a 21-10 record last season, a No. 9 national ranking at one point and a near-certain invitation to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011.
Then the postseason was canceled, campus was closed because of the coronavirus pandemic and players were left bitterly unsatisfied. They returned to Penn State in July to begin workouts and were about a week into preseason practice when Chambers announced his resignation.
It's a change they're still trying to comprehend. One player even used the word "fired" on Wednesday before correcting himself to say "stepped down."
"That day specifically was just a bad day for the whole program," sophomore Seth Lundy said. "But I feel like we've done a great job so far moving forward and not forgetting him because his culture is with us every single day."
"I felt a very strong emotion, just having that full feeling of, wow, he’s not my coach anymore," Dread added. "I just wanted to be there for my teammates, wanted to be there for the staff, because it was shocking and very upsetting for everybody on our staff and in our program. He was very loved and he is still very loved and appreciated."
In January 2019, Penn State suspended Chambers for one game after Chambers shoved Dread during a game. Chambers apologized to Dread publicly after the game.
That incident resurfaced earlier this year, when The Undefeated published a story by Jesse Washington regarding former Penn State player Rasir Bolton, who said Chambers used the phrase "I want to loosen the noose that's around your neck" during a practice in 2019. Bolton said he transferred from Penn State because of that comment.
Barbour confirmed that Penn State began an investigation into Chambers' actions following that story. She said the investigation, conducted by Penn State's Affirmative Action and Athletics Integrity offices, found an unrelated allegation against Chambers.
On Wednesday, Dread said revisiting the 2019 incident involving him was "unnecessary."
"I believe that was blown completely out of proportion," Dread said. "The situation was handled, and it was handled extremely fast. Coach Chambers dealt with it with the administration, and then after that, for it to come back up again, was absolutely unnecessary and uncalled for."
Junior Myreon Jones said the players have pushed themselves the past month because "that's what coach would have wanted." But Jones said public perception of Chambers based on those incidents doesn't match the person they know.
"It bothers us, but people have their own opinions," Jones said. "So they’re going to think what they want, but they don’t know the truth, because they’re not on the inside."
Interim coach Jim Ferry said he and his staff spent several days after Chambers' resignation listening to players and their concerns. Several players said having that opportunity to voice their frustrations proved helpful.
"He was just a good listener," Brockington said of Ferry. "And he was really empathetic to how everybody was feeling. He was really understanding. He just talked to all of the guys on the team individually, let us get everything out off our chests.
"... He knew a lot of guys were going to take it really hard. He knew we were shocked. He was as well. That was the biggest thing. He was just really listening to how we felt."
Several players said they remain in contact with Chambers, who spent part of Wednesday with former Penn State star Lamar Stevens ahead of the NBA draft. Chambers' message to them has been the same as the one he delivered at his last practice.
"He left us with the message of, stick together," Brockington said. "At the end of the day, no matter what happens, the team has to stick together, because we all knew how good we could be going into this season. He didn't want him not being around to change that."
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