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Chambers reflects on Lions’ season

There was a lot of crying and a lot of emotions for the Penn State basketball players when, after so many years of building in the program, the members of this year’s team were told they would not get a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament.

Coach Patrick Chambers detailed the emotions of how the season ended during a conference call Friday morning. The Nittany Lions were to play Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament last week, but that tourney was canceled because of the coronavirus, leading to tears in the locker room.

The team flew home, and immediately found out the NCAA Tournament had been canceled, as well. The Lions were a lock to make the field, something the program had not done since 2011.

Chambers said “devastation” would be a good way to describe the players’ emotions.

“To tell the guys that there was no NCAA Tournament was horrible,” he said. “Guys were crying, heads were down, there was a lot of hugging, a lot of appreciation, a lot of love. You could see everybody was just numb, not knowing how to react.”

The first round of the NCAA Tournament would have begun Thursday, so Penn State would have been playing either that day or Friday somewhere around the country. The Lions were projected to be a No. 6 seed.

“Many tears have been shed, and I’m getting emotional right now,” Chambers said Friday.

“We put our heart and soul, we’ve invested so much time and energy and sacrifice, to be able to hear that, to see that, and to get our kids to the selection show, for it to be taken it away from you, that’s why I was so disappointed in the NCAA’s decision.”

He was discussing the decision to not release a bracket at all, something Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour and others lobbied for, to no avail.

“I would still like an answer,” Chambers said of why there was no bracket. “You can Zoom, you can FaceTime, you can figure it out. I feel cheated when it comes to something like that, not just for me, not for the nine-year guys that have been on the staff, but for the players like Lamar Stevens.”

Stevens fell seven points shy of setting the Penn State career scoring record, something he certainly would have done had the season not been cut short.

“In my opinion,” Chambers said, “he’s going to go down as one of the greatest players, if not the greatest player, in Penn State history.

“I’m so proud of what Lamar Stevens has done for this program and where he put this program on a national level,” the coach added. “My heart aches for him. To end it that way so abruptly is tough to really swallow. He’s an amazing individual.”

It took Chambers nine years to earn an NCAA Tournament berth. Now that he has, it presumably gives him more leverage in contract negotiations with the school.

The coach, who has two years left on his contract, was asked Friday if he will be back with Penn State next year. It might have seemed like an odd question to some, but Chambers has earned a lot of respect amongst his peers — he was one of 10 finalists for national coach of the year — and could have his name come up for more lucrative, higher-paying jobs.

Penn State has long paid it’s men basketball coach what is believed to be the smallest salary in the Big Ten (the school doesn’t make the salary figure public). So now that Chambers has had the big year he so desperately needed, it puts him in a position of strength with regards to contract negotiations.

“I love Penn State,” Chambers said when asked if he would be back. “I’ve worked too hard. I’m a Pennsylvania guy. I think we’ve put ourselves in position to be a Top 25 program, and I love the team I have coming back. So I’m extremely hopeful that I will continue to be the coach at Penn State for years to come.”

He later was asked if there is a contract extension in the works and said, “It’s safe to say that’s true. It’s on hold right now because of everything that’s going on.

“I’m hopeful for an extension, hopeful that things will work out,” Chambers added.

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