STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Former Villanova assistant Patrick Chambers spent a frantic week mulling a major move that could have landed him a job back at a power conference school back in his home state of Pennsylvania.
Of course, Chambers called his former boss with the Wildcats, Jay Wright, for advice after Penn State came calling to leave Boston University to take over the Nittany Lions program.
Wright gave his protégé a thumbs-up.
“I spoke to Jay all week … I sought his wisdom and his knowledge, discussed the job, what it entailed and needed to be done,” Chambers said Friday night after taking the Penn State job. “He is an incredible mentor.”
Now the Nittany Lions have a head coach with roots that run deep into southeastern Pennsylvania in Chambers, a Philadelphia-area native who played college ball under Philadelphia University coach and 2011 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Herb Magee.
It’s at Villanova where Chambers raised his coaching profile, rising quickly to become Wright’s top assistant in 2008 following four years on the staff. Chambers left for the Terriers the following season, lasting two years there before taking the Penn State offer Friday.
Chambers replaces Ed DeChellis, who resigned May 24 to accept the same job at Navy.
An unexpected coaching search soon followed, with Chambers’ name almost immediately surfacing as a potential candidate following the successful run at Boston. The Terriers lost to Kansas in the second round of the NCAA tournament this spring.
“I tell you what, it’s been a crazy week, traveling and meeting,” Chambers said. “A lot of sleepless nights, just trying to keep my time program together.”
Wright was a sounding board.
Penn State and the Big Ten are a step up from Boston and the America East Conference. But the Nittany Lions have also had middling success, struggling to win consistently and attract top recruits.
The program is going through yet another makeover, even after DeChellis led his alma mater to its first NCAA appearance in a decade with a second-round loss to Temple.
“I think what’s interesting is all their coaches have had success. They’ve all gone in and done something,” Wright said Friday night. “It’s proven you can do it. It’s just a matter of sustaining it. I think Pat can do it.”
The hope in Happy Valley is that Chambers’ Philly ties can help open a new recruiting pipeline to the region. Also on his resume is a five-year stint as an assistant at Episcopal Academy, where he helped coach high school All-Americans Wayne Elllington (North Carolina) and Gerald Henderson (Duke.)
While he’s happy for former assistant, Wright would prefer to keep their conversation off the court — and not at a Penn State-Villanova game.
“I’ve got my hands full enough the “Big Five,” Wright said with a laugh. “I’m not looking for any Big East-Big Ten basketball.”
***AP Sports Writer Dan Gelston contributed to this report from Philadelphia.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)