One of the most difficult high-major jobs in college basketball is open after an internal investigation forced the resignation of Penn State head coach Pat Chambers.
Chambers resigned on Wednesday following a months-long internal investigation, which was launched in July after The Undefeated’s Jesse Washnigton reported allegations from former player Rasir Bolton. Bolton, who transferred to Iowa State after the 2018-19 season, said Chambers told him to “loosen the noose” that’s around his neck. It’s unclear if Penn State found other credible allegations against Chambers.
With Chambers out, who might Penn State hire?
It’ll be the first men’s basketball hire athletics director Sandy Barbour, who arrived at Penn State after Chambers’ second season as head coach. As Cal athletics director, she made two men’s basketball hires — Mike Montgomery in 2008 and Cuonzo Martin shortly before her departure in 2014 — but hasn’t hired a football or men’s basketball coach at Penn State.
Interim coach Jim Ferry could be a long-term option. A former small-school coach with Division-II and Division-III stops during his three decades as a coach, Ferry joined Chambers’ staff in 2017 after an underwhelming run at Duquesne and will receive a “fair shot” to land the permanent job, Barbour said on Wednesday.
Mike Rhoades might be the most realistic dream candidate and would become the fifth straight VCU head coach to land a high-major job, following Will Wade, Shaka Smart, Anthony Grant, and Jeff Capel. A Pennsylvania native, Rhoades played at Lebanon Valley and, for what it’s worth, has spent all but three years of his coaching career within a 300-mile radius of State College. Two of his three VCU teams have underwhelmed but he still led the Rams’ 28-win team in 2018-19 and, in 2016-17, delivered Rice’s third 20-win season since the 1950s.
One year before Rhoades arrived at Randolph-Macon as an assistant coach, Nathan Davis graduated from the Division-III school after a four-year playing career. Twenty-five years later, Davis has 244 career wins, including 103 wins over the last five years at nearby Bucknell. He has zero high-major experience but has done a marvelous job with talent identification and development.
Others potential options with Pennsylvania ties including Penn’s Steve Donahue, George Mason’s Dave Paulsen (former Bucknell head coach), and Robert Morris’ Andrew Toole. Donahue flopped in four seasons at Boston College, but everyone flops at Boston College, and has won at least 19 games in four of his last six seasons as an Ivy League coach (previously at Cornell).
Elsewhere, Ron Hunter led a competitive IUPUI program for 17 years before averaging more than 20 wins over eight seasons at Georgia State. Now at Tulane, Hunter could be in line for a better high-major job if wins over the next two years. Also, George Washington’s Jamion Christian, Saint Louis’ Travis Ford, Charleston’s Earl Grant, and Colorado State’s Niko Medved.