College Basketball Nation: Tom Chambers

Here are the salient facts about the Penn State coaching search:
  1. It began because its former coach, Ed DeChellis, left Penn State to take the vacant job at Navy. Yes, Navy.
  2. Its first apparent candidate, Jeff Lebo, declined and chose to stay at East Carolina.
  3. Its latest apparent candidate, Ron Everhart, declined and chose to stay at Duquesne.

This is not the stuff of inspiration. The fact that Penn State is considering such candidates in the first place -- solid but boring coaches with mediocre records -- is bad enough. The fact that it can't lure them to the school is another matter entirely.

The Everhart news came Thursday night, when Everhart texted ESPN's Andy Katz and gave a statement to The Associated Press saying he was happy to stay in his current position:
"There's just a lot of good things going on here at Duquesne, and it's just a good time for us," Everhart told The Associated Press. "It's become a real special place, and this is just the right thing to do. [...] Looking back on the whole situation, I feel that I'm right where I need to be."

For the record: Everhart is 83-74 in five years coaching the Dukes. Yes, the program has improved in recent seasons, but Everhart is hardly lighting the world ablaze: Duquesne has yet to make an NCAA tournament appearance in Everhart's tenure, and the closest it's gotten is an NIT spot after a 21-13 year in 2008-09. Duquesne appeared in the third-tier College Basketball Invitational in 2010 and 2011.

Does Everhart really think he has a better chance of success at Duquesne than Penn State? Is he wrong? If not, what does that say about Penn State's program?

OK, so we know exactly what it says. Penn State is seen as a coaching dead-end, a rebuilding effort with a disinterested fan base and an apathetic athletics administration. It's hard to lure coaches to that sort of environment even in the Big Ten, arguably the premier coaching conference (if such a thing can exist) in the modern college hoops environment.

Despite all this, the Nittany Lions still have candidates to work with. Boston University's Pat Chambers has interviewed for the job, as has Wisconsin-Milwaukee coach Rob Jeter, sources told Katz. After Everhart's withdrawal became news, reports circulated that Chambers would be offered and would accept the job, but that appears to have been a bit premature. Both coaches have experienced recent success at mid-major programs; Chambers got BU to the NCAA tournament in 2011, his second season, and Jeter took a surprising Milwaukee team to the brink of a tournament berth before losing to Butler in Horizon League tournament final. Both are familiar with the area, both are young (Chambers is 39, Jeter is 42), and both at least seem to have some forward trajectory at their current programs.

In the end, perhaps that's the best Penn State can do. The fundamental issues plaguing the program won't go away in one hire. Those are long-term needs that require a fundamental shift in the way the school treats its basketball program. There will be no perfect fits. But if the Nittany Lions can merely approximate some of the traits of its ideal coach -- youngish, mildly successful, somewhat charismatic -- well, hey. It could be worse.

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