On Sunday, Michigan will play host to Penn State, which has yet to win a conference game this season. In fact, the Nittany Lions haven’t won since Dec. 29.
Second-year head coach Pat Chambers, one of the Big Ten’s most energetic coaches, has struggled to find offense after losing senior point guard Tim Frazier to a season-ending injury during non-conference play. The preseason-All Big Ten first team guard wasn’t just the focal point of the offense, he was also one of the conference’s best perimeter defenders.
The Daily chatted with Chambers in October at Big Ten media day, when the coach had just as many wins in conference play as he does now.
The Michigan Daily: After winning 12 games last year, how do you manage expectations?
Pat Chambers: What I told them, we’ve just got to be the best team we can be. Whether that’s 20 wins, 18 wins, 16 wins or 12, be the best team we can be, come out and compete every day, continue to work hard on developing great habits to give us an opportunity to win. I don’t think many people thought we were going to win 12 games (last season), let alone four in the Big Ten. I think we surprised a lot of people, and I think that’s a tribute to these kids. They didn’t know they were supposed to lose by 40. They had a different midnset and wanted to give us a chance. It says a lot about them.
TMD: Obviously the football program is facing an uphill battle with its sanctions. Does that open a void for you, maybe, where even Penn State fans might not have otherwise looked at Penn State basketball?
PC: What I would say to that question is that we can help during the process. But I don’t know if void is the right word because of what (Penn State football coach) Bill O’Brien is doing — it’s amazing what he’s doing.
TMD: Have you had a lot of communication with Bill?
PC: Yeah, absolutely. We text, I’ll sit with him. I try to leave him alone because it’s the season and I want to be left alone during my season. We’re coaches, we understand that, but as often as two head coaches talk, we probably communicate at least once a week.
TMD: We all talk about how tough it is to win on the road in the Big Ten. You coached in the Big East. How do the two conferences compare?
PC: There were some empty gyms (in the Big East). Not here, not here. It doesn’t matter where you are — top, bottom, it’s packed.
TMD: You’re known as a high-energy coach. (Guard D.J. Newbill) said you had a dance-off in practice the other day. Is that something you like to do to create energy and keep it fun?
PC: Yeah, you know what, when you practice 12-straight days, it can be a grind for these kids, especially the younger kids — we kind of lose them. They’re kind of like, ‘Oh my God, when am I going to play?’ That’s the preseason, but I had a little dance-off, we played music in the beginning to get the energy going, plus I like it nice and loud. If I can hear them over the music, that means we’re communicating, we’re talking. We started that last year.