Two years ago, I penned an opinion piece titled, “Pat Chambers FUCKED UP! Now What…” In that piece, I wrote:
“A middle-aged white man, working under a multi-million dollar contract at one of the most highly regarded public research Universities in the nation, said “I want to loosen the noose that’s around your neck” to a young 19 year old Black man under his direct supervision. It’s an inexcusable comment… There is no other way to assess it… That’s really, really fucked up… Unbeknownst to him, Chambers built a huge problem for himself right as the word “noose” passed through his mouth… There are no ifs, ands or buts needed… It was a very bad and very bigoted moment… I have made this clear to Pat Chambers.”
There was universal agreement that Chambers made a huge mistake. There was serious disagreement regarding the appropriate consequences. I made my position very clear:
“This time Chambers FUCKED UP. There are some calling for his dismissal, there is a loud crowd gathering on the courthouse steps… They want the Penn State administration to remove Chambers from his position as Head Coach of the Men’s Basketball program. I get that… I understand those yearning to see his head roll… So far, the administration hasn’t given any indication that they are preparing to throw him to the angry mob. Hopefully, Chambers’ behaviors will treated as he has treated others. Of course, Penn State must address his bigoted comment, but they shouldn’t throw away the man.”
Little did I know that my stance would lead to the immediate destruction of what I thought were friendships. Because I felt that Chambers should be allowed to continue coaching, I was vilified by some Black men in Philadelphia. I was labelled a sell-out by a kid I had mentored for years. Another Black man publicly alleged that Chambers “must be paying” me to take such a position.
What these critics failed to consider was Chambers’ formidable track record. Chambers, from the moment he arrived in Happy Valley gave a lot of young men from the Greater Philadelphia region an opportunity to play Big 10 basketball. More importantly, he knowingly took chances on kids from less than ideal backgrounds and family situations and he stood by them throughout their, sometimes turbulent, time at Penn State.
It is no secret that some Philly kids, especially some of the Black kids, go off to college carrying significant “baggage.” Indeed, some of the most talented Philly schoolboys of the past quarter century have allowed their baggage to destroy seemingly surefire NBA careers.
Unlike many other college coaches, Chambers stood by his guys when they “fucked up” on campus. He addressed the behaviors, he dealt with the PSU administrators, he punished the offenders… What he didn’t do was cast aside the young men. He continued to guide and embrace the young men while admonishing them for their fucked up behaviors.
He did this behind closed doors… He didn’t make suspensions public… He never castigated them in front of outsiders… The players remained part of his program while serving private penance.
The discreet manner in which he dealt with wayward players in his program left casual observers completely in the dark. However, those close to the players and the program knew just how hard Chambers worked to help the young men transition to adulthood off the court. They knew how hard he worked to keep young Black players in school and on track to graduate.
A relentless recruiter, he established something akin to an underground railroad from the Greater Philadelphia region to Happy Valley during Chambers tenure.
Chambers gave Philly kids an opportunity to attend a world class university, compete at the highest level and he stood by them through all types of adversity.
The good far outweighed the bad… Clearly, the President and AD at Florida Gulf Coast University agreed with that assessment.
On March 15, 2022, FGCU officially introduced Chambers as the new FGCU men’s basketball head coach on Tuesday, March 15 in a special press conference from the Hillmyer-Tremont Suite in Alico Arena. Chambers became the fifth head coach in program history.
He’s back… Chambers is STILL my guy… He’s my friend… Before his appointment was made public, I had an opportunity to congratulate him and ask what his initial priorities were. In typical Chambers fashion, his response was short and very direct…
“Dahmir Bishop… I want Dahmir Bishop!”
Dahmir Bishop is a special kid to me. Before he was an Imhotep Panther, before he was a St. Joseph’s Hawk… Dah was a Darby Township Eagle. He played youth football for my lifelong friend Stacey Dandridge. He was, once again, in the transfer portal. I watched him grow increasingly frustrated over the past 2 seasons as his minutes fluctuated on HawkHill.
I hung up and called Dahmir and his father Rudy immediately. “Pat Chambers wants Dah to play at FGCU.” The conversation lasted about 10 minutes. After talking to Dah and Rudy… I texted Chambers… “You got Dahmir!”
“Send me his number…” Shit was done… I was very happy for Dah…
Few weeks later, I receive a call from Julian Dunkley. “Your man Pat Chambers is headed to IMG to see a kid, can you get him to take a hard look at Blaise Vespe?”
“Sure… I’ll do it right now.”
Ring… Ring… “What up Pat?”
“I’m headed to IMG to see a kid.”
“I know… While you’re there, I need you to take a long look at Blaise Vespe. Really athletic white kid that played for Carl at Neumann-Goretti. Runs and jumps extremely well, I hear he’s developed some perimeter skills down there at IMG.”
“You got it…”
A week or two goes by and Julian calls to tell me “Blaise committed to FGCU.”
“Yo man, he committed to Pat. Blaise and his Dad really like him.”
I hang up and call Chambers… “Yo… I didn’t know you offered Vespe.”
“Del… You told me to look at him, he’s your guy… I liked him… I offered him a scholarship.”
This is Pat Chambers…
Next up, Xavier Pina, from Deptford. “What’s up Pat? You gonna offer X?”
“I’m gonna go to the JUCO in Texas, evaluate him and take it from there.”
Shortly thereafter, Xavier posts “I’m blessed to receive an offer from FGCU.”
I call Xavier and his father… “Take that shit! I’m telling y’all… Take that shit!”
Chambers also stalked and nabbed Memphis transfer big Sam Onu from the Phelps School.
Today, Rahmir Barno, a consensus top 150 player from Imhotep Charter School committed to FGCU. Barno is fresh off a fantastic summer on the EYBL where he played for Team Final.
The region is well represented on the FGCU coaching staff as well. People that actually know Chambers really fuck with Chambers. For example, he re-recruited Chester’s Shep Garner and gave him an opportunity to begin his college coaching career at the D1 level. Kyle Griffin, who worked with Chambers at La Salle last year is also on his staff. To round out his staff, Chambers hired another one of his former players, ex-Roman Catholic head coach, Matt Griffin as an assistant.
FGCU will have 5 players and 4 coaches from the Greater Philadelphia region next year. The Eagles are now unofficial members of the Philadelphia City 7. The underground railroad is running in the other direction these days.
There are still a few guys that haven’t spoken to me since I publicly supported Chambers two years ago. Thing is… those guys don’t know Chambers and I guess I never really knew them.