June 07, 2011
If there's anybody with a wilder explanation for why they entered the coaching profession than newly hired Penn State coach Pat Chambers, their story must feature winged monkeys or herds of unicorns.
Chambers had a high-paying job in sales and administration for his family's printing company in 2002 when he ran into a woman he knew from high school and and a girlfriend of hers in the lobby of his Philadelphia hotel. Soon afterward, the husband of the girlfriend spotted Chambers talking casually to the two women and attacked him, stabbing him twice in the neck with a broken long-stem glass.
Had the wounds been an inch or two closer to his jugular vein, Chambers might have died from the attack at age 31. Instead he has a jagged scar on the left side of his neck and a life-changing memory that caused him to reevaluate his priorities.
"That's when I said, 'That's it. I'm done.' I was close to death, so I'm going to go do what I want to do," Chambers told SportingNews.com this week. "And what I wanted to do was go coach basketball."
Chambers played at Philadelphia University dabbled in the profession as a volunteer coach at Episcopal Academy in Philadelphia, so his new dream wasn't entirely far-fetched. He had been reluctant to make the leap previously because of his involvement in the family business.
The big break for Chambers came in 2004 when Villanova coach Jay Wright hired him as director of basketball operations. Wright valued Chambers' work ethic, his business background and his connection to then-Episcopal Academy standouts Gerald Henderson and Wayne Ellington.
Chambers landed neither Henderson nor Ellington, yet he earned a promotion to assistant coach the following year. He left Villanova to take the head coaching job at Boston University in 2009 and parlayed his success there and his Philadelphia ties into the Penn State gig last Friday.
Whenever Chambers has needed a reminder to stay grounded or chase his dreams, he'll occasionally take the blood-stained clothes from the night of the stabbing out of his closet.
"I'm glad I was stabbed," he told BU Today in February. "It was totally a defining moment. It changed my career, changed the way I looked at things. I had a big house, fancy car, was making really good money, flying to Miami or Saint Martin on a whim, doing whatever I wanted. All these materialistic things that at the time you think are important—they're not important at all. Life is all about relationships, about your faith, your family. I'm a better person today: a better man, a better leader, a better father, a better brother, and a better husband. I'm thankful it happened."