Over the past 28 years, Penn State has managed to pull off one of the greater coaching feats in major College Basketball. That’s right, while Joe Paterno has sat in his office decade after decade, the basketball program has quietly put together a respectable streak themselves. What is this streak you might ask? The Bruce Parkhill coaching tree.
The tree first buried it’s roots in 1983 when Bruce Parkhill was hired by Penn State to replace Dick Harter as head coach. Parkhill, looking to assemble a young capable staff hired two assistant coaches: Jerry Dunn and Ed DeChellis. While DeChellis had a brief 2 year stint as an assistant at Salem International, he returned to Penn State in 1986 and remained on the staff until Parkhill’s departure in 1995. With no coach, Penn State promoted Jerry Dunn in 1995 where he would remain until 2003. A year after Dunn was promoted to the top spot, Ed DeChellis left Penn State for the head coaching job at East Tennessee State until being rehired as Penn State’s head coach in 2003.
And that is the streak. Craftfully done in front of those who may not have seen the full picture, Penn State managed to hire a head coach three times in a row without ever leaving the staff. 28 years of never leaving the tree that Bruce Parkhill planted. Three coaches over the span of 28 years is impressive enough, but to never look outside the walls of Rec Hall or the Bryce Jordan Center for a coach is an achievement all on its own. With newer and younger hires from across the nation coming to Penn State, the “In house promotion” school have thought has lost momentum, but not before it shaped the past three decades of Penn State Basketball.
What does this have to do with recruiting? Parkhill by all accounts wasn’t the best recruiter and wasn’t particularly fond of doing it. He was much more content coaching up what skill he had than going out and fighting tooth and nail for the next big name. Couple that with the fact DeChellis and Dunn were brought up in that mindset, heading down to the City of Brotherly Love wasn’t on the to-do list. Certainly all three coaches tried to pull some players out of the area, Philadelphia wasn’t neglected, but the urgency wasn’t there.
The picture below, which you can nagigate in detail here, is every recruiting class for Penn State basketball since the early 90s. A recruit might be missing here or there, but for the most part it is an accurate depiction of Penn State’s recruiting grounds for the past 20 years.
The most striking aspect about this? One recruit from Philadelphia. Andrew Jones, the only player in the past 18 or so years who saw significant playing time and had his hometown listed as Philly in the program. The surrounding areas are certainly sprinkled with Penn State players from New Jersey and New York, and with a large AAU circuit in the area that isn’t a bad thing, but in Philadelphia, Andrew Jones is the only one.
A lot of people will say that Nova, the Big East, Temple, and city schools are picking up all of the good players. While this is true to some extent, it also implies that winning a recruiting battle in the area is impossible based solely on the (relatively unknown) fact Penn State hasn’t ever really dug in and tried to win recruits.
That is what makes the Pat Chambers hire so exciting. With his extensive knowledge and relationships in the area as well as a passion to win recruiting battles in the city, Penn State is almost guaranteed to see success coming from that area. Does this mean that Penn State will be steal 5 star recruits away from Villanova? No. Chambers will have to work for every recruit he wants, which ought to lead to him taking a few more chances on diamonds in the rough. But the effort is there. And that is a massive step forward for Penn State’s future.
In the end, this is where national perception meets reality. The idea that Penn State has hired many coaches over the past 30 years, all of whom have gone to Philly and come back with their tail between their legs. In reality however, Penn State has only hired Bruce Parkhill and his two assistants to run the show. One mindset, one school of thought. Pat Chambers didn’t graduate from that school though, and he’s ready to go into Philly swinging away like Rocky. For Penn State basketball fans, this is exactly the change they have waited to see.