They sat in cushioned chairs as the bus made its way to Philadelphia and shared memories. Of Boston. Of their playing days. They also talked about the future.
Approximately a dozen Penn State head coaches will visit alumni during the next two weeks as part of the athletic department's Coaches Caravan. The two who have the most eyes on them, football coach Bill O'Brien and men's basketball coach Patrick Chambers, used the bus trip from State College to Center City on Monday morning to help develop what both men say is an important relationship.
"We're very similar in a lot of ways other than the hairstyle," Chambers said. "We're intense, passionate, we want to do what's best for Penn State. He's building and creating a culture and an environment, and we share those types of stories."
Both men are in their early 40s (O'Brien is 42, Chambers is 41) and are married with young children. Both played but not starred in their respective sports in college (O'Brien was a linebacker and defensive end at Brown, Chambers at point guard at Philadelphia University). They were hired seven months apart, both taking over the head job at a major program for the first time.
"We have a strong relationship," O'Brien said. "We come from similar backgrounds, being both from the Northeast. We tell it like it is. There's not a lot of BS in our relationship. I think he's doing a great job. He's going to win a ton of basketball games there. I've been happy to get to know him and I'm looking for a strong relationship going forward."
The relationship was off to a solid start even before the caravan kicked off. O'Brien invited Chambers and his team to a spring football practice last month and visited with prize recruit Sheldon Jeter and his father in his office during Jeter's visit last week. The coaches have met for dinner on several occasions since O'Brien came to town after the Super Bowl.
Though both men are looking to build their respective programs from the ground up, Chambers realizes that O'Brien's program has a much stronger foundation. But it's one he believes can benefit the basketball program as well.
"It's critical," he said. "Look, we need to change the perception of Penn State basketball. I think we can all agree with that. And with Bill's help, we can do that. And we're going to work side-by-side on that. I think for me it's a luxury to have Penn State football, because we reap the benefits of what that program means nationally, worldly.
"For us, it can only help," Chambers added. "And I think it already has. The way I travel now, the way I go out and recruit. We're doing some amazing things and I'm getting to see a ton of players. People are starting to listen. Maybe, when I first got here, they weren't listening."