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February 27, 2013One after the other, the letter 'L' marks the results column on the Penn State men's basketball schedule.
Fourteen consecutive games the Nittany Lions have lost, dating back to their Big Ten opener at Wisconsin on Jan. 3. So consistent are the losses that for many Penn State hoops' fans, the final two days of February and first 10 days of March are all that remains between the torture of this season and the hope of next.
Don't bother telling Patrick Chambers or his team that, though.
He doesn't want to hear it, and neither do they.
Instead, Chambers and the Nittany Lions are opting for a more positive approach, one that continues Wednesday night when No. 7-ranked Michigan visits the Bryce Jordan Center for a 6:30 tip-off.
Pulled between his hatred of losing's cancerous effects on a program and his gospel of #Attitude, positivity and growing from the mistakes and deficiencies that plague his team right now, Chambers is maintaining an atmosphere around the BJC that doesn't allow for self-defeating negativity. Even in February, even against the best competition in all of college basketball, even in the midst of an adversity-filled losing streak, Chambers is treating each game like it's a new opportunity to prove something.
"It's a little bit of a grind for everybody in late February. It's such a long season now, and you play so many games, and when you're in the Big Ten, in such a difficult league top to bottom, you just gotta stay positive, continue to motivate and continue to be creative in ways that you approach practice and the ways that you approach games," he said. "Hopefully, losing motivates a lot of people. It motivates me, and I know it motivates them."
At practice, that's the only thing onlookers see.
Negative body language is a natural byproduct of losing, but as the Nittany Lions warmup and get into the act of practice and of skill development, the intensity and aura of positivity that existed in late Octber - before the season even began with a 65-58 win against Saint Francis on Nov. 9 - remains.
Teammates talk to each other loudly, friends pick each other up off the hardwood quickly, and maybe most impressive, they still hustle.
Even at walk-throughs before a game, visiting Big Ten Network crews have commented to team support staff, with dismay in some cases, how positive and energetic the Nittany Lions are with each other, regardless of either winning or losing.
For Chambers, a tireless competitor, the season's challenges have had a clear effect, though not necessarily in the way you'd expect.
"As a coach, we say it's a grind and we don't like to lose and nobody hates losing more than me but, I'm learning a lot about myself and I'm learning a lot about how to coach. If there's a benefit (to losing), that's the benefit," he said. "There's no book. There's no Cliff's Notes. There's nothing on the internet to help you go through something like this.
"Being a lifelong learner, being open minded to change and trying different things. I've done that and, I think it's helped, especially the last few weeks because we're right there. We're knocking on the door. The door hasn't opened because this league is a great league and you're playing against great teams and you're playing on the road.
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