Brandon Chambers was a sophomore at VCU, in the middle of mid-terms season when on one particular night, he was staying up late, riding the high of the caffeine boost from his third cup of coffee. Chambers was a business major and was studying for a macroeconomics exam. However, instead of researching more about supply and demand, he instead searched for the email address of Anthony Grant, the school’s basketball coach.
“I could just remember sitting there at one in the morning as most college kids do studying for tests, overdosed on caffeine and I just sat there and thought to myself, ‘I can’t do this for the rest of my life,’” Chambers said. “I just wasn’t passionate about it.”
Immediately after this realization, he decided to take his chance and sent an email to Grant asking for a position as a student manager. By 6 a.m., he received a reply to meet in the office with the staff and graduate assistants. After meeting with the staff, they brought him on as a student manager.
Growing up, basketball had always been the sport that brought Chambers the most happiness. After school, he and his friends would always go to the local basketball gym to find a pickup game.
“That’s where I developed my love for the game, just getting with my buddies and playing the older guys or playing at another neighborhood,” Chambers said. “It was the type of thing where we’d get out of school at 2:15, we’d be there at 2:30 and wouldn’t leave until 7:30 at night.”
In his senior year of high school, Chambers had dreams to play collegiate basketball, but his father had just been diagnosed with ALS. In the event of an emergency, he wanted to be close enough to his family so that he could go home without a moment’s notice. Rather than trying to play in college, he instead opted to attend Virginia Commonwealth University, a school that allowed him to stay close to home.
As he continued his education at VCU to pursue his degree, he couldn’t suppress the itch to continue to be involved in the game. Thus, his position as a student manager gave him an opportunity to view the game that he loved from a whole different perspective, while still being close to home so that he could be proximate to family. It was a win-win situation that he could not pass up.
Little did Chambers know that his late-night email would turn into one of the most thrilling experiences for any college student.
After the Rams won the CBI Championship in his first season with the team, they doubled down and went on one of the most improbable runs in NCAA history as they went on to the Final Four, taking down powerhouses USC, Georgetown, Purdue, Florida State, and Kansas along the way.
Aside from getting a front row seat to one of the most memorable Cinderella teams, Chambers started to take on more responsibility. Under the direction of new head coach Shaka Smart, he was able to significantly further his basketball knowledge.
In addition, Chambers soaked up his knowledge from the rest of the star-studded staff who eventually became head coaches at their respective programs in Mike Rhoades, the current VCU head coach, Will Wade, who is the LSU head coach, and Mike Jones, the head coach at Radford.
“Late in my first year, going into the summer, the coaches would ask ‘Hey do you want to start coming around the office and helping with this?” Chambers said. “It was just very minuscule and minor job duties but those things start to add up over time to the point where they give you more and more to do.”
Misericordia & Marymount University
After graduating with his bachelor’s degree, Chambers pursued his MBA and began his career as a basketball coach. Following his run with VCU, he spent time at two Division-III schools, Marymount University and Misericordia University.
His role at the time was to be a jack-of-all-trades type of coach and learn all the facets of the profession, from doing menial tasks to analyzing film, to recruiting guys his age to come play for him.
“When people ask me what’s my background, I tell them that I’m a D-III hoops guy because in a Division-III level you’ve got to do everything and I was at that level for four years, learning under some of the best coaches I’ve ever been around in Trevor Woodruff and Chris Rogers,” Chambers said. “At the D-III level, you’ve got to fill the water coolers, you’ve got to make sure all the balls are out for practice. You’re doing everything because you have a smaller staff, smaller budget.”
It was a humbling yet transformative experience. In the mornings at Marymount University, he would go to work at 7 a.m. as an Admissions Specialist in the admissions office. In the afternoons and evenings, he would attend practice and afterward perform other coaching duties such as recruiting and game preparation.
As a grad student and assistant coach, late nights were aplenty when he would stay in the office until dawn. However, instead of pulling all-nighters for macroeconomics exams, he was instead doing it for something that he found genuine enjoyment from.
Chambers’ moment of epiphany was from a source that, like his impulsive email sent to Grant, came on a whim when he decided to call a childhood friend.
Steve Ware was an all-conference basketball player during his high school days but more importantly, was a close friend and fellow roommate of Chambers at VCU.
Since first meeting each other in their freshmen year of high school, they became inseparable. When they both ended up at the same college, the two decided to become roommates. However, while Chambers was diligently keeping up with his academics and responsibilities with the basketball team, Ware indulged more in the social aspect of college life.
With the level of friendship that they shared, Chambers reached out to Ware’s parents in an effort to reel him back on the right track.
”He told on me to my parents that I wasn’t really doing too well in school,” Ware said. “I was so mad at him for that to the point that I thought that we wouldn’t be friends anymore. However, when I look back on it, I’m really grateful for him for doing that because it helped me get on the right path. Only really good friends do stuff like that.”
The two went on different paths, with Ware spiraling out and going down the beaten path. He had dropped out of school by his sophomore year and went on to pursue less successful ventures.
After a short-lived stint with the military, Ware moved to Atlanta where he bounced from job to job, living from paycheck to paycheck.
In November 2011, he had barely missed a payment due for his rent and was evicted from his apartment. Ware had reached rock bottom.
Not five minutes after bawling from being evicted from his home, his cell phone buzzed. On the other line was Chambers, checking in on an old friend.
“It was probably the last phone call that I expected,” Ware said. “We always had each others’ numbers but I didn’t expect him to call because I’ve never called. I’ve never been the type to reach out like that and ask for help. It was almost like it was heaven-sent.”
Without knowledge of Ware’s financial situation, out of blind faith, he offered his friend an opportunity to play for him. Whether it be fate or an act of mercy or “Misericordia” from the gods, that call ended up becoming the turning point in Ware’s life.
Fast forward three months and Ware was a contributor for a team that reached two Division-III NCAA Tournaments. Fast forward to today, Ware has a college degree and is working on opening up his own music label and studio in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
According to Ware, his experience at Misericordia was what allowed for him to turn his life around. Being around influences like his head coach Trevor Woodruff and his childhood friend Chambers was exactly the push that he needed to take control of his life.
“Brandon Chambers cares about everybody else more than himself,” Ware said. “He is the type of person that has the attitude that if you’re willing to help yourself, he’s willing to help you. He taught me how to grind and that’s what I’m doing.”
The Coaching Clipboard
Being new to the game, Chambers realized quickly how he wasn’t much different from other young coaches in the coaching world in regards to things like player development, recruiting, or film breakdown. During his time at Misericordia, Marymount, and eventually Paul VI High School, he constantly thought of ways that could help him differentiate himself from all the other coaches in America.
One night, a friend of his commented on a basketball article that Chambers had posted to Facebook and encouraged him to continue to post similar material. Something about that comment flipped a switch internally and sparked an idea that helped connect him with Nevada Coach Eric Musselman.
For the greater part of four days, Chambers worked on aggregating as many emails of coaches at the collegiate level. From there, he decided to create an email newsletter that sent coaches plays of the day and articles that covered leadership, motivation, and coaching.
As the newsletter gained traction and replies from coaches, he decided to create a website called “The Coaching Clipboard”, a site where he continues to post regularly.
After the creation of the website, Chambers began receiving feedback and compliments from coaches from around the nation, one of them being Musselman.
“Our coaching staff would review the website and uses bits and pieces from his weekly e-mails,” Musselman said. “From the start, our coaching staff found Brandon extremely bright, insightful, and organized.”
After months of back and forth and towards the end of Musselman’s first year with the Wolf Pack, Chambers built up the courage to ask for an opportunity to work with the 51-year-old head coach, who had just won the CBI Championship. To his delight, Musselman was open to the idea of bringing him onto his staff.
At the time that Chambers had been communicating with Musselman, he had left Marymount University to pursue a job at the high school level at St. Paul VI. It was a move in his career where he felt like he needed to continue to grow as a coach and as a person.
“People thought that it was a step back but it was actually a step forward for me,” Chambers said. “The cool thing that kind of hit me was you kind of get lost as a coach and you’re coaching these high-level players and you lose sight of the fact that they’re still 17 and 18-year olds and it was a really cool learning experience for me.”
Throughout his career, Chambers feels that he has lucked out in being able to work for coaches who were both excellent in their professions but more importantly, carried that excellence outside of the profession as people.
As an outsider who had never personally met with Musselman besides the on-court accolades that Musselman brought, he made it a point of emphasis to try and learn about Musselman as a person before making the decision to move to Reno.
“I could see how passionate of a coach he was, how detailed he was, how much about he cares about his players and his staff,” Chambers said. “You can learn so much about a coach in the post-game press conferences, through videos that are put out and on the Internet. After watching some of their games, the recap videos, or the different articles on the team, I could see where Coach Musselman was taking the program by how hard the team played and how much enthusiasm they had as a group. I could see his vision. It wasn’t necessarily a leap of faith for me, it was more me putting all my chips in and going all in on a guy who I saw all the success that he’s had in the past, saw the things he was going to do and following him throughout the year.I saw the culture and competitive program he was building.”
Thus, with an offer in hand from Musselman who he respects as a coach and person, Chambers packed up his bag and made the 3000-mile move to Reno.
In the short time that Chambers has been in town, he has quickly grown to love the University, its people and its passion for basketball. Much like small town Richmond where his previous school VCU resided, Reno reminds him of all the things that made that Final Four-bound city special.
I tell people all the time, ‘I love Reno,’” Chambers said. “I absolutely love this city. Just being in Reno for the past year, I can tell that there’s a lot of people who love Nevada Basketball and are so passionate about it.”
One of those passionate fans is long-time Nevada Athletics Booster, Paul Angrick, who Chambers developed a special relationship with throughout his first year in Reno.
The two met after one of the Wolf Pack practices last season and quickly hit it off the bat. Small talk at practices turned into dinner invitations, which eventually turned into weekly rounds of golf during the weekends. It was a bond that developed into a father-son relationship wherein Angrick describes Chambers as a “third son”.
“My wife and I took Brandon under our wing and at the time he was a young man at 26, 27-year-old and he was 3000 miles away from his family in the east coast,” Angrick said. “We opened up our home to him and some of the other coaches and played golf with him on Saturday or whenever Muss would give him a few hours off. And he reciprocated in a way that I would never have imagined.”
In late February, with the Wolf Pack on the verge of their first Mountain West Conference Championship, Chambers and the rest of the Wolf Pack staff received devastating news of Angrick’s wife, Meg Cleary, passing away.
With the couple being incredibly close to the basketball program, its coaches, and players, the team decided to hold a pre-game tribute to Cleary on the night of their final regular season game, which was also the de-facto regular season championship game. For a long-time supporter of Wolf Pack Basketball, the powerful gesture helped him get through the beginning of what was an incredibly difficult time.
As the Wolf Pack went on to win the game and the championship, Chambers took the tribute one step further to help comfort his grieving friend. One by one, as the Wolf Pack players and coaches ceremoniously cut down a piece of the net and celebrated with the team, Chambers took his piece, handed it to Angrick, and said: “This is for your wife.”
For the grieving widower, that small act meant the world to him.
Two weeks later in Las Vegas, when Nevada punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament, Chambers once again gave his piece of the championship net to his friend, dedicating his efforts to the couple who helped him find a home in Reno.
“To say it was touching is a grave understatement,” a teary-eyed Angrick said. “What Brandon did in recognizing her spirit was incredible.”
Those two pieces of net still sit on Angrick’s dresser to this day.
As Chambers embarks on his second season with the Wolf Pack and his first as the Director of Basketball Operations, he welcomes the challenge of the unique tasks that the role brings. While the challenges of the profession are what keep him consumed in his daily routine, Chambers is a reminder that coaching is just what he does and not who he is.
“Putting the basketball stuff aside, he is just a great young man,” Angrick said. “He’s smart, highly personable, he’s very engaging. What you see is what you get. For him, life’s more than just basketball.”