Ex-baseball coach Tim Chambers talks UNLV firing amid drunken journey

They took him out the back door of Clark County Detention Center— his wife and high school baseball coach, the latter far more a father than the one who used to beat the hell out of him — to avoid any curious sorts toting cameras and notebooks.

Tim Chambers had spent the previous 12 hours incarcerated, arrested for driving under the influence after he fell asleep at the wheel on the Las Vegas Beltway near the McCarran International Airport connector tunnel and crashed his truck into sand-filled barrels.

“I knew walking out of jail that day, it was over,” he said of his October 2015 incarceration. “I knew it in my gut.”

The journey to this point, talking publicly for the first time since being fired as UNLV’s baseball coach in December 2015, struggling to overcome the mental and physical anguish of countless major surgeries, fighting to never again see the bottom of a whiskey bottle, is fueled by a different kind of addiction.

He wants to coach again.

He is fixated on it.

“I think he could survive literally if he didn’t, but it would kill him inside,” said Joey Swanner, who played for Chambers at UNLV. “It would drain him of all physical emotion. Hopefully, it never gets to that.”

Chambers regularly medicated himself with Crown Royal — straight, no ice, no chaser, no mixer, just a warm, smooth burn sliding down his throat — at a time when many still considered him baseball royalty in Las Vegas.

The king had a mighty fall, yet he understands this: It’s all his fault.

Legacy of winning

Chambers coached locally for nearly three decades, first at Bishop Gorman High School and then 11 seasons at the College of Southern Nevada, where he won a national title, was named national Coach of the Year and later tutored a future Major League Baseball MVP in Bryce Harper.

In 2010, Chambers landed the job many in town had pushed him toward for years: the UNLV program, which most believed had unlimited potential if run by a man with a profound knowledge of the game.

He reached 100 wins faster than any other Rebel coach and was named Mountain West Coach of the Year in 2014, when the Rebels captured the league’s regular-season title and advanced to the NCAA Regionals.

UNLV was on the path Chambers had promised to deliver. He made it into a winner.

Five years later, he was walking out the back of a jail.

While numbers defined his success on the field, others told a deeper reason why things went so horribly wrong: In all, Chambers has undergone more than 20 surgeries, including several on his spine.

During one 12-month stretch, he had eight major procedures, four on his back, and was put under anesthesia 18 times.

Twelve screws in right foot. Torn labrum and bicep tendon. Severed rotator cuff. Staph infection in his elbow. Right knee surgery. A broken right leg.

One back operation lasted nearly nine hours.

More than once, Kimberlie Chambers, his wife of 28 years, was told by doctors it could be the time he didn’t wake up.

And each time he did, he went back to drinking.

When he wasn’t taking an indefinite medical leave of absence from the Rebels, Chambers was coaching in severe pain, to the point he could barely walk. Always, he sought medication beyond those pain killers Chambers insists didn’t soothe his suffering. Games would end and he would slowly limp his way to the clubhouse, where a bottle awaited in his locker.

“One surgery led to another and then another and then depression set in and then more alcohol,” he said. “It was more about just me being a drunk.

“I’ll never make an excuse for what I did. I’m an alcoholic. I own every bit if it. No one is to blame but me. I take full responsibility. My entire career, all the time, all I told my players was, ‘Don’t get behind the wheel. Have someone drive you.’ And then I go and do it. That hurts me the most, the thought that I let them down.

“But I coached in this town 30 years and now some people who always supported me act like I’m a (bleeping) stranger. Are you kidding me?”

Not everyone.

Standing by his skipper

The jewel of UNLV baseball is a 10,000-square foot clubhouse that opened in 2016, the sort of bells-and-whistles structure that can entice recruits who wouldn’t otherwise consider a non-Power 5 Conference program.

It is named for Anthony and Lyndy Marnell, whose $2.75 million gift led to its raising.

The family who, through all the pain and drinking and mishaps of Tim Chambers, never quit on him.

It was Anthony Marnell, along with a few others who included former UNLV athletic director Jim Livengood, who helped place Chambers in a rehab center in Tucson, Arizona; it was Marnell who flew the coach to Santa Barbara, California, to be treated by a back specialist after initial surgeries went terribly wrong.

The clubhouse was built for UNLV players now and for generations to come, but know this: Had the head coach at the time of ground breaking not been Chambers, dirt would have never been moved, at least not with the financial backing of the Marnells.

A clubhouse that, to this day, Chambers has never entered.

“We don’t get nine lives and Tim knows that,” said Anthony Marnell, who played for Chambers at Bishop Gorman in the early 1990s. “He made a lot of big mistakes, but he never gave up on anyone and I will never give up on him.

“I defy anyone to name a person who sent more kids to college in this town than Tim Chambers, who helped more kids realize their dreams instead of them dropping out of school and quitting baseball and taking different paths in life. I live by a motto of not leaving people behind, and there was no way I was leaving Tim behind.”

One facet, more than any, more than losing his job or entering rehab twice for alcoholism or the agony from all the surgeries, brings tears to Chambers. His players.

He can’t speak about them now in any depth without crying, a man who watched just as many become doctors and lawyers and vice presidents of major companies as he did those who went on to play professionally.

Tim Chambers UNLV baseball coach
Tim Chambers, UNLV baseball coach (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

“I remember the day I got called up to the majors,” said former CSN pitcher Chasen Shreve, in his fourth season with the Yankees after being drafted by the Braves in 2011. “Chambers left me a voice message. He was crying, saying how proud he was of me, how happy he was for me. He’s the best coach I ever played for. I love him. I’d play for him again right now if I could. It’s sad what happened, of course, but I’ve never been around a guy who cares more about his players.”

Said Mike Dunn, a pitcher for the Rockies whose jersey was retired by CSN in 2011 on the same day as Harper and, yes, his former coach: “I think Chambers was at a place in life where he needed that crash to happen to wake him up. He wasn’t going to listen to anybody. But he was always there for us, so we needed to be there for him, give him some tough love and let him know how much we cared and that he needed to get help. I text him all the time that I love him. It has always been more about baseball for him when it came to those he coached.”

To hell and back

This was a rule of the house: When you were lined up against the wall for whatever misdeed had been committed in the old man’s eyes, you had to stand straight. If you bent your legs even an inch, you would get a crack across both of them.

Or maybe a steel skillet to the gut, which his mother got when she was pregnant with Tim’s little sister.

Chambers, even at 4 years old, owned athletic genes. He could stand straight all day and then some, but older brother Anthony couldn’t, so he got whacked over and over. Every once in a while, Tim would bend his knees on purpose and take the punishment, so as to save his brother a worse beating.

When the father who extended such abuse died, a then-adult Chambers demanded the coffin be opened at the memorial service. They cleared the room and inside lay his father, a piece of chocolate cake on his chest and a pack of cigarettes and lighter stuck in his shirt pocket.

His father was 52.

“I just had to make sure the son-of-a-bitch was really dead,” Chambers said. “Once I knew, I told them to close it up and I was good.”

Tim Chambers is 52.

Steinbeck wrote that a journey is a person in itself, that we find after years of struggle, we do not take a trip; a trip takes us. Transformation, then, is a process, and the mental and physical scars and bad choices born from the bottom of both a whiskey bottle and that of pain killers took Chambers on his own voyage to hell and back.

There are alcoholics spread across both sides of his family, but it wasn’t until that day he walked out of jail when his coach, Jon Hoover, the man he considers his real father, looked him in the eye and said enough was finally enough.

The ironic part is, Chambers wasn’t drunk the morning he swerved into an adjacent lane and struck another car (thankfully not injuring anyone) before veering into the left dirt shoulder and striking multiple sand-filled crash barrels.

He had drank some the night before, but was instead driving under the influence of Ativan, a benzodiazepine used to treat anxiety that causes sleep before surgery.

He would eventually plead no contest to DUI charges, complete court-mandated classes and the case was terminated.

“He made a decision to accept full responsibility,” said William Terry, Chambers attorney.

But even time in the Tucson rehabilitation center couldn’t save his job.

Chambers resigned about as much as former UNLV basketball coach Dave Rice did. He was, like Rice, fired, but agreed to a statement of resignation. The last thing Chambers or Rice would do is voluntarily walk away from players. It would never happen.

Tim Chambers tears up during an interview
Tim Chambers tears up during an interview.
(Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Terry says UNLV fired Chambers before there was even an arraignment on the DUI case. The coach was called into a meeting after returning from Tucson in December of 2015 and told by university officials they were taking the program in a different direction.

That part hasn’t gone very well on the scoreboard.

UNLV baseball is, the last two seasons, 44-68 overall and 24-36 in the Mountain West under head coach Stan Stolte. The Rebels are struggling unlike at any time when Chambers was running the program on a full-time basis.

The stay in a Tucson rehab center was followed by another locally, and Chambers is now working a 12-step program through his bishop in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His weight, once as low as 150 pounds at his worst point, is back to his normal 185.

He said this is the healthiest he has been in seven years, and he definitely looks the part.

His new number: 160 days sober.

Leaving Las Vegas

Chambers now chases the one thing he wants more than anything in life beyond his sobriety, and accepts it probably no longer exists here.

He has fielded some calls of interest about coaching college again and, 30 years later, knows that will mean moving from Las Vegas, from his wife’s dream home, from where daughters McKenzie, 23, and Chase, 10, were born and raised, from the town in which he was once baseball royalty.

The family members that that witnessed his darkest moments, that stood by him during that journey to hell and back, that knows how deeply he misses the game, the players, the beauty of it all, are ready to follow him.

One thing Chambers wouldn’t discuss was those in UNLV athletics who fired him, saying his speaking now is only about doing what is necessary to become healthy again, to become whole again, to own his past.

“I wake up every morning and say, ‘Today, I’m not going to drink,’” Chambers said. “It’s not, ‘I’m never drinking again.’ One day at a time. God saved my life with that crash. I will never say that I wish it hadn’t happened.

“I might have a house, but the baseball field is my home. I only know how to do one thing. I can’t build a bridge or dig a ditch or write this story. Baseball is my savior. A really hard day for me is not having anything to do. I have to stay busy. I need to be coaching.

“God put me on this earth to change young lives. I know that for sure. I can’t do that sitting in a recliner watching golf. I’m going to coach again. I know that — 100 percent. I’ll go to the University of Wherever. I don’t care. I miss the kids so much. I miss the relationships, the camaraderie.

“It’s where, more than anywhere, I fit.

“It’s where, more than anything else in life, I find peace.”

Contact columnist Ed Graney at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
News
High School Senior Wins Writing Scholarship
Kye "Kai" Catarata was presented with a $1,000 scholarship at the Las Vegas Writer's Conference Saturday at the Tuscany Suites and Casino.
It's a Boy! Duchess of Cambridge Gives Birth to Third Child
It's a Boy! Duchess of Cambridge Gives Birth to Third Child Kensington Palace announced that Prince William and Princess Kate traveled by car to the private Lindo Wing of St. Mary's Hospital in central London Monday. The child was born at 11:01 a.m. local time, weighing 8lbs 7oz. Her Royal Highness and her child are both doing well. Kensington Palace The new addition will be fifth in line to the throne, Queen Elizabeth II's sixth great-grandchild and third grandchild of Charles, Prince of Wales. Catherine and Harry married in 2011 and have two other children, Prince George, 4, and Princess Charlotte, who turns 3 next month.
Dr. Abbatangelo: Professor, Pageant Queen and Animal Dentist
Dr. Tina M. Abbatangelo, a professor of clinical practice at UNLV dentist school spends her free time and money traveling across the country to help treat exotic animals.
Joseph Otting, U.S. comptroller of the currency during an interview with RJ
Joseph Otting, U.S. comptroller of the currency during an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Otting oversees all national banks, credit unions, mutual savings banks, coops and the federal branches and agencies of foreign banks in the United States. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Paris Wade discusses about his “Liberty Writers” website
Paris Wade, who made national headlines for operating a fake news website and boasts about getting President Donald Trump elected in 2016, speaks during an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Friday, April 20, 2018, in Las Vegas. Wade is running for Nevada Assembly. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Police Unity Tour from New Jersey to Washington D.C. to commemorate fallen officers.
Las Vegas Metro police and Henderson police officers ride their bikes during the Vegas Team's last practice rides in preparation for the Police Unity Tour from New Jersey to Washington D.C. to commemorate fallen officers. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review Journal @bizutesfaye
UNLV students walk out of class on national walkout day
UNLV students and supporters chanted, marched and rallied on national walkout day Friday, April 20 on the 19th anniversary of the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in Colorado. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Captain Sasha Larkin Discusses Challenges, Progress in North West
Captain Sasha Larkin, of Metro's Northwest Area Command, discusses what issues face the northwest valley's residents and what police are doing to address them.
Southwest giving passengers on deadly flight $5,000 for compensation
Passengers on Flight 1380 have been receiving checks as a gesture of goodwill from the airline.
Ellis Island Buys Mt. Charleston Lodge
Ellis Island, which operates a casino, brewery and hotel just off the Strip, purchased the Mt. Charleston Lodge in early April.
LVMPD Arrests Suspect in Sunset Park Shooting
Captain Robert Plummer held a press conference at LVMPD headquarters Thursday to provide updates on the arrest of Anthony J. Wrobel, accused of killing a Venetian executive and wounding one other in a shooting on Sunday.
Two Black Men Arrested at Starbucks Share Their Story
Two Black Men Arrested at Starbucks Share Their Story Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson sat down with ABC’s ‘Good Morning America’ on Thursday and said the Starbucks manager called the police two minutes after they arrived. Donte Robinson, to 'Good Morning America' Donte Robinson, to 'Good Morning America' The men were meeting with a friend for a business meeting at the store’s location at around 3:45 pm on April 12 and declined to make any purchases. Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson issued a public apology and vowed to fix the issue by closing 8,000 stores nationwide next month for training on unconscious bias. Both Nelson and Robinson were released without charges after spending hours in jail, and the manager is no longer with the company.
Hero Southwest Pilot Was One of the Navy’s First Female Fighter Pilots
Hero Southwest Pilot Was One of the Navy’s First Female Fighter Pilots Tammie Jo Shults is being called a hero after safely landing the crippled Southwest Flight 1380 in Philadelphia. According to a spokesperson, Shults began her Navy career in 1985 and was one of the first female pilots to “transition to tactical aircraft.” She served for another eight years before moving to the Naval Reserve, retiring completely in 2001 with the rank of Lt. Commander. The Southwest flight, which was headed for Dallas from New York, was forced to make an emergency landing after one of its engines blew. One passenger was killed in the explosion when shrapnel flew through a window. Seven others suffered minor injuries aboard the flight, which carried 149 people. Passenger Peggy Phillips, to NBC News Passenger Peggy Phillips, to NBC News
Bump stock manufacturers under fire
The Justice Department said last month that it had started the process to amend federal firearms regulations to clarify that federal law defines bump stocks as machine guns.
Artist, Community Paint Winchester Skate Park
Andrew Schoultz, a Los Angeles-based artist with an upcoming exhibit at UNLV's Barrick Museum, painted the skate park at Winchester Cultural Center on Tuesday.
Prince death investigation coming to an end
Prosecutors in Minnesota plan an announcement Thursday on the two-year investigation into Prince's death from a drug overdose Prince was 57 when he was found alone and unresponsive in an elevator at his Paisley Park estate on April 21, 2016. An autopsy found he died of an accidental overdose of fentanyl. Search warrants unsealed about a year after Prince died showed that authorities searched his home, cellphone records of associates and his email accounts to try to determine how he got the drug. The county attorney has scheduled a morning announcement at which time charges could be filed.
David Copperfield executive producer testifies during the magician's civil trial
A British tourist is suing illusionist David Copperfield saying he was injured during a trick. Chris Kenner, executive producer for illusionist David Copperfield, was on the witness stand all day Tuesday, April 17. Kenner testified that a business manager for the show talked to the man after he fell. Kenner testified that the tourist, Gavin Cox, said he was OK moments after the fall. Cox later told the crew: “Maybe I will have this looked at.” Copperfield is the next witness in line for Cox’s attorneys. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Art Bell’s Top 10 Shows
A selection of radio host Art Bell’s most popular shows.
CCSD Teacher Is a Living Organ Donor
June Monroe speaks about her kidney donation to her brother and advocacy work with the National Kidney Foundation.
Shadow Ridge High School teachers protest
Shadow Ridge High School teachers protest. Teachers are upset over many things, including the fact that the district is fighting an arbitration ruling for pay raises. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Clark County commissioners debate getting rid of Henderson, North Las Vegas constables
Clark County commissioners are debating whether to get rid of the Henderson and North Las Vegas constables after RJ's story pointing out questionable spending by the Henderson Constable Earl Mitchell. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
1 Dead, 7 Injured After Southwest Airlines Flight Makes Emergency Landing
1 Dead, 7 Injured After Southwest Airlines Flight Makes Emergency Landing Dallas-bound Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 out of New York, which had 143 passengers and a crew of five onboard, landed in Philadelphia on Tuesday. According to NBC10, a female passenger was partially sucked out of a broken window, which was a result of the plane's engine ripping apart. It's not known if the female passenger was the one who died. Emergency personnel met the battered plane upon its landing. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the blown engine resulted in a smashed window and a damaged fuselage. Southwest Airlines The FAA said that the NTSB will lead the investigation into what happened.
Single vehicle crash kills man
A man died Tuesday morning in a single-vehicle crash in northeast Las Vegas. The crash occurred Tuesday morning on the 1900 block of Pasadena Boulevard, near Lake Mead Boulevard and Mt. Hood Street. Police had few details, but Metro's fatal detail was on the scene investigating.
Sunset Park Homicide (update 2)
LVMPD gives update about suspect in homicide at Sunset Park (Blake Apgar)
Sunset Park Homicide (update)
Update from LVMPD on Sunset Park homicide. Releasing suspect's name (Blake Apgar)
Sunset Park Homicide
Police give details about Sunset Park homicide on Sunday, April 15, 2018. (Blake Apgar)
Parents of autistic child talk about their experience waiting for care
Parents of autistic child talk about their experience waiting for care. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Donald Trump Calls Out James Comey After Book Details Emerge
Donald Trump Calls Out James Comey After Book Details Emerge The President took to Twitter to criticize the former FBI director as information emerges from Comey’s new book, ‘A Higher Loyalty’. According to 'The New York Times', Comey describes Trump in the book as “unethical, and untethered to truth and institutional values.” James Comey, A Higher Loyalty, via The New York Times A Higher Loyalty hits stores on April 17.
Big Bounce America visits North Las Vegas
Billing itself as "the biggest bounce house in the world," Big Bounce America visits Craig Ranch Regional Park in Las Vegas.
Endangered Devils Hole Pupfish numbers enough for concern, but not panic
Researchers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Death Valley National Park came together at Devils Hole, about 90 miles west of Las Vegas, for a biannual count of the Devils Hole Pupfish, an endangered species. Their count this time – 87. (Video by Patrick Connolly)
Local
Bump stock manufacturers under fire
The Justice Department said last month that it had started the process to amend federal firearms regulations to clarify that federal law defines bump stocks as machine guns.
Art Bell’s Top 10 Shows
A selection of radio host Art Bell’s most popular shows.
Longtime Las Vegas attorney John Momot dies at age 74
Criminal defense attorney John Momot, who represented mob figures and even played himself in the movie “Casino,” has died.
David Copperfield in court after man injured during magic trick
The attorney for a British man who is suing illusionist David Copperfield said his client suffered serious injuries after being called on stage during Copperfield's show at MGM Grand.
5 things connecting Las Vegas and Marilyn Monroe
1. Marilyn Monroe, known then as Norma Jeane, obtained her first divorce in Las Vegas at the age of 20 on September 13, 1946. 2. According to some biographers, Monroe lived at 604 S. 3rd Street for four months during the summer of 1946. The house has since been torn down and is now the site of a parking lot. 3. In 1954, Monroe almost married Joe DiMaggio in Las Vegas but the wedding was called off last minute. The wedding was to be held at the Hotel El Rancho Vegas which was located on the southwest corner of Sahara Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard. 4. Las Vegas has at least one road dedicated to the star. Marilyn Monroe Avenue is located in east Las Vegas and intersects with Betty Davis Street and Cary Grant Court. 5. There are currently more than 20 Marilyn Monroe impersonators for hire in the Las Vegas Valley.
Sir Richard Branson announces purchase of Hard Rock Hotel
Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, has acquired the Hard Rock Hotel with partners and plans to turn it into a Virgin-branded property by the end of 2019.
3 Centennial High School students killed in Calif. crash (Full)
Three Centennial High School students were killed Thursday morning in Southern California when their vehicle was struck by a suspected drunken driver while they were enjoying their spring break, according to a family member of one of the victims.
Retail Restroom Sexual Assault Suspect
Las Vegas police are asking for help finding a man they said groped a woman in a south Las Vegas Valley restroom. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Calvary Christian Learning Academy, “There was no fair warning.”
Samantha O’Brien, whose three-year-old daughter attended the Calvary Christian Learning Academy daycare, found out Monday night when her daughter’s teacher called about the school closing.
Mojave Max at Springs Preserve
File footage of Mojave Max at Springs Preserve. (Springs Preserve)
Companies bet their futures on cryptocurrency
Two Las Vegas entrepreneurs talk about finding their niche in blockchain enabled technologies and digital currency.
Solar panels reduce energy bill for CCSD
Wilbur and Theresa Faiss Middle School is one of 42 CCSD schools with solar panel installations, saving approximately $514,000 per year in energy costs.
Red carpet at MGM for Dan Reynolds Believer screening
Kats on the red carpet for the VIP screening of "Believer," the documentary by Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds about how the Mormon Church treats its LGBTQ members.
Driver dies in single-vehicle crash
One person is dead after an early Wednesday morning crash in the northwest valley. The single-vehicle crash was called in about 1:35 a.m. on Jones Boulevard just north of Deer Springs Way, according to Metropolitan Police Department Sgt. Robert Stauffer. The driver, who was the only person inside the vehicle, died at the scene.
Uber Health to Improve Patient Ride-Hailing Services
Uber Health to Improve Patient Ride-Hailing Services On Thursday, Uber launched its Uber Health platform for healthcare providers. Medical facilities, rehab centers, clinics and hospitals can book rides for patients from a centralized dashboard – no app required. According to Techcrunch, Uber Health general manager Chris Weber noted some 3.6 million Americans miss appointments due to lack access to reliable transportation. Uber’s endeavors into health care trace back to 2014, when Uber first offered on-demand flu shots in large markets across the U.S. Since then there have been similar efforts throughout the world, from diabetes and thyroid testing in India, to subsidized rides for breast cancer screening in the U.S., to many more. Last summer, over 100 healthcare organizations joined the platform during a private beta. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas firefighters put out blaze along Bonanza Road
Las Vegas firefighters put out a blaze that burned for about 15 minutes Feb. 20, 2018, along Bonanza Road, across from the Las Vegas Review-Journal. (Jeff Mosier/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Cabana Market Shooting -- Persons of Interest
On February 3, 2018 at approximately 1:57 p.m., patrol officers were dispatched to a parking lot located in the 3900 block of East Owens Avenue to investigate a report that a man had been shot. Responding officers located an unresponsive adult male suffering from a gunshot wound. The victim was pronounced deceased at the scene. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Events
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like