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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Rider assistant coach Ben Luber, a Penn State alum, reflects on Joe Paterno

LAWRENCEVILLE – Ben Luber remembers his first meeting with Joe Paterno like it was yesterday.

Luber, now an assistant coach with the Rider men’s basketball team, was on his official visit to Penn State when Paterno checked him into a wall and gave him some advice.

“You have to toughen up to play in this league,” Luber said Sunday recalling Paterno’s message.

The legendary Penn State coach died Sunday morning at the age of 85 following a battle with lung cancer.

“He was an intense guy. A rugged New Yorker,” Luber said. “It was a great experience meeting Joe Paterno. Everyone has their own story.”

Luber did just fine in State College. He finished in the school’s top 10 in assists and steals before graduating in 2007 and joining the staff at Rider as Director of Basketball Operations.

Luber said he will remember Paterno for all the good he did at Penn State.

“I think the media has focused so much on Joe Paterno over the last few months as that controversy went on that I hope people can rewind and look back at what he’s really done for the University,” Luber said. “How much money he’s given back to education there, how he’s built that University up and touching so many lives in the process. It’s a big loss for Penn State.”

Luber said he’s not in a position to pass judgment on Paterno’s legacy because he doesn’t know what happened.

Nor does he really want to know.

“All I know is that he was a great teacher, and coming from a coach, I can respect what he has done for the football program and the University,” he said. “He’s touched a lot of people in a positive way.
That’s what I know for a fact.”

Luber graduated from Council Rock North High School in 2003 before attending Penn State on a basketball scholarship. Although he wasn’t a Nittany Lion football fan growing up, and was the first Penn Stater in his family, it didn’t take him long to see how larger than life Paterno was.

Luber recalled different buildings bearing his name and a sub shop that was named after him.

“He’s made his mark on so many different areas,” Luber said. “Larger-than-life in an understatement when you go to Penn State. It’s Paternoville up there. It’s a big loss for that University.”

One felt by so many generations of Penn State graduates.

“I respect him as a man, and as a coach, more so than anything,” Luber said. “What he’s done for the University is invaluable.”

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