A call out of the blue reminded Tim Chambers of just how far he'd come. In the months since being named UNLV's sixth baseball coach, Chambers fielded hundreds of calls of congratulations. Then one came from an old best friend. He was coming to Las Vegas to watch his kids play in a tournament. "He googled 'baseball complexes in Las Vegas' and the first reference was about me being named UNLV coach," says Chambers. "He calls me and says, 'I can't believe it really is you. I can't believe you went from the hood to being a Division I baseball coach.'"
Now one of Southern Nevada's most popular and successful coaches, Chambers proved himself to be a great recruiter and fundraiser at the College of Southern Nevada (CSN). He was the only applicant -- out of more than 100 applicants -- that athletic director Jim Livengood brought to campus for an interview.
The hire already has exceeded expectations -- the Rebels were 16-4 through 20 games this spring.
He revamped the team roster, bringing in 18 new players, including 11 from last year's 52-16 CSN team, to go with 14 returning student-athletes. His recruiting strategy (and team marketing strategy) targets the top-tier local talent. "For every local kid we get, we might get 20-30 fans to come watch," he says.
That will pay further dividends in donor support for the program. Recent donations allowed UNLV to gut the clubhouse, putting in new lockers, carpet, paint, and furniture. The press box and dugouts were upgraded and new pads were put on the backstop and outfield fences.
Coming From Nothing
Having accomplished all he wanted at CSN -- including a junior college national championship -- Chambers says the timing was right to take over at UNLV. At all his coaching stops, Chambers has been extremely successful doing what he loves. However, life hasn't always been easy.
Headed by a single mother, Chambers' family struggled with poverty. He attended 13 grade schools by the time he was 12. "My mom worked three jobs to make sure me, my brother, and sister had clothes on our backs, shoes on our feet, food in our bellies, and a roof over our heads. She crawled and scratched to provide."
When he was 14, an aunt invited Chambers' family to move from Southern California to Pleasant Grove, Utah. There he found stability and met baseball coach John Hoover, the man he calls dad. Under Hoover's guidance, Chambers grew to love the sport.
He played college baseball at three different schools, earning all-America honors at Dixie College. An arm injury led Chambers to realize that playing professional baseball wasn't in his future, but he wanted to be involved in the sport. He settled at Southern Utah University, studying physical education. He struggled academically and after three years had a 2.1 GPA.
Then he met his future wife, Kimberlie, an all-America volleyball player and straight-A student. "She wouldn't marry me unless I earned my degree so I busted my butt academically and ended up graduating with a 2.9 GPA," Chambers says.
"Getting a college degree and meeting my wife are the biggest accomplishments of my life," he says. "If I hadn't met my wife, I may not have gotten a degree, and without a degree I wouldn't be where I am today."
That is why wherever he coaches, whether it is UNLV, CSN, or Bishop Gorman High School, Chambers has three basic rules for his players: play hard, go to school every day, and be a good person.
Creating a Legacy
After college, Chambers and his wife moved to her hometown of Las Vegas. After working two jobs for nearly a year, he broke into coaching through a former teammate's father, who was the coach at Gorman High. He started with the junior varsity team and then took over as varsity coach from 1991-99. He led the program, which hadn't been to the playoffs in more than 35 years, to six straight division crowns.
Chambers then moved on to CSN, building the program from scratch. In 11 seasons, he was named conference coach of the year four times. He also won seven conference championships, three regional titles, two district crowns, and the 2003 Junior College World Series Championship. His CSN team last year, led by Bryce Harper, reached the national semifinals. Harper was Major League Baseball's top draft pick and Golden Spikes Award winner.
Chambers knows he made the right choice in coming to UNLV now. "It's not very often that a person gets to coach at the high school, junior college, and Division I level in the same town."