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Coaching search: Lion legend Joe Crispin would bring fun, entertaining style and deserves a look

Joe Crispin and Titus Ivory during the magical run to the Sweet 16 in 2001.

We’ll get into the coaching search from time to time as Penn State will be looking to replace Patrick Chambers after the upcoming season.

It makes sense on several levels for Penn State to give Joe Crispin a shot as its next basketball coach.

Sure, Crispin has no Division I head coaching experience. And he hasn’t recruited the Philadelphia area for Division I talent. Both of those things could hurt him when it comes to getting the PSU job at this time.

But let’s take a look at all the things that would make Crispin a good fit for the Nittany Lions.

First, he’s already a PSU legend as one of the best players in program history. He led Penn State to the Sweet 16 in 2001 during the program’s best NCAA Tournament run of the modern era.

In my personal rankings of greatest PSU players ever, I have: 1. Talor Battle; 2. Lamar Stevens; 3. Crispin; 4. Jesse Arnelle. The order is up for debate, but Crispin is in the top five no matter how you cut it.

Crispin has spent the past four seasons as head coach at Division III Rowan University in his home state of New Jersey. Here’s what you need to know about him from that job, and it should come as no surprise:

Crispin’s team loves to shoot the 3.

Shocking, right?

Joe himself is a guy who’s never seen a shot he didn’t like. He was a terrific shooter during his days at PSU and in the pros, and while he only played one season in the NBA (2001-02), he had a lengthy and productive career overseas as a sharpshooter. I believe he once went 10-for-10 from 3 in a game overseas.

Crispin runs a fun, high-scoring system at Rowan, and it’s that system that would be a blast to watch at Penn State.

Rowan averaged 84.5 points per game last season and shot 31 3s per game.

Penn State averaged 75.1 points last season and shot 25 3s per game.

If PSU hired Crispin, he would install a modern offense with heavy reliance on 3-point shooting. He would give the Lions an identity, something the basketball program really hasn’t had in a long time, and that identity would be this:

Shoot the 3 and score a lot of points.

It would be the kind of system that would attract sharpshooters who want to come in and play fast with the freedom to shoot the ball. Villanova comes to mind in that regard.

In essence, Crispin would have a lot of players on the floor who play the game just like he did at Penn State.

Would it work at PSU?

It might. It might not.

But hey, nothing else has really ever worked consistently at Penn State.

The Lions can’t just play normal basketball without something to hang their hats on as a program. They need an identity, a niche — something like the Syracuse zone or VCU full-court press or Virginia half-court defense.

Here’s the kicker: The chances of PSU being a consistently great team are slim, no matter which coach they hire. There are just too many obstacles and so little tradition.

So why not hire a coach who’s a legendary alum and who plays a fun style that would give the fans something entertaining to watch? Crispin, perhaps more than any other potential candidate, can offer just that with his 3-point offensive approach.

Lastly, Joe Crispin is a tremendous person. A salt of the earth kind of guy who gets along with everyone and would be a tremendous representative of PSU as its basketball coach. That’s what the Lions need right now after the way Patrick Chambers’ tenure ended.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Sandy Barbour and the search committee should at least consider Crispin, who loves Penn State and would be a wonderful person in the community.

He’s a big enough name to the fan base that it could excite people who hope to see him do as a coach what he did as a player.

If Crispin can get an interview and get in the room with decision makers, he would wow Barbour and the search committee with his passion, his ideas and his personality. He’s such a good guy and has such a clear vision for what he wants Penn State basketball to be that he could win over a lot of support.

Written By

Cory Giger is a 15-year veteran of the Penn State beat and a journalist with 28 years of experience. He has won more than 100 state and national journalism awards during his career, plus he's a voter for the Heisman Trophy in football and Wooden Award in basketball.

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