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Giger: Why Micah Shrewsberry is right fit for PSU hoops

Micah Shrewsberry when he was an assistant with the Celtics under Brad Stevens

Micah Shrewsberry looks like a great hire for Penn State. Can he succeed in turning the Nittany Lions into a consistent threat in the Big Ten? We’ll see.

This is a tough, tough job. Penn State doesn’t have the tradition or resources to think that it will ever become a consistent threat in basketball. The school won’t pay the kind of money it would take to lure a big-name coach, something a lot of fans clamor for, so the choice has to either be an up-and-coming head coach or a proven assistant coach.

Shrewsberry is the latter. He has a fantastic resume for an assistant coach.

Here’s what fans need to know about why he’s a good fit.

** He has coached at the highest levels of college basketball — including several years in the Big Ten with Purdue — AND he has NBA experience as an assistant with the Boston Celtics. That combination, I believe, truly is what sets him apart from just about any other reasonable candidate PSU could have hired.

** He has worked under excellent head coaches in Brad Stevens (at Butler and Boston) and Matt Painter (at Purdue). Stevens led Butler to back-to-back national title games in 2010 and ’11, with Shrewsberry alongside as an assistant. Shrewsberry then spent six years working for Stevens with the Celtics, with stops working for Painter at Purdue both before and after his stint in Boston.

** He knows the Big Ten and what it takes to succeed in this conference. I was of the thinking last week that PSU would hire Dennis Gates because he already has been a head coach, but I still always favored Shrewsberry because of his Big Ten experience and the NBA experience.

** Shrewsberry can recruit Philadelphia. He has experience doing it before, and Penn State needs to have at least some success in that area, which has been good to the program of late (Tony Carr, Lamar Stevens, etc.).

** Basketball has been this guy’s life. He grew up in Indianapolis and played high school ball there, and we all know what basketball means in that state. His coaching experience at Butler and Purdue only further solidifies his Indiana basketball background.

** I’m told Stevens personally lobbied for Shrewsberry with PSU officials. Stevens is one of the best basketball coaches on the planet, and if he’s giving Shrewsberry his seal of approval, that’s worth quite a bit.

No, Shrewsberry has not been a head coach at the major college level. He will be learning on the job in that regard at Penn State. But he’s been around long enough to believe that won’t be a major issue.

The hardest part for Shrewsberry will be coming to a school that has never truly gone all in on basketball, the way he has been accustomed to at Butler, Purdue and obviously the Celtics. He will want some things and not be able to get them, because that’s just part of the deal at PSU.

But a coach can win at Penn State. Patrick Chambers, after a number of lean years, had made the program more competitive than it had been in a long time by building up a solid roster from top to bottom.

That roster, one has to figure, could be decimated in the coming days and weeks by transfers. It is expected that many current players will transfer, although that may not be the case if Shrewsberry can convince some to stay.

This part also is key: Shrewsberry has his own connections with players at various levels, so he should be able to convince some good transfers and/or quality high school recruits to come to Penn State right away to help keep the team somewhat competitive next season.

If Shrewsberry can keep the ship afloat at least to some degree in year one by fielding a competitive team that wins its share of games, it will create a good foundation and get fans to buy into him as the coach right away. It took Chambers a long time to do that, and many fans grew tired of waiting and wanted him gone years ago.

For the 1,000th time, Penn State is a tough job. It’s hard to win here consistently. But it can be done, within reason, and Shrewsberry has the background that helps you believe he can make it happen.

Congratulating Ferry

Let me say once again that Jim Ferry did a really good job under very difficult circumstances this season as PSU’s interim coach. He took over after Chambers was forced to resign in late October and had to massage a situation where the players were ticked off and had little time to prepare for the season.

Oh, and it was a crazy season dealing with COVID and unprecedented kinds of adversity.

Ferry is a veteran coach and a good man, and he helped make this about as good of a season as possible for Penn State. The team competed hard night in and night out and was on the NCAA Tournament bubble until a few weeks ago.

The 11-14 overall record and 7-12 mark in the Big Ten were not good enough for Ferry to get the full-time job. The team was just too inconsistent and let a lot of winnable games slip away.

But Ferry deserves a lot of credit and a hell of a lot of respect for everything he did with the Penn State basketball program this year. Hopefully all PSU fans will join me in wishing him the very best in his career and that he gets another opportunity to be a head coach somewhere else.

He’s earned that.

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