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Angell: The Case for Micah Shrewsberry Staying With Penn State Basketball

Penn State basketball coach Micah Shrewsberry
Penn State Nittany Lions head coach Micah Shrewsberry January 21, 2023 David Hague/NSN

DES MOINES, Iowa — Penn State basketball coach Micah Shrewsberry didn’t deny anything.

He also didn’t admit anything.

He gave the kind of answer one would expect from one of the sharpest minds in college basketball. A non-committal answer meant to both keep Shrewsberry’s Penn State squad focused on the task of beating Texas A&M in the NCAA tournament and keep Shrewsberry’s options open at the end of the Penn State’s season.

With the Penn State opening the NCAA Tournament Thursday, the only firm commitment from Shewsberry was focusing on his team and how it could beat the Aggies.

“I told our guys after the Rutgers game that I felt like I let them down as a coach,” Shrewsberry said. “I didn’t feel like I did my best. So I told them that will never happen again. That’s all I’m focused on is being that person for them.

“We’ve just played four games in four days. We have had our backs against the wall for three weeks and now I’m getting ready to coach my first opportunity as a head coach to be in an NCAA Tournament game. I don’t have time to focus on anything else but just being the best version for these guys and that’s all I’m focused on. When the off-season comes then I can focus on other things, but I’m tunnel vision on playing this game for our guys.”

Shrewsberry might claim to have tunnel vision. But he’s a smart enough man to know that he’s a hot commodity. In just two years, he’s taken Penn State to an NCAA Tournament. Considering only four other Penn State teams have reached the event (five if you count 2020, where it would have qualified if not for COVID) in the past 50 years, that’s an achievement.

His teams have also gained a reputation for tough defense.

He’s proving himself as a recruiter with two strong classes at Penn State.

Players love him.

“For me it’s been a joy to play with him,” Jalen Pickett said. “He’s got me up here with a couple of great guys, bringing in Cam (Wynter) and (Andrew) Funk to help us achieve these goals.”

Shrewsberry’s qualities are ones any program would desire in a head coach. That’s why it’s no surprise Notre Dame and Georgetown are reportedly interested. At the same time, he has  several reasons to stick around State College if he believes he can keep winning at Penn State.

First, there’s family. That’s a multi-layered reason. Shrewsberry just moved his family from West Lafayette to State College two years ago.

Moving again so soon probably wouldn’t be something they’re eager to do. Not only is his son Braeden committed to Penn State, but two of his other children will be in high school. Plus, unlike last time, he wouldn’t be leaving for a promotion.

Moving from assistant coach to head coach was a move Shrewsberry had to make.

Moving from Power 6 head coach to Power 6 head coach isn’t.

The other part of the family equation is what Shrewsberry’s cultivated in State College, something he was eager to discuss Wednesday.

“The people around (Penn State) have been absolutely great, and wonderful,” he said. “I love the relationship I have with the other coaches. (Wrestling) coach Cael (Sanderson) and I are texting about each other being in the championship this week. (Football) coach (James) Franklin was at the gym as we were leaving. (Women’s basketball coach) Carolyn Kieger, (volleyball coach) Katie Cawley were both there as we were leaving. All the coaches have reached out and texted. That’s a tight-knit community, that’s a tight-knit family and I’m big on family as well.”

Shrewsberry’s other main tie to Penn State basketball is the Big Ten. Although Notre Dame’s in his home state of Indiana, it’s an ACC school. Shrewsberry is familiar with the Big East from his time at Butler.

But he has no ties to Washington and Georgetown.

The Big Ten is home for him, and if all things are equal, he’d likely choose to continue to coach in that conference.

“Penn State fit a lot of what I was looking for,” Shrewsberry said. “One, the great opportunity in the Midwest. Coming to State College felt like being home. It felt like a huge part of that and the places where I’ve been were all pretty similar.

Coaching in the Big Ten is a big deal. I grew up in the Big Ten and coaching in that is a really big deal.”

But things rarely are equal. Penn State will have to make a decision on doing what it takes to keep Shrewsberry in State College. Penn State gave him that commitment two years ago, but with other schools interested, they’ll have to make sure he has what he needs to sustain winning to keep him around.

The good news for Penn State fans is that Shrewsberry sounds like a man who’d be happy to stay. This is if he believes he can achieve sustained success in Happy Valley. His players certainly believe he can.

“His vision was us competing for championships, like we did this year, and going to March Madness and seeing where Penn State can go,” Pickett said. “I think we fulfilled that, and my two years here they got the ball rolling and changed the culture for Penn State basketball tried to make it more of a national stage. And I think Micah is going to do a great job of not just making this a one-time thing.”

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