Fans of Micah Shrewsberry and Penn State basketball don’t have much to be pessimistic about right now.
The team is in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011 .
Even better, it got there by playing an exciting brand of basketball not seen in Happy Valley in a long time, if ever.
But plenty of Penn State fans are generally skeptical about the basketball program.
Penn State is a big school in a big conference that seldom gets to the Big Dance. This year’s team is just the 10th in Penn State history to make it. Of the first nine, only one–1954– returned the following year.
Since joining the Big Ten, Penn State had been to the NCAA Tournament three times before this season; 1996, 2001 and 2011. Penn State followed up each tournament appearance with a losing record the next year.
So, when Penn State basketball has good times, they don’t last long.
Many don’t think Shrewsberry’s tenure at Penn State will last long.
Jon Crispin played on the 2000-01 Penn State team that went to the Sweet 16. Today, he’s a college basketball color commentator for ESPN that’s still greatly interested in his old school.
The Penn Stater in Crispin wants to see Shrewsberry stay and be Penn State’s man long-term
But he doesn’t see it happening.
“Given his success, I don’t think it’s realistic,” Crispin told Nittany Sports Now Wednesday afternoon.
Why doesn’t Crispin think it’s realistic? The same reason plenty of Penn State fans don’t. Shrewsberry is winning at a place where not many have succeeded, and that will bring attention from places where success has been much more common.
Shrewsberry has already been linked to Georgetown and Notre Dame, and the more Penn State wins, the hotter Shrewsberry’s name will be.
For Crispin, this is a hurdle that Penn State faces with Micah Shrewsberry and will meet with any successful coach it hires from the outside.
He feels it will be hard for Penn State to keep a winning coach that doesn’t have prior ties to the school.
“Unless you are a Penn State person that says, ‘I want to be here for the rest of my career,'” he said. “And in addition to that, you have to want to be there for the rest of your career, and you have to win long enough to keep the job. That’s really hard to find.
Crispin said Penn State is perceived as a “stepping-stone program.”
“That’s not to knock Penn State,” he said. “It’s not to disparage Micah Shrewsberry in any way. In the business, this is the way it goes. It’s hard to win at Penn State.
“It might be easier to win the ACC at Notre Dame. It might be easier to be competitive in the Big East and restore some strength to Georgetown. There might be other jobs that he’d like.”
For Crispin, the idea of Shrewsberry going to Notre Dame to replace Mike Brey is intriguing.
“I think the Notre Dame one is very interesting to me because he’s an Indiana guy,” he said. “He has ties to Butler and Purdue. He’d probably play Purdue every other year, if not every year, and they could offer him a ridiculous amount of money.”
With every big Penn State basketball win comes calls for first-year athletic director Pat Kraft to pay Shrewsberry whatever it would take to keep him around.
Crispin isn’t sure if this is plausible. As he pointed out, Penn State hasn’t shown a willingness to pay a basketball coach big money.
“And this is not a knock; this is just a reality because the value in basketball hasn’t always been there,” Crispin said. “It hasn’t consistently been there. Penn State can’t really show that they’re willing to pay three, three and a half million to keep him. Because if they lose him, the next coach coming in knows that you were willing to pay him three million dollars. So now they want that. So Penn State’s in a really tough spot.”
If Crispin had to guess, he’d predict that Micah Shrewsberry won’t be at Penn State next season.
If that ends up being the case, Crispin won’t fault either the coach or the school for Shrewsberry not sticking around Happy Valley.
“I think Penn State has responded well to Shrews, Shrews has responded well to Penn State,” he said, “but if there’s another opportunity that he likes, then you can’t fault someone for that. I think that’s one of the toughest things about this business.”
Crispin thinks that if Shrewsberry does leave, he’ll do so for a “more basketball-rich program.
If that day comes sooner than Penn State fans hope, Crispin feels the best thing is for fans to be thankful for Shrewsberry’s contributions.
“(If Shrewsberry leaves), I think we should just be grateful for the time he gave us and grateful for the stability that he provided for the program,” Crispin said. “And I think he just raised the bar for whoever else comes.”