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Vukovcan: Replacing Shrewsberry, Not Losing Him, Will Define Success for Penn State Basketball

Penn State Basketball: Micah Shrewsberry
Photo by Penn State Basketball: Micah Shrewsberry

It didn’t take long for the excitement surrounding the 2022-23 Penn State basketball season to end.

Just a few days following the close of the most successful Penn State basketball season in which the team returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 12 years, the leader of their program is gone.

After just two years on the job, Micah Shrewsberry is returning home to the state of Indiana and replacing Mike Brey as Notre Dame’s coach.

Although it was reported that the administration at Penn State stepped up in an effort to keep Shrewsberry, whether that is true or not, it didn’t happen as he ended up getting a seven-year deal with Notre Dame.

While it’s unfortunate for Penn State and I’m not sure how much you can blame them for this, because it’s hardly surprising that Shrewsberry left.

I honestly don’t think this has anything to do with Penn State or what they didn’t do right, it’s all about a coach returning to his home state to coach, not to mention, getting to coach at one of the most prestigious schools in the country.

If Shrewsberry had bolted for Minnesota or Seton Hall, then I’d be the first to start questioning Penn State’s commitment but we’re talking about the University of Notre Dame, the premier institution of his home state. End of story.

If fans want to start criticizing or being upset, hold that until we start seeing the direction of Penn State to replace Shrewsberry. The spotlight now turns to athletic director Patrick Kraft, who’s now under the spotlight and needs to get this right.

The fan base in State College were finally getting excited about their basketball team and feeling as though they’d have another sport to cheer for aside from football and then this happens.

In my opinion, Kraft needs to be bold, not conservative, with this next hire. If they go the boring route, it’ll tell me and most of the fan base that the decade long talk that men’s basketball isn’t a priority is 100% accurate.

Colgate’s Matt Langel, Utah State’s Ryan Odom, Vermont’s John Becker are the first names starting to surface and that’s no surprise. Those would be the safe, boring hires, just like Pat Chambers was.

None of those candidates will create an ounce of buzz or keep the excitement that Shrewsberry started.

If I’m in charge of the coaching search, three guys that would be getting early calls would be former Xavier and Louisville head coach Chris Mack, current New Mexico head coach Richard Pitino, current TCU head coach Jamie Dixon or Rutgers associate head coach Brandin Knight.

Mack was a tremendously successful coach at Xavier before struggling at Louisville. Pitino got a raw deal at Minnesota and the Pitino name would create an immediate buzz. Dixon would be a long shot but it’s a call I’d make. If Penn State wants to show fans, alum and recruits they care, make a serious offer to Dixon.

Penn State University has the resources to bring in a big time coach but do they have the commitment? Do they care if their basketball program is relevant?

Everyone can have their opinion but they don’t matter because it’s just talk. The only thing that matters is the action taken by Kraft and the university. While talk is cheap, the action of hiring a reputable head coach won’t be.

Then we’ll really see how much of a priority the basketball program really is.

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