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‘They’ve Never Seen It’: Penn State AHC Joe Crispin Bringing Innovative Offensive Style to Bryce Jordan Center

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

New Penn State basketball assistant to the head coach Joe Crispin has only coached at the DIII level.

For some fans, this is a concern.

“How,” they might ask, “is a guy who’s only coached DIII supposed to come in and succeed in the Big Ten?”

It’s a cynical question but a fair one. Moving from the lowest level of college basketball to the highest is a big transition, and Crispin, head coach Mike  Rhoades and the rest of Penn State’s staff have a lot of work to do just to put a team on the court this year. Currently, Penn State has two scholarship players that aren’t either graduated or in the transfer portal.

One way or another, Penn State will put a team on the court this season, and that team will attempt to execute a high-octane style of basketball that, for Joe’s brother, Jon, will be something Big Ten teams— most of which known for rugged defense and slow pace— aren’t ready for.

“They’ve never seen it,” Jon Crispin, who played with his older brother at Penn State for two seasons and now is a college basketball analyst for ESPN, told Nittany Sports Now. “They’ve never seen anything like it. They’ve never seen pressing the way they press. They’ll never see pace and scoring the way they’ve seen. I mean, look, Iowa scores. Iowa scored over 80 points a game, but how they score is different. This is different, and it’s impossible to explain until you see it, and even then, it’s impossible to explain to someone that doesn’t really get the specifics of what they’re trying to do.”

So what will Penn State be trying to do?

“The best way to say it is it’s a dynamic version of constantly seeking scoring opportunities,” Jon said. “Every action you run is to create a scoring opportunity or at least an advantage. So the whole idea is to space, have willing shooters, confident shooters on the floor, to be able to space and attack with good action, and it’s constantly seeking out those scoring opportunities.

”So it’s not just moving the basketball to move the basketball. It’s moving the ball into areas where you can score. It’s moving the ball into the paint and kicking out. It’s playing flare screens and playing ball screens and playing within the rhythm of the offense. But it’s less about stopping and resetting and more about playing through.”

This style has electrified at Rowan, where Joe Crispin was the head coach from 2016-this past March. Here are Rowan’s points per game numbers from each of Crispin’s seven seasons at Rowan:

2016-17: 87.5

2017-18: 82

2018-19: 85.3

2019-20: 84.5

2021-22: 84.5

2022-23: 91.4

While this was done against inferior competition to what Penn State will face, Jon Crispin feels his older brother will have an easier time doing what he wants to do because he’ll have better athletes to work with.

“I think that’s one of the things that people don’t understand is when you’re teaching the concepts that Joe’s teaching, it’s actually harder at the DIII level because they’re not really capable of grasping all those concepts,” he said. “They don’t really have the ability, and it’s not a knock. It’s just a reality. They don’t have the ability to get to everything that they’re really teaching.

“So I think it’s something, you have more time with the guys now. Joe, on the DIII level, kids have to go to school. They have class. They might miss practice to go to class. They might not be able to do off-season workouts because they have a job just to be able to help pay for their school. So, if you start to consider what the DIII student-athletes have to do and how hard it is to actually get them to understand it, it’s difficult. So you really have to work with individuals. You have to get small groups, and he’s done that very well.”

Jon Crispin compared his brother’s offense to another sport.

“I almost liken his offense to watching Golf,” he said, “when they don’t go to commercial, but they do that playing through. You can’t stop watching them. Like, it moves quickly, and at any moment, a big play can happen, and at any moment, a 12-0, 15-0, 20-0 run can happen. And I think that’s kind of what he’s created.”

Jon feels his brother’s scheme is a “professional-level offense geared toward college basketball,” and that style will help Penn State do something it isn’t known to do relative to other Power 6 programs; recruit NBA-caliber talent. 

“Style of play is your best recruiter,” he said. “You can recruit all you want. NIL is great, but your style of play is what gets players. And your style of play is what gets the players that you want to be able to play the style that you have.

“There’s going to be good players on that floor. They are going to love playing this way.”


When Joe Crispin played at Penn State, shooting was the name of his game. The charismatic guard finished his college career 14 points shy of 2,000, which is still good for fourth all-time at Penn State, and accomplished that due in large part to his 3-point shooting. He’s still fourth all-time at Penn State in made 3-pointers.

“His pride in Penn State is something else,” Crispin’s new boss, Rhoades, said at last Thursday’s introductory press conference. “He loves this place… Beyond that, Joe knows basketball. Him bleeding and sweating on this court adds to it.”

After Penn State, Joe spent a season in the NBA, playing with the Lakers and Suns, before spending the next decade in various leagues and countries.

Wherever he played, he could shoot. Right after introducing Crispin Thursday, Rhoades, who played at Lebanon Valley, acknowledge that he is no longer the best shooter on his coaching staff.

For Jon, the fact that Joe shot at such a high level and played such a loose style of basketball will convince recruits that he knows how to teach that style.

“People don’t know how much of a teacher he is,” Jon said. “He’s a great teacher of the game. Partially because he did it as a player. And if kids don’t believe that they want to play that way, all Joe has to do is send them tape of himself. And then they’ll say, ‘oh, got it. He did that in the NBA. He did it in high-level professional leagues overseas. They’ll buy it.”

Penn State is far from a basketball blue blood. But for Jon, the style of play that fans are going to start to see come November is something that would make it a better place for players to prepare themselves for than some schools with a richer basketball tradition.

“If you want to be a good pro, this is the type of style you want to play, he said. “If you want to be a good pro, that’s great. You can go to Kentucky or Duke. That’s really where you go if you want to be a lottery pick. But if you want to learn how to be a pro, you might want to go play for Penn State.”

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