An in-depth piece written by Matt Norlander of CBSSports.com details coach Micah Shrewsberry leaving Penn State for Notre Dame.
From 80 candidates to one man: How Notre Dame waited two months before picking Micah Shrewsberry to succeed legendary coach Mike Brey.
CBS Sports was provided an exclusive inside look at the last major head-coaching search of Jack Swarbrick's career. https://t.co/zF1WP7ui63
— Matt Norlander (@MattNorlander) July 13, 2023
Shrewsberry was Penn State’s boss for two seasons, the latter being one of the best in program history.
Earlier this year, Penn State went to the NCAA Tournament and Big Ten Championship Game for the first time since 2011 and won its first NCAA Tournament game since 2001.
But rumors of Shrewsberry leaving Happy Valley started swirling in the preceding months and, by mid-February, had picked up steam.
In late January, Notre Dame’s coach of 23 seasons, Mike Brey, announced he was leaving the program at the end of the season.
Although Indiana is home to Shrewsberry and his wife, Molly, and Notre Dame is the state’s most prominent institution, amid the basketball season, Micah Shrewsberry wasn’t thinking about Notre Dame, Molly, told Norlander.
“Didn’t even want to talk about it,” Molly Shrewsberry said. “He’s so one-track. He shuts it down.”
But Molly Shrewsberry was interested in going back to Indiana.
“I, of course, am like, could this be a possibility? Notre Dame is amazing. Going back home. He literally would be like, ‘I’m trying to focus on my team and focus on the next game.’ He would not engage me at all.'”
By Feb. 21, the article says, Shrewsberry was among the top eight candidates on Notre Dame’s wishlist, and Notre Dame’s AD, Jack Swarbrick, wanted to talk with all eight, either in person or virtually.
As previously reported, Shrewsberry’s meeting was scheduled for Monday, Feb. 27.
The night before, Penn State had its worst loss of the season, blowing a 19-point lead to Rutgers at home and losing 59-56 to fall to 8-10 in the Big Ten, putting its NCAA Tournament hopes on the brink.
“Shrewsberry fumed more that night than any other last season,” Norlander wrote. “After home games, he normally stays at the office for a few hours to watch the take and soak in the result (win or lose) before turning off Coach Mode and going home. That night, he didn’t leave the facility until close to 4 a.m. A big cardboard box that had once housed a traveling suitcase was mutilated.”
“That poor box got absolutely destroyed that night,” Shrewsberry told Norlander. I probably kicked that thing 200 times.”
Despite Shrewsberry’s mood, the interview went on as scheduled the next day. Norlander reported that Shrewsberry and Swarbrick chatted for about 45 minutes, mainly about things other than basketball.
Shrewsberry impressed his future AD.
“I’m talking to a guy after his team had just had a horrible experience,” Swarbrick told Norlander. “I’m a big believer in you learn more about coaches in those circumstances than when they’ve had great success, and to hear him talk about how he handled it, what his message to his team was, was really compelling.”
Meanwhile, Shrewsberry still stewed over the Rutgers loss.
“I had no idea where I stood if this was even going to happen,” he said. “And at the same time, I’m such a sore loser, I can’t get my mind off: Dammit, I can’t believe we lost a 19-point lead.”
Although the loss still burned, Molly Shrewsberry told CBS her husband was excited after the interview.
Penn State played eight more games in the 2022-23 season, and its only losses were in its first Big Ten Championship Game since 2011 and its first NCAA Tournament Round of 32 game since 2001.
But a lot went on behind the scenes before Penn State’s magical hot streak and Shrewsberry’s interview with Notre Dame.
Here’s an excerpt from Norlander’s article.
“In the preceding months, Shrewsberry’s agent attempted to negotiate a new contract with new Penn State AD Pat Kraft (who did not hire Shrewsberry). The school decided to wait.
Penn State waited until the hot streak, and Norlander reported that Kraft approached Shrewsberry with a “restructured contract that had been drafted and approved” and only needed Shrewsberry to sign off on.
Kraft approached Shrewsberry on Thursday, March 14, the day Penn State took on Texas A&M for its first NCAA Tournament game in a dozen years.
Shrewsberry wasn’t ready for this.
“He had no idea this was even happening behind the scenes,” Norlander wrote, “and was uncomfortable with signing a contract and having the school announce it publically the day of Penn State’s NCAA Tournament game against Texas A&M. Shrewsberry didn’t sign it.
“I’ve always operated like I’m broke,” Shrewsberry told Norlander, “so money wasn’t an issue. I didn’t really care. Years and security, that part’s pretty important. I want to be able to take care of my kids for a long time.”
Penn State beat Texas A&M and played Texas in the Round of 32 two nights later, where its season ended.
Molly missed the Texas game because their daughter had a gymnastics meet. Micah called her at the hotel and got on the bus to the airport less than an hour later.
“I have a hard time moving on from shit,” Shrewsberry said. “I also know there’s a lot of stuff that’s about to happen. There’s a lot of other things about to happen with our guys. I want to talk with them. I need to schedule meetings with them.”
“Doesn’t matter,” the article reads. “Molly tells him it’s time. Notre Dame is extremely interested in having a conversation ASAP. Providence’s AD wants to talk to him. Penn State was pushing hard.”
Providence was looking to replace Ed Cooley, who had left for Georgetown, where Shrewsberry was rumored to be a candidate to replace the fired Patrick Ewing.
As for Penn State?
“Unfortunately, they waited very long to push,” Molly said.
“Had Penn State come in January with a contract extension,” Norlaner wrote, “Shrewsberry is almost certainly still coaching there.”
After the Texas game, Micah Shrewsberry didn’t talk to any schools and planned on going over everything with his wife the next morning.
A mechanical issue kept Penn State’s plane on the ground in Iowa for hours. Shrewsberry didn’t get to his house until dawn.
By this point, Norlander writes, Shrewsberry “had an encouraging signal from its No. 2 that it would be a yes if Shrewsberry was a no.”
Norlander added, “Penn State put seven years and nearly $26 million on the table.”
Three days after the Texas game, Micah and Molly met with Swarbrick and Notre Dame president Rev. John Jenkins at the Pittsburgh Airport Marriot.
“I think he clearly understood he was our preferred candidate,” Swarbrick said. “But at the same time, I made it very clear that this isn’t a pro forma interview. If Father Jenkins reaches a different conclusion, you’re not the guy. Father John really has to come away convinced that we found the right person.”
Shrewsberry nailed it.
“Shrewsberry didn’t even prep,” Norlander wrote. “He showed up in a suit and tie but was otherwise entirely himself and essentially riffed from the heart.
“It was a pretty laid-back and casual meeting,” Shrewsberry said. That’s just how I operate. There’s not many things that stress me out, losses aside.”
Norlander reported that Shrewsberry left the meeting “believing the job was his.”
On the drive back to State College, Micah and Molly discussed leaving Penn State.
That night, Notre Dame offered Micah the job, and he became the next head coach the next day.
Now, the Shrewsberrys have settled in South Bend and are happy with their new home.
“Moving is very hard, and we hadn’t been there very long and the kids were all happy,” Molly said. “The logistics were hard for me to get off to think about the big picture. At first, I could not imagine moving, finding new schools and the transition part. Even toward the end, I was like,
I don’t know if I could do it. There were a lot of things we liked about Penn State, but when you step out of the box and into the big picture back home, it’s Notre Dame.
Molly also told of an incident that took place in State College.
The Shrewsberry’s had a basketball court outside their home, where their sons, including Braeden, who was signed with Penn State but now will start his college career with Notre Dame this fall, would play.
Molly reported that their neighbor yelled to Braeden, “you’re not going to the NBA! Give it up already!”
These complaints wouldn’t happen late at night but rather in the middle of the afternoon.
One night, Molly came home at 7:30 p.m. to discover two policemen in her driveway.
“The neighbor had called the cops on the boys for playing basketball too loudly,” she said.
Norlander writes that it’s “hard to envision anything so absurd happening in basketball-obsessed Indiana.”
“That sums it up,” Molly Shrewsberry said. “It’s so different. Coming back here, it’s a different culture and a different experience. When you follow your intuition, it’s not that big of a decision.