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Sunday, April 14, 2024
The Observer

A ‘full-circle moment’: Irish men’s basketball kicks off new era at Shrewsberry’s introductory press conference

Micah Shrewsberry was officially introduced as Notre Dame’s head men’s basketball coach Thursday morning. The Purcell Pavilion press conference was open to the public amplifying a clear sense of excitement in the air as Irish fans welcomed Shrewsberry to South Bend.

Former Irish player Jordan Cornette served as master of ceremonies and discussed the near-universal acclaim that Shrewsberry’s hire had been met with in his opening remarks.

“[This is] the first time that I’m aware of in big-time basketball that a coach was selected for a vacancy and not one person, to my knowledge, had a negative reaction,” Cornette said. “Across the board from former players, alumni, pundits this was a home-run hire.”

Cornette was followed by the two people responsible for hiring Shrewsberry, University President Fr. Jenkins and director of athletics Jack Swarbrick. In the hiring process, Jenkins said that he emphasized the character of the candidates and their overall fit at Notre Dame, and Shrewsberry stood out in those regards.

“My focus is more on, ‘Does this person fit the values of this institution, values of faith, integrity and caring about the academic success and well-being of our students?’” Jenkins explained. “The conversations [we had] showed me that Micah ... would be a great leader for this Notre Dame program. Micah is the kind of coach and educator that we want here at Notre Dame.”

With introductions complete, Shrewsberry stepped up to the podium. He first thanked the players, staff and administrators at Penn State, where he had spent the last two years as head coach, as well as his family, who he referred to as his “number one priority.”

He explained why the position of head coach at Notre Dame is so meaningful to him.

“In 2005, I was the head coach at IU South Bend (IUSB) down the street. I would always drive by [Notre Dame] going home and always dreamed about what it would be like to coach here,” Shrewsberry, who coached the nearby Titans for two seasons, said. “And now, in 2023, I’m getting that opportunity. So believing in yourself and in your dreams, that’s really come true [for me].”

A native of Indianapolis, Shrewsberry is a self-proclaimed “Indiana kid.” Having spent most of his coaching career in the state, he spoke about what makes home so important to him.

“I grew up following college basketball in this state,” Shrewsberry said. “Just the passion that everybody has for it, that draws you back. It’s not that way everywhere.”

Shrewsberry, who was named the Irish’s head coach last Thursday, gave his impressions of Notre Dame from his short time on campus.

“I feel the passion at Notre Dame and it’s real,” Shrewsberry said. “You see people pursuing excellence and that’s what we want to do.”

That idea of pursuing excellence is one he wants his new team to exemplify on and off the court.

“We’re going to pursue excellence on a daily basis,” Shrewsberry said. “We’re going to try to grow as players, we’re going to try to grow as people and we’re going to become the best versions of ourselves.”

In terms of on-court playing style, three values will guide the next era of Irish men’s basketball.

“We’re going to play with discipline, we’re going to play with toughness and we’re going to play together,” he said. “If you do that, you give yourselves a chance every night, and that’s all I’m asking [for].”

Shrewsberry then spoke on his coaching philosophy and the type of players that he looks for in more detail.

“I’m a defensive guy first. It didn’t always show up this year [at Penn State], but I did care about defense,” he said jokingly. “I really value skill. I really value guys that can dribble, pass and shoot. Guys that can play on their feet, that can think on their feet and can make decisions really quickly.”

While long-term success is a priority for Shrewsberry, results next year are paramount as well. He described his initial meeting with the players currently on Notre Dame’s roster.

“I have had a chance to sit down with the current players and I really enjoyed that, because you don’t get into a lot of basketball-specific things,” Shrewsberry said. “I wanted to know who they were. I wanted to know about their families, I wanted to know what their goals were.”

After suffering significant losses because of players graduating or transferring out (Shrewsberry joked at one point that his top priority is being able to field a team for next season), he plans to be patient while building Notre Dame’s roster.

“I’m not going to skip steps to build a roster,” Shrewsberry said. “I’m big on people and I’m big on fit. You have to find people who fit your university that’s who’s going to have success there.”

In terms of his current to-do list, Shrewsberry mentioned getting on the court with the current team, recruiting and building a coach staff, with significant emphasis placed on hitting the recruiting trail hard.

“Recruiting’s really important. It never stops, and it hasn’t since this change has happened,” Shrewsberry said. “No stone will be [left] unturned to find that person, find that fit.”

Shrewsberry spoke on how he has improved as a coach in the time since he held the head coaching position at IUSB more than 15 years ago.

“I didn’t know who I wanted to be as a coach,” he said. “I didn’t have a philosophy, I wasn’t being myself. And now full-circle moment I’m way more comfortable in who I am as a coach.”

Many factors played into his decision to accept the position at Notre Dame. But first and foremost, he wants to win, and he believes that he’ll have that opportunity with the Irish.

“You can win the national championship here and that’s what we’re going to do, that’s what we’re going to fight for every single day. We’re also going to do it the right way,” Shrewsberry said. “If we do that, if we find those kids, if we can be the toughest team, the most disciplined team, the most together team, we’re going to pursue national championships.”

Notre Dame’s 2023-24 season opener won’t arrive for nearly eight months. The Irish have a long and important offseason ahead of them. But with Shrewsberry at the helm, it seems like the program is moving in the right direction and is set up for success in the near future.