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Sunday, March 3, 2024
The Observer

Notre Dame men’s basketball tabs Shrewsberry as new head coach

On Wednesday afternoon, multiple outlets reported that Notre Dame had finalized a deal to bring current Penn State coach Micah Shrewsberry to South Bend to lead the school’s men’s basketball program. The news ends a months-long search that ensued following long-time coach Mike Brey announcing his departure in January. The South Bend Tribune’s Tom Noie reported the deal is for seven years.

Shrewsberry drew national acclaim this March for his work coaching Penn State to their first NCAA tournament since 2011. Entering the home stretch of the season on the bubble and fighting for an at-large bid, Shrewsberry guided the Nittany Lions to wins in five of their final six games.

In the month of March specifically, Shrewsberry’s squad posted a 6-2 record. Three of those wins came in the Big Ten tournament. Penn State upset Northwestern and Indiana en route to a title game appearance. Underdogs again in the NCAA tournament, the Nittany Lions would once again pull an upset, this time taking down seventh-seeded Texas A&M.

Shrewsberry and Penn State fell days later against second-seeded Texas. But they had made their statement to the college basketball world. The Nittany Lions reportedly offered Shrewsberry a significant new contract in hopes of tempting him to stay. Such an offer represented a sizable commitment by Penn State, a school known, like Notre Dame, for perpetually prioritizing football.

Ultimately, Shrewsberry chose to join Notre Dame’s project instead. The Irish face a major rebuild, with five graduate student contributors leaving the program in the spring. Freshman guard J.J. Starling, the youngest contributor to Notre Dame’s 2022 season, already announced his transfer commitment to Syracuse. Graduate student guard Robby Carmody and freshman forward Dom Campbell are also in the portal as well. Only one player who averaged more than seven minutes a game, freshman forward Ven-Allen Lubin, is slated to return next season.

However, Shrewsberry couldn’t resist the chance to return to his home state. An Indianapolis native, Shrewsberry has rarely ventured out of Indiana during a two-decade-long coaching career. After playing at Hanover, where he was a three-year starter, Shrewsberry’s first coaching roles came at the Division III level. He served as an assistant coach at Wabash and DePauw before serving as Director of Basketball Operations at Marshall from 2003-2005.

In 2005, he became a head coach for the first time at nearby IU South Bend. Taking over a rebuilding program, Shrewsberry made an instant impact. In his second season, the Titans impressively won nine more times than in his first campaign. He parlayed that success into an assistant coaching role at Butler. That began a fruitful pairing with then-Bulldogs head coach Brad Stevens that would last for over a decade.

During his four seasons at Butler, the Bulldogs qualified for the NCAA Tournament three times, reaching consecutive national championship games in 2010 and 2011. After leaving Butler for a two-year assistant coach stint at Purdue, he would then reunite with Stevens in 2013. This time, the two joined forces with the NBA’s Boston Celtics, continuing a rapid rise for someone who had been coaching at the NAIA level just six years prior.

Shrewsberry helped oversee the Celtics’ transition from a lottery team to one that earned a division title and made two conference finals appearances during his tenure. He also played a key role in the development of future stars like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart. Shrewsberry also briefly coached form Irish standout Demetrius Jackson in Boston. He returned to Purdue in 2019 as associate head coach before joining Penn State in 2021. The Nittany Lions went 37-31 under his watch.

Now, Shrewsberry opts to return to the city where he first became a head coach. Notre Dame basketball has proved it can be capable of being a top-tier program in the recent past. The Irish reached consecutive Elite Eights in 2015 and 2016. They made the NCAA Tournament seven times in eight years from 2010-2017. Since then, however, they have made the tournament just once, and are coming off their worst season in their decade as an ACC member. The lure of that previous success was enough to convince Shrewsberry to return home. Now it is his responsibility to restore the Irish to their former glory.