SOUTH BEND, Ind. (BVM) – Micah Shrewsberry is no stranger to South Bend, Indiana. As the basketball coach was making his way up the coaching ladder, one of his stops was at Indiana University South Bend, a small NAIA institution that was just starting its program at the time. Back then, Shrewsberry held the title of head coach but he wore many hats for the team to be successful including janitor, driver and even launderer.
“You know, I was the head coach for two years at the NAIA level [Indiana University South Bend] and I still did our team’s laundry,” Shrewsberry told reporters during his introductory press conference at Penn State back in 2021. “I still went out and swept the floors if we needed to. I drove the van to the game.”
In two years at the helm of the upstart Titans program, Shrewsberry went just 14-45, but that didn’t stop him from landing jobs with successful, established organizations down the road, first at Butler, then with the Boston Celtics, then with Purdue and finally as head coach at Penn State. Now, the Indianapolis native will return to his home state where he will helm a program with a lot more support and a lot more expectations. On Tuesday, it was announced that Shrewsberry was finalizing a deal to become the new head coach for the Notre Dame men’s basketball program.
Sources: Notre Dame is finalizing a deal to make Penn State coach Micah Shrewsberry the school’s next head coach.
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) March 22, 2023
Back in 2021, Shrewsberry made it clear from the jump what he wanted his Nittany Lions team to be during his tenure in Happy Valley.
“I want to be an underdog type of team,” Shrewsberry told reporters during his Penn State introductory press conference. “We’re going to keep that underdog mentality. We’re going to keep that chip on our shoulder mentality. I think you succeed in that way. For me, I’ve kind of been that way my whole life and I want a team that models after that.”
That was exactly the mentality Penn State embraced this season. As one of the bubble teams heading into conference tournament week, the Nittany Lions made the Big Ten tournament championship game by winning three straight matchups as a 10-seed.
Thanks to their Big Ten tournament success, Penn State made it into the NCAA Tournament, once again as a 10-seed. However, the Nittany Lions would embrace the underdog position once more as they defeated 7-seed Texas A&M 76-59 in the tournament’s first round.
Though his team would lose to Texas in the second round, Shrewsberry showed how much growth his program had made in just two short seasons. The head coach will finish his Penn State career with a 37-31 record, however, it is the turnaround this season that impresses most as he led the Nittany Lions to a 23-14 record and the program’s first March Madness appearance since 2011 and first win since 2001.
— Penn State Men’s Basketball (@PennStateMBB) March 20, 2023
Once at Notre Dame, Shrewsberry will again be put in an underdog position. Though the Fighting Irish have had one of the most successful programs in NCAA history, including the ninth-most NCAA Tournament appearances, the team is also known for its lack of national titles as it is tied for the most tournament appearances without a national championship. In fact, Notre Dame has never even made it to a title game.
For an Indiana native, this is perhaps the ultimate test. Shrewsberry knows all about the basketball-crazed population of Indiana, once being a part of it himself, and likely understands there are high expectations of him. However, he couldn’t ask for a team more perfectly suited for him right now.
Notre Dame went just 11-21 last season including an abysmal 3-17 in ACC play, the second-worst record in the league. The team is not expected to make many waves coming out of the ultra-competitive conference that includes national powerhouses Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse and Virginia. However, nobody expected the Penn State program under Shrewsberry to make much noise in the competitive Big Ten either – yet they did.
On paper, Shrewsberry may be facing long odds to bring the Fighting Irish back to prominence, but if one looks at the coach’s journey, they’d understand that this is something that he’s been used to dealing with for much of his career. While Shrewsberry will return to South Bend with a lot of fanfare and much more support than his last coaching job in the city, don’t expect him to forget the long hours he put in doing laundry, sweeping floors and driving vans to get where he is today and that will be the same mentality he will imbue onto his Notre Dame team during his tenure as head coach.