Micah Shrewsberry, Penn State men's basketball coach, reflected Tuesday on his first head-coaching position. It was at Indiana University South Bend in the 2000s, and Shrewsberry was the NAIA program's first full-time coach.
In addition to coaching, Shrewsberry drove the bus, swept the gym floor and washed the team's uniforms. He did that for two years before joining Brad Stevens' staff at Butler, where he eventually would coach in two Final Fours.
"I had to grind, as the kids like to say, through the mud," Shrewsberry said. "It's how I got here. ... Nothing within my journey has been sexy."
With that, Shrewsberry likely endeared himself to Penn State basketball fans, whose program has been grinding for decades. Penn State introduced Shrewsberry on Tuesday as the men's basketball coach whom it hopes finally might make the program more than a second thought on campus.
Shrewsberry arrived at Penn State last week after Purdue, where he spent the last two years as associate head coach, was upset as a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament. He immediately got to work meeting with current players, hoping to bring some back from the NCAA Transfer Portal, and beginning to recruit new ones from the same portal.
Shrewsberry also attended Penn State football Pro Day and has formed a quick bond with James Franklin. Yet Shrewsberry underscored basketball's role at Penn State in discussing his time with Franklin.
"I know my place in this university," Shrewsberry said. "I need him to help us recruit."
Still, Shrewsberry and Penn State Athletics Director Sandy Barbour sounded a hopeful tone about the future of men's basketball, which has played a mostly static role on campus for more than 60 years. Penn State has appeared in one Final Four (in 1954) and has played in two NCAA Tournaments since 1996, the last in 2011. Two of its more memorable achievements were winning NIT titles in 2009 and 2018.
Yet Barbour, who said she spoke to "hundreds" of people about Penn State basketball during the search process, made a bold statement about the future.
"The goal was, is and always will be for this program to compete successfully year in and year out in the Big Ten and to compete for those championships," Barbour said.
Shrewsberry mentioned that as well, but from a tighter perspective. After Butler, Shrewsberry spent six seasons on Stevens' Boston Celtics staff, then reunited with Matt Painter at Purdue. He interviewed for other jobs, including head-coaching positions, during that time but was turned down.
Shrewsberry recalled those moments by saying that he wants Penn State to play with an "underdog" mentality, which the program already had.
"I’m forever thankful for the people that did say 'No' to me," Shrewsberry said. "I’m not going to forget who said 'No.' That’s the chip on my shoulder, underdog mentality. I won’t forget who said no but I’m thankful for that, because something greater was right around the corner. And that something greater was Penn State University and this basketball program."
Shrewsberry, 44, played Division III basketball at Hanover College in Indiana, where he was "just a solid player." He worked at several smaller programs in the Midwest, moving between positions in coaching and operations, before landing the head job at Indiana South Bend, where he did both.
One more story Shrewsberry told Tuesday underscored his determination. During a short period of unemployment, Shrewsberry decided to propose to his then-girlfriend. She accepted, and the couple lived at her parents' house while Shrewsberry looked for his next job.
Now, Micah and Molly Shrewsberry have four children (two sons and two daughters) and are beginning a new chapter of Penn State men's basketball.
"Talk about sticking with somebody through everything," Shrewsberry said. "... And look at me now Molly, I guess. She saw something in me. But that’s the journey I talked about. That’s the ups and downs, that’s the grind.
"That’s who I want to be. That’s who I want my program to be. Nothing comes easy to us. We don’t want anything, we don’t expect anything, we’re going to work for everything. That’s who we want to be. That’s who I am."
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