What has been rumored for the past few months, Micah Shrewsberry is officially heading to Notre Dame after spending just two years at the helm of Penn State Basketball.
The Irish offered Shrewsberry a 7-year deal that will pay over $4 million annually.
Penn State made a push late and offered an identical deal, but ultimately the option for Shrewsberry and his wife to head to their home state of Indiana was too much to overcome.
There was a push over the last month to get a deal done with Shrewsberry, but NIL negligence on the part of the Nittany Lions may have been another contributing factor. The school was able to build up $500k in just a month because of the impressive run by the Nittany Lions in the postseason, although it was a little too late to keep the head coach around.
The next coach is going to need some more support from the very beginning to build a program and sustain it. If they don’t, Penn State Basketball will be stuck with hiring mid-tier coaches, or a stepping stone for the better ones.
Who should Penn State Basketball Hire?
There have been quite a few names floated out there.
Many fans are clamoring for successful mid-major head coaches such as Colgate’s Matt Langel, Charleston’s Pat Kelsey, and Furman’s Bob Richey.
While the mid-major route is something that Penn State has done in the past, doesn’t mean that it is successful. Often a lot of mid-major coaches can’t recruit at the high level that a Power 5 school needs to compete for an NCAA Tournament bid.
It is simply a different kind of player that you need to convince to go to Penn State than say Colgate or Furman. Penn State has gone this route before with Ed DeChellis from East Tennessee State and Pat Chambers from Boston University.
In the 17 years that those two were at Penn State the Nittany Lions made the NCAA Tournament once in 2011.
I would add that they would have made it in 2020 if it weren’t for Covid, but still making the NCAA tournament twice in that stretch of almost two decades is not good. While winning the NIT twice in 2009 and 2018, Penn State only played in the consolation tournament one other time (2006). That means that Penn State made the postseason in just 5 of 17 years between the two coaches.
Compare that with Shrewsberry who quickly took the team to the tournament in his 2nd season. Obviously, the transfer portal has been a massive help with that and hopefully whoever the hire is can have similar success to Shrewsberry.
Recruiting still is the main game though with any college program, so whoever takes the job will need to keep Penn State relevant in the region for at least 3- and 4-star recruits.
Bring Talor Battle Home
There is one name that has been lightly floated out there for this job and that is Talor Battle.
The former Penn State point guard (07-11) scored 2,213 points in his career, good for the most in school history. Battle was a leading scorer for the team that won the school’s first NIT Championship in 2009. In 2011, he led the Nittany Lions to their first ever Big Ten Championship game, resulting in an NCAA tournament berth.
Battle then played for several teams in Europe from 2011-2018 before getting into coaching. He joined the Penn State staff for the 2020-2021 season under Jim Ferry before taking a job at Northwestern for the past two seasons to help coach his brother Boo Buie.
Battle is more of a dark horse candidate for the job but his connections with the university could mean that he would be likely to stick around if things got going in the right direction. Similar to how Shrewsberry wanted to go back to Indiana, Battle may be more likely to stick around State College if matching offers were presented.
The biggest reason to believe he could be successful is the development of guards. At Northwestern Boo Buie averaged 10.3 points per game each of his first two seasons. After Battle showed up on the coaching staff the star guard bumped his average up to 14.1 in 2022 and 17.3 in 2023. Talor Battle was able to help Buie improve his overall scoring but his efficiency at the rim. Buie took almost double the shots that he did as a sophomore this season, but his field goal percentage was around 8 percent higher.
Battle’s experience playing in the Big Ten and overseas would be helpful in developing players for playing at Penn State and beyond. A lot of times coaches enter the Big Ten and aren’t ready for the competitive schedule that conference play presents. Nobody knows the grind of the Big Ten better than someone who had success in the past. While most players dream is to go to the NBA, that isn’t a reality for most.
Having a head coach who played overseas and can guide young players on the do’s and don’ts when extending your basketball career could be helpful in recruiting.
There is a reason that Talor Battle is considered more of a dark horse and that is experience. He only has 3 years total of assistant coaching experience in college and for many that isn’t enough to justify giving him a head coaching job at a major program. That is a fair argument and one that is hard to refute unless a coach is given a chance.
While Shrewsberry didn’t have any opportunities as a head coach before this year he was a heralded assistant at his previous stops. Battle doesn’t have the long history of being an assistant, but he does have one thing and that is that he is Penn Stater. Many will think that isn’t enough to justify hiring him but at the end of the day if basketball wants to have any sort of long-term success it will start with hiring someone who isn’t going to leave the first chance he gets.