Maniacal March for Micah Shrewsberry wraps with dreams of winning national titles at Notre Dame

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune
Notre Dame Fighting Irish Head Men's basketball coach Micah Shrewsberry speaks Thursday during his introductory press conference at the Purcell Pavilion.

SOUTH BEND — For the record, it was Thursday, on the back end of a crisp morning that felt a lot like the middle of winter — college basketball season — than the start of spring. 

Forgive new Notre Dame men’s basketball coach Micah Shrewsberry if the exact day of the week escaped him in a month that saw him bounce around like he’s never before bounced. From a crazy-good run to end the regular season to a trip to the conference tournament championship game to a pair of NCAA tournament games out in Iowa to a new job back in his native Indiana, Shrewsberry struggled to keep it all straight. 

He did again Thursday. 

“I,” Shrewsberry said, “don’t even know what day it is.” 

He might not have known what day it was, but he knew where he was — walking out of a Purcell Pavilion tunnel at precisely 11 a.m. to the sounds of the Notre Dame Victory March for formal introduction as the program’s 18th head coach. Shrewsberry was introduced on the floor of his new basketball coaching home — Purcell Pavilion — in front of family members and friends and Notre Dame faculty and assorted VIPs that included football coach Marcus Freeman and women’s basketball coach Niele Ivey. It was a whirlwind 30 days for the 46-year-old Shrewsberry, who started the month as the head coach at Penn State but will close it at Notre Dame. 

“Micah fits Notre Dame,” said athletic director Jack Swarbrick, who started about 10 weeks earlier with a list of 70 potential head coaching candidates, which then was whittled to a core eight, then six, then, ultimately, Shrewsberry. “In a sense, he’s been on a career-long journey, some might say a life-long journey, much of it spent in Indiana, that makes his arrival here feel almost preordained.” 

Shrewsberry, who attended St. Matthew School and Cathedral High School, both there on 56th Street on the north side of Indianapolis, agrees. 

“I probably didn’t have a chance but to love Notre Dame,” he said. “It was destiny for me to be here. I really believe that.” 

Announced last week as the successor to Mike Brey, Shrewsberry agreed to a seven-year deal (financial terms not announced) to rebuild a proud Notre Dame men’s basketball program. 

Like with any new coaching hire, Shrewsberry won his first press conference, but he wants to win more than that. He wants to win games. Conference championships. NCAA tournament games and maybe for the first time in program history, the last game played in a given college season. 

Dream that dream? Shrewsberry sure will. A roster that eventually will include more than the five current players on it will be encouraged to also dream that dream. Work hard, go to class, grow and develop and play with a toughness and a togetherness and Shrewsberry believes this program, which has long operated with a perceived glass ceiling — often real, sometimes imagined — has none. 

“I truly believe this: you can win a national championship here,” said Shrewsberry, who spent the previous two seasons winning games at Penn State that many figured Penn State had no business winning. “That’s what we’re going to fight for every single day. We’re going to pursue a national championship.” 

Shrewsberry will do that back home again in Indiana. Born in Indianapolis, having played at Hanover College and having coached at Wabash, DePauw, Butler and Purdue, Shrewsberry also was the first full-time head coach in the history of IU South Bend men’s basketball. That was back in 2005, when he fulfilled his promise (dream) of becoming a head coach by the age of 30. 

He’s back in Indiana again with his wife and four children because, well, it’s Indiana. And that means home. 

“It’s just different,” Shrewsberry said of the emphasis on basketball in this state. “Just the passion that everybody has for it, that draws you back. It’s that way everywhere.” 

Everywhere, Shrewsberry clarified, in Indiana. He doesn’t have any hobbies. He loves basketball. High school basketball. College basketball. He wasn’t that big of a pro basketball guy growing up, but he did spend six NBA seasons with good friend Brad Stevens with the Boston Celtics. Shrewsberry then migrated back to Indiana — back to the college game — where he continued the process of becoming a college head coach. 

Second time through South Bend with that title is nothing like it was his first time around. That’s good. Shrewsberry is thankful for the two seasons he spent at IUSB, but if given the chance, he might do it differently. Back then, he didn’t know what he didn’t know. He thought he knew. 

“I had no idea what I was doing,” he said. “I didn’t know who I wanted to be as a coach. It’s night and day from when I was here.” 

The current to-do list waiting for Shrewsberry inside his Rolfs Hall office is as long as a six-month regular season. There’s so much to be done for a Notre Dame team that finished 11-21 overall, 3-17 and second-to-last in the Atlantic Coast Conference last season. There’s the reconstruction of the roster. There’s recruiting. There’s the formation of a coaching/support staff. There’s scheduling. 

There’s everything. 

It also means getting back next week to the place Shrewsberry loves, a place he hasn’t been in nearly two weeks — the gym. 

“I miss the game,” he said. “I miss practice. I love practice. I love workouts. I love being on the court.” 

As extended a to-do list as Shrewsberry has as he prepared to embark on a quick trip to Houston and the Final Four (he won’t stay the entire time), he doesn’t feel any pressure to get players, get a staff together, get on the road, get going. Sure, there’s so much to do, but there’s also plenty of time to do it. The right way. The Notre Dame way. Shrewsberry’s way. 

“We’ve got a lot of time,” he said. “I don’t want to rush things. This isn’t a quick fix. This is for sustainability for a long time. That’s the most important thing for me.” 

Follow South Bend Tribune and NDInsider columnist Tom Noie on Twitter: @tnoieNDI. Contact: (574) 235-6153.

Coming Sunday: The road that led Notre Dame to Micah Shrewsberry