Potential Candidates For Penn State Hoops’ Next Head Coach

For the second time over the last three seasons, Penn State men’s basketball is on the prowl for a new head coach. 

Following Micah Shrewsberry’s departure from Happy Valley in favor of reported Notre Dame, the Nittany Lions will pick up their fourth program leader since 2020 after former head coach Pat Chambers was forced into his resignation that offseason. 

Shrewsberry’s successful two-year stint brings the program a curious dilemma: should Penn State hire an up-and-coming, rising mentor that could potentially use the role as a stepping stone into a larger opportunity, or should the Nittany Lions consider bringing back a figure with established ties to the university who likely wouldn’t bolt in the face of success?

While the search for the squad’s next leading figurehead shouldn’t take long, let’s take a look at five candidates who could become Penn State’s 15th head coach in program history.

Adam Fisher

After the news surrounding Shrewsberry’s long-term future in South Bend initially caught wind on Twitter, several Penn State basketball veterans, including Jalen Pickett, Myles Dread, Andrew Funk, and Cam Wynter, took to the social media platform to openly endorse Fisher for the positional opening. 

Fisher, a 2006 Penn State graduate, began his coaching pursuit as the head student manager for three campaigns under Ed DeChellis. Ultimately, Fisher garnered a master’s degree at Villanova, while also getting graduate managerial duties for nearly three years under Jay Wright. 

The Pennsylvania native’s ascension in the coaching ranks then skyrocketed, as Pat Chambers hired him back in Happy Valley as the unit’s video coordinator in 2011, leading to a promotion to the director of player development role a year later. 

Before ending up as Shrewsberry’s lead assistant in 2021, Fisher spent nearly a decade as an associate head coach on Jim Larrañaga’s staff at Miami. There, Fisher played an integral role in developing 20 All-ACC selections, while also leading the Hurricanes to four straight 20-win seasons during his tenure. 

Matt Langel

Similarly to Fisher, current Colgate head coach Matt Langel’s Pennsylvania roots run deep. 

Despite being raised in Moorestown, New Jersey, he embarked on a four-year playing career at Penn, which led to a three-year stint as an assistant at his alma mater. 

Upon Fran Dunphy’s hiring at Temple in 2006, Langel elected to remain in Philadelphia but move to the Atlantic-10 ranks as an associate head coach under the head coaching giant. In 2008, 2009, and 2010, Langel helped cultivate one of Temple’s most historically dominant stretches, going 80-24, including an NCAA Tournament victory over Penn State in 2011. 

Over the past five years heading the Red Raiders, Langel has picked up five regular-season Patriot League Championships, leading to four berths in the Big Dance. Langel’s resumé and recruiting prowess in the Northeast could prove to solve the Nittany Lions’ recent stability problem.

Jason Williford

If Penn State wanted to take a similar hiring route as it did when gaining the services of Micah Shrewsberry two years ago, a name to watch could be Jason Williford from Virginia. 

Williford, a long-time disciple of Tony Bennett, just concluded his 14th campaign as an assistant in Charlottesville. Through his tenure, Williford has served as Bennett’s right-hand man in winning a national championship, four ACC regular-season titles, two ACC Tournament victories, and eight NCAA Tournament appearances. 

The Richmond, Virginia native, could expand the Nittany Lions’ recruiting trail further south, while also invigorating a similar spark that Shrewsberry fostered as a first-time Power Six head coach. 

Mike Rhoades

Sticking with hot commodities with Pennsylvania ties, sixth-year VCU head coach Mike Rhoades could warrant a permanent move back to his home state with the recent opening at Penn State. 

The Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania, product played Division III hoops at Lebanon Valley College before hopping into the coaching ranks as an assistant at Randolph-Macon in 1996. 

After three years of learning from Hal Nunnally, a 24-year coaching titan at the program, Rhoades took over the squad and picked up 197 wins in 10 years. His rapid rise earned him a spot on Shaka Smart’s staff as a VCU assistant in the early 2010s and later his first large-scale head coaching gig at Rice in 2014.

Across Rhoades’ six campaigns with the Rams, he’s posted three NCAA Tournament bids coupled with four top-two finishes in the Atlantic 10 standings. 

Joe Crispin

Talk about high risk, high reward, but taking a swing on one of the program’s most prolific shooters ever might be what Penn State needs to garner a sense of permanent cohesion. 

Crispin excelled under Jerry Dunn’s leadership as a four-year staple for the Nittany Lions beginning in 1997, averaging 15.6 points in 127 games played donning the blue and white. 

The New Jersey product delivered a 21-point outing in Penn State’s 2001 Round of 32 upset over No. 1-seeded North Carolina to earn its second-ever Sweet Sixteen bid. 

After a brief stint closing out the bench for the 2001 Los Angeles Lakers headlined by Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, Crispin’s professional playing run lasted until 2012, with the majority of his stops coming overseas. 

In 2014, however, he decided to hop into the coaching ranks as an assistant at Rowan, which gifted him the head role just two years later. 

Since 2016, Crispin boasts a 90-48 record with the program led by offensive efficiency. Last season, his high-paced unit tallied 92.6 points per game, leading to a 23-6 record. 

From an outside perspective, hiring a former player from the Division III level might not initially be the hard-hitting grab needed to maintain the program’s current momentum. However, Crispin’s basketball IQ and ties to Penn State could make him worth a shot. 

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About the Author

Connor Krause

Connor Krause is a senior from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania double majoring in journalism and business. He is a lifelong Penn State football and basketball fan and enjoys rooting for Pittsburgh sports teams. In his free time, Connor can be found playing golf or pick-up basketball. You can follow his Twitter and Instagram @ckrause_31.

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