When Micah Shrewsberry left the Penn State basketball program for Notre Dame and his home state of Indiana, there was almost a sense of defeatism surrounding the program. Instead of celebrating the most successful season in a decade, there was an air of despair following the program. Despair turned into excitement when it was announced that Virginia Commonwealth’s Mike Rhoades would be installed as Penn State basketball’s next head coach.
Mike Rhoades builds his staff
New head coach Rhoades immediately hit the ground running in assembling his supporting cast. The first four members that he hired were on Rhoades staff at VCU before they agreed to follow Mike to Happy Valley.
Jamal Brunt played for Rhoades when he was a coach at Division III Randolph Macon. Brunt also has stops at Miami (Fla) and Richmond. J.D. Byers and Rhoades were both All-Americans at D-III Lebanon Valley College and both had their jerseys retired (albeit over a different period of time).
I’m actually very excited about the hire of the new chief of staff Jimmy Martelli. Son of the esteemed Phil Martelli, Jimmy decided to follow in his father’s footsteps into the college coaching ranks. Martelli was with Rhoades at the stops at both Randolph-Macon and VCU.
However, the hire that I think will have the greatest effect on the program is bringing the legendary Joe Crispin back home to Happy Valley.
PSU’s career leader in free throw percentage
Crispin, who played for Penn State from 1996-97 thru 2000-01 and PSU’s last Sweet 16 appearance, would have fit in perfectly with this year’s squad. He holds the single-season record in 3-point attempts with 303 in 2001. He is in the top ten in nearly every offensive statistical category at Penn State.
Crispin’s career path since he graduated from Penn State in 2001 has been a long and winding road back to Happy Valley. He was an undrafted free agent in the NBA and played a total of 22 games in the 2001-2002 season for both the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns. He also spent time in the ABA as well as playing in multiple leagues over in Europe.
Crispin entered the coaching realm in 2014 as an assistant coach at D-III Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey. After two years as an assistant, he became the 12th head coach in Rowan’s history. He finished there with a record of 114-54.
Why this hire is so critical
While I’m probably more nostalgic than most, I don’t get overly excited about coaches with ties to the Penn State program coming back. This reunion, however, is different.
While it may be difficult to complain about a coach who the NCAA tournament three out of his six seasons at the helm, the one knock on Rhoades is the lack of offense of his teams. Defensively, they are virtually an impenetrable fortress. However, in his six seasons at VCU, their best points scored per game ranking was 103rd, back in 2017-18.
In the past two seasons, Crispin’s teams have averaged scoring 92 points per contest. An offensive-minded player in college, he’s carried that same “shoot first, ask questions later” mentality to his coaching style. He’s even written a book entitled “Offense Wins: A Player’s 12 Foundational Principles for Great Basketball Offense”.
If there ever was an offensive coach to balance out a defensive-minded one, Joe Crispin is it.