Sometimes, the game of basketball throws a trick nobody could have seen coming.
On the first day of July, one would have never imagined Micah Shrewsberry joining the Boston Celtics. The 36-year-old has been a rising name in the coaching world—working his way up the ranks in a short time—but the jump to NBA assistant sure seemed unlikely, at least not at this point in his career.
The Celtics’ hiring of Butler coach Brad Stevens was stunning and clever. For Shrewsberry, it would turn into his big break. The man who gave him his first major coaching job offered spot on his Boston bench. A source confirmed that Shrewsberry has agreed to become a Celtics assistant.
For Shrewsberry, it’s a dream opportunity and one well earned. He’s joining the NBA’s most storied franchise as an assistant coach and working for his close friend. Oh, and he’s not even at age 40 yet. Not too shabby.
But for Purdue, this is a tremendous loss. Shrewsberry had built close connections in the talent-rich state of Indiana. He has helped to make the Boilermakers a favorite to land their top target, forward Vince Edwards. He became a trusted mentor in the locker room. Now, Purdue must move on.
One of the few people who had time to prepare for Shrewsberry’s departure is Purdue head coach Matt Painter, who learned of this news earlier this week. By now, he surely has a short list of replacements in mind.
The hiring process could be quite the juggling act, given that he and other college coaches are dispatched across the country for the open evaluation period. While Painter recruits prospects for Purdue, he must recruit a new assistant too.
The good news for Painter is that his current assistants, Jack Owens and Greg Gary, are established coaches and strong recruiters. Due to this benefit, he can be creative with Shrewsberry’s replacement.
If so desired, Painter could bring in a Purdue alum. Brian Cardinal, the former NBA veteran and one of the most beloved figures in the program’s history, would be an intriguing option. He currently works with the athletic department in its John Purdue Club, but his basketball background would serve the program well.
Painter could take a chance on former Boilermaker guard Ryne Smith, a volunteer assistant last year who was recently hired as head coach of Clinton Prairie (Ind.) High School. He’s still very young, just 23 years old, but would bring a unique perspective as a recent Purdue graduate.
It’s more likely that Painter will go a safer route, finding a rising name in the industry the way he did with Shrewsberry. While the job does carry some risk, it’s still a chance to crack into the Big Ten and could serve as a pedestal for bigger and better things.
An option could be another Butler assistant, Michael Lewis, who is a strong recruiter with local ties. The Indiana native would fit right in with the Purdue program. The same could be said for Valparaiso’s Roger Powell Jr., the former Illinois standout who has become Bryce Drew’s right-hand man. In just two seasons as a coach, Powell has made himself an established recruiter and a respected name in the industry.
For Lewis, Powell, and any of the coaching world’s up-and-comer, greater opportunities are coming. Painter can take a chance and make it happen now.
The only major requirement for this job is to bring the passion and energy that Shrewsberry provided the Purdue program. As the now-former Purdue coach proved, it could be a stepping stone to greener pastures.
Painter must find a new coach and do so in a hurry. The next move could be just as big of a surprise.