Adam Fisher has a close relationship with his players.
Exactly how close?
“I probably hear from him more than I hear from my mom, honestly,” senior guard Jalen Pickett said. “I hear from him four, five times a day about something. He loves us and he’s a great guy. He pushes me to be better with honesty and the truth with film.”
Fisher’s been back at his alma mater for about a year and a half — serving as associate head coach of the men’s basketball team — and in that brief amount of time, his ability to connect with players on a personal level has bolstered the Nittany Lions’ roster.
Pickett, for example, one of Penn State’s all-around leaders last year, transferred to Happy Valley after three years at Sienna. Pickett noted Fisher’s the one who reached out to him about becoming a Nittany Lion. Fisher also serves as Pickett’s academic advisor, with Pickett and his teammates receiving regular invites over to Fisher’s house.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Pickett said: “I think me and Fish have a great relationship.”
When Micah Shrewsberry arrived in Happy Valley in early 2021, Fisher was his first coaching hire. A 2006 Penn State graduate, in addition to experience as a student and graduate member during his undergraduate days, Fisher boasts coaching stops at Villanova and most recently at Miami, Fla. He also returned to Penn State for a few seasons in 2011-13 for roles as video coordinator and director of player development.
“That’s my guy,” senior swingman Seth Lundy said of Fisher. Lundy’s capable of playing both guard and forward, starting 30 games last year as the team’s second-leading scorer (11.9) and third-leading rebounder (4.9). “He was recruiting me when I was in high school at Miami. Even though I committed to Penn State and he was at Miami, he still saw the potential in me and he’s just that type of guy.
“He’s a great coach but he’s also a great guy off the court. Definitely last year, I built a stronger relationship with him, watching extra film with him, talking to him about my game. We also talk about a lot of stuff off the court. Building that relationship off the court definitely builds that confidence with the coach.”
Shrewsberry added this assessment, during a media session earlier in July: “He (Fisher) brings a lot of different elements to our program from the coaching side, the player development side, the player relationship side and then the recruiting side. I talk about it, our whole staff, we’ve got some bulldogs on the recruiting trail, these guys really really work to build relationships, not just with players, with everybody around that player and everybody in that player’s family and I think that’s a strength of his. He’s a people person and our guys love him. I think the players that he’s recruited, they love him, so he’s easy to root for.”
After the conclusion of the 2021-22 season, Shrewsberry recalled how he recruited Fisher. The two had recently driven around Indianapolis during the Big Ten Tournament, when Shrewsberry — recently named as the head coach at Penn State — was on the phone with Fisher, who was at Miami, coaching with the Hurricanes.
“I’m glad that he came back,” Shrewsberry said during the recent media session at the Bryce Jordan Center. “One day, he’s going to be a head coach, and he’s going to be gone. But what he’s doing right now for us, is he’s laying a great foundation for this program in terms of what he’s done on the court and off the court and, it’s paying huge dividends for us.”
Part of that groundwork shown last season, when the Nittany Lions allowed only 65 points per game, lowest in the Big Ten and the program’s best such number in 11 years. Moving forward, the team adds the program’s best-ever recruiting class, signed in November 2021 and ranked as a Top-30 class by the nation’s top recruiting sites.
After the media session on July 19, practice was open to the media. It was a whirlwind, like a hockey game. Constant motion, mostly taking place at one end of the court, with barely a few seconds in between stops.
At one point, Shrewsberry stopped drills to let the guys know the importance of communicating with each other. Another time, to emphasize the benefits of landing on two feet when delivering a pass.
In the middle of it all was Fisher, who while with Villanova from 2007-09, earned a master’s degree in education leadership. In some ways, Fisher looks unassuming, almost like he could be a fifth-year senior who’s on the team. Though over the last decade and a half, he’s amassed a wealth of experience.
He’s worked with Hall of Fame coaches and made the Final Four (Villanova, 2009). He’s held seemingly every job possible within a college hoops program. And now, he’s back where it started for him, guiding the current generation of Penn Staters.
“What really sticks out to me is when he invites us over (to his house) and really just wants to get to know us, and how we’re really doing, with dinners, different things like that, just talking to us,” Pickett said. “He’s a really great guy.”
Penn Staters can learn more about Fisher at GoPSUsports.com, with additional practice photos below. You can click on individual photos to see the full-size version and scroll through the gallery. Photo credit for all images goes to John Patishnock Jr.
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