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CBT Exam Week Essays: Choosing the next coach at UCLA

Dec 10, 2012, 3:00 PM EDT

gregg marshall AP

For college students and college basketball fans, Exam Week is the worst week on the schedule. For students, this week is the culmination of three months worth of procrastination, cliff notes and wikipedia. For college basketball fans, it’s the lightest week of hoops action we will see all season.

With so very little going on this week in terms of action, the staff at College Basketball Talk is going back to school. Over the next five days, the CBT Staff will be responsible for answering an essay question in one of five different subjects.

The first subject of the week is Sociology.

UCLA is, historically, one of college basketball’s most successful programs.
If you could hire any coach in America to rebuild the Bruins in terms of wins, respect and fan support, who would it be, and why?

By David Harten

First, one must take away all obvious candidates, because those candidates, who are currently in life-long positions or positions that they currently have no interest in leaving, wouldn’t take the risk. That includes Jim Boeheim, Mike Krzyzewski, Rick Pitino, John Calipari.

Ben Howland needs to be let go by the Bruins. He did very well in his more formative years with three-straight Final Fours and some solid, character-based recruiting class, but that time has passed. The players either don’t respect him, don’t want to play hard for him, or both. There is too much turmoil surrounding that program and too many players have left the team to justify another season, short of a four Final Four run this season, which would take a miracle. Every coach has a limit at a program, just look at Bruce Weber at Illinois.

So who is the one person that could revive the storied UCLA program, short of a hologram John Wooden? One had to factor in a few things.

The first has to be that he’s been a winner at all stops, mid-and-high major. Secondly, he has had to have run a clean program, at least to the point that an athletic department doesn’t have to look over its shoulder for the NCAA on a yearly basis. Third, the recruiting ties to the right regions have to be there as well. And if he’s new to the area, the question becomes, can he build enough relationships to plant roots in new areas? The final, but just as important question is, are his players good people? When they graduate/exhaust their eligibility, do they keep themselves in line as citizens?

It’s with all these criteria that the best candidate would be Gregg Marshall at Wichita State.

For one, Marshall has proven his success on multiple levels. In his first job at Winthrop, Marshall went 194-24 in nine seasons at Winthrop and has gone 109-60 in five seasons as the head coach of the Shockers, with an NIT title in 2010-11 and an NCAA Tournament berth. He’s building a resume at a school that had been down. He fits the bill for a coach who is primed for a move up.

He inherited a team that took a dive after Mark Turgeon left due to mass transfers. After an 11-20 season, Marshall has built the program back with his players and his way. Now, he’s finally seeing the benefits.

He also runs a tight ship. Players graduate and they stay out of trouble. The team plays both half-court and full-court schemes with discipline. He scouts junior colleges relentlessly, something UCLA rarely does but should now due to the influx of high-major talent there, and also makes serious runs at Top 100 recruits in the prep ranks, including getting Fred Van Vleet this season. He currently sports players on his roster from all over, including Minnesota, the Bahamas, Canada, Las Vegas and Alabama. He lands them from all over.

He’s an east coast guy, but he’s been able to establish recruiting roots at every stop he’s been at. The man deals in relationships, something of a lost commodity in college sports. He knows how to get what he wants, and does it with both parties smiling.

Marshall is also a great X’s and O’s coach. He recruits tons of wings and combo guards to run a solid motion offense built around getting to the rim. You think west coast kids who grew up on the Lakers and run-and-gun offenses won’t love that?

Bottom line, Marshall is the coach that knows what he’s doing. He can fit in anywhere, get the players he needs and then move them to do what he wants. You’ll never hear about the program being in the dump and you’ll never have to worry about his team’s commitment to him.

Gregg Marshall is the man to lead UCLA, should Howland be let go. He’s most definitely a candidate no one saw coming, but plenty of those type of coaches have had great success. He’ll do it and he’ll do it his way.

Professor’s Notes: Gregg Marshall is a phenomenal choice. His track record of running a clean program and recruiting high-character players would be a blessing at UCLA. You cover all the grounds and provide enough statistical evidence to support your opinions. Points are being docked for the copious use of contractions. Also I would have liked to see the more names of coaches who seem to be “lifers”, i.e. Mark Few, Tom Izzo and Tom Crean.

GRADE: A-

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