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Is Gregg Marshall the coaching carousel’s greatest catch?

Mar 30, 2013, 12:31 PM EDT

Wichita State Shockers head coach Marshall directs his team against the La Salle Explorers in their West Regional NCAA men's basketball game in Los Angeles Reuters

We’ve been hearing all week long about how young coaching stars Shaka Smart, Brad Stevens and Josh Pastner are signing big contract extensions and “turning down” open jobs at Minnesota, USC and UCLA.

(UPDATE: Sources are reporting that Steve Alford of New Mexico has accepted the UCLA job.)

I get it. Youth is attractive. It’s marketable. Athletic Directors are having visions of locking up a young star for decades. But the greatest catch may be too busy prepping for his next game to take their calls. Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall is already 50, and he’s taken longer to build his way up to this Elite Eight at a rather unassuming Midwestern school. But that’s exactly why Marshall may be the right guy for a power program with an image to protect.

Ever heard of Winthrop? If you’re a college basketball fan, you have, and that’s because of Marshall. He turned an invisible Big South school into a seven-time NCAA tournament bid-winner, and finally broke through with a win over Notre Dame in 2007. With Winthrop.

That was enough to get him the shot at Wichita State, when a flashier guy with more big-time contacts might have landed in a larger media market. The Shockers may have been the perfect team for Marshall, though. In taking over from Mark Turgeon – now at Maryland by way of Texas A&M – Marshall got a shot at a humble, hardworking program from a city with a chip on its shoulder. Wichita State has long chafed at the higher grade of attention paid to the state’s other DI programs – Kansas and Kansas State – and have searched for opportunities to show up their Big 12 rivals.

Well, guess who’s still dancing?

The parallel is clear. Marshall is overshadowed by his younger, more recognizable peers. Wichita State wants to be recognized as a top basketball program in its own home state, at the very least. Both have shone through to a place where all eyes are upon them, starting tonight at 7:00 pm ET.

Marshall has shown that toughness and poise can trump blue-chip flash. He has shown that he has the fortitude to roll up his sleeves and build a program that wins, no matter where he is. He did it at Winthrop, he’s done it at Wichita State, and he can do it in Los Angeles or the Twin Cities.

That is, of course, assuming he even wants to. The guy’s pretty picky about where he calls home. And he’s definitely not ready to talk about his next job when there’s still work to be done this weekend, and possibly the next.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

  1. bobinkc - Mar 30, 2013 at 1:49 PM

    Back in the day when my dad would smoke and play solitaire while listening to Wichita State games on the radio, KU and K-State would not play Wichita State for fear of sullying their reputations as the “big boys” in Kansas. That was when WSU put out players like Dave Stallworth and Nate Bowman on a regular basis and then sent them on to the NBA.

    Then came the doldrums. Wichita could not find a coach to maintain the program without losing him to a bigger-named school somewhere else in the country. Coach after coach would pull in to the Roundhouse on the WSU campus and lead the team to MoValley greatness for 3 to 5 years, then leave for a larger school with more money and a bigger name. KU and K-State still refused to play the Shockers more often than every 5 to 7 years, and then only in Lawrence or Manhattan, never in Wichita for fear of dirtying their skirts.

    Wichita State now has a coach who says he likes it in Wichita and seems to mean it. If he will stay put for another 5 years, we should another 4 or 5 trips to the dance and maybe the opportunity to play the “big boys.” There is currently legislation up for discussion requiring KU and K-State to play Wichita at least once a year. I do hope it passes so that “little” Wichita can show “big Lawrence” and the “little Apple” what we’ve got.

    BTW, look who’s carrying the ball for the whole state tonight!

    • Eric Angevine - Mar 30, 2013 at 2:35 PM

      Fair disclosure: I grew up in Wichita, and remember much of what you’re talking about as well. I would LOVE to see the state’s three programs play each other year in and year out. Look at New Mexico – they play NMSU twice yearly and nobody makes them do it.

    • manchestermiracle - Mar 31, 2013 at 2:57 PM

      Good synopsis of Shocker basketball, but you lost me entirely at the potential legislation to make one team play another. Seems that the pols in Topeka are as tone-deaf about their jobs as the yahoos in DC.

  2. barkleyblows - Mar 30, 2013 at 10:10 PM

    This is what I love about college basketball…. Your team makes a run in the tournament one year… and some how you’re the greatest coach of all time.

  3. bballerjones - Mar 30, 2013 at 10:19 PM

    Coach Marshall is the next best thing to slice bread among coaching basketball ranks. If you haven’t heard of Greg Marshall before tonight’s grubbing of Ohio State you will certainly have heard of him now. But Marshall is no surprise here in Wichita. The diaper dressed 50-year old has visions of where the X’s and O’s are on his chalk boards like those who play the stock market. But while he’s a detailed manager of Shocker basketball he’s no Bobby Knight. Far from it! And that just how his player’s want him. But don’t let that soft look fool ya! “He can be tough as nails during practice.” says a number of Shocker b-ball players. “He just doesn’t believe in hollering in your face during a pressure packed game. And that why the players like him. They like him and believe in him so much so that now the Shockers are a win away from playing for the NCAA championship. The first time ever in WSU history!

    • manchestermiracle - Mar 31, 2013 at 2:58 PM

      Marshall dresses in a “diaper?” And here I thought Kansas was conservative. That’s certainly a “shocker.”

  4. barnesaintnoble - Mar 31, 2013 at 12:26 AM

    This is what I love about the internet…you can ignore details of an article and still make comments.

    Great coach, hope he sticks around. I love Wichita State’s mascot. Maybe some WSU alumni can get the coach a new pair of glasses, what he’s wearing right now is a real ugly set of frames.

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