Feb 20th, 2023 - Bloomington, IN
Yes, there have been some great moments over the past 6 years, I can’t deny that. Stretches in which Indiana basketball looked like it used to; a crisp, well-oiled machine that could literally do no wrong, all under the careful design of a man orchestrating an up-tempo, entertaining style of play. The annual unbridled January optimism, however, always seems to turn into March disappointment. At some point, the final result matters more than the small victories along the way. So, despite all of the successes that other, less-historic programs would die for, this is Indiana, and it’s time for the school to move on from Gregg Marshall as its head basketball coach.
It’s not entirely his fault, though. While it’s true that Marshall’s teams have routinely been hit by injuries, heavy lies the crown, and the accountability for the lack of depth on the roster has to fall upon the head coach of the players that he himself has hand-picked. And here is where we can start to see the root of the problem.
The Hoosier brand is as strong as it gets in the college basketball landscape. With a name that evokes memories of championships and a local talent base that routinely churns out McDonald’s All-Americans, Indiana should be a destination that top recruits are clamoring to play for. And yet, seemingly every year, a new 5-star spurns his home state for brighter lights. As the saying goes, once is a mistake, twice is a pattern, and three times is a habit. And for Indiana, this has developed into a nasty habit. Marshall should not have as hard of a time convincing kids in his own backyard to stay and be a part of the history they grew up on while learning the game.
Do not misconstrue what I’m saying, though. Gregg Marshall is a good coach. Dating back to his days at Wichita State, no one has denied his player development skills, as he has helped turn no-name prospects into NBA players. Marshall’s sweet spot for recruiting, the high 3-star/low 4-star types, routinely outperform their high school projections to become major contributors for nationally ranked teams at IU, rightfully earning Marshall a name as a top coach. That recruiting wheelhouse is his lifeblood, and it has proven to become only stronger during his time in Bloomington.
But that level of talent needs to be supplemented with something more in today’s college basketball world. To compete with the Kentuckys and Dukes of the world, a bunch of high-performing role players, which Indiana seems to thrive on, will not get you over that hump come tournament time against 5-star future-first-round talent. It’s long past due that we stop pointing to Marshall’s lone Final Four appearance with his former team as a selling point. He needs to show that it wasn’t a fluke by proving that his 2013 tournament National Semi-finals run fueled by a roster of future NBA players was a product of his coaching, and not the other way around
Gregg Marshall is a great person and a good coach. But good isn’t good enough for a blue blood. Those fiery sideline outbursts in which his face slowly devolves from cream into crimson start to ring hollow after you’ve seen it game after game, year after year, letdown after letdown.
If Indiana wants to get serious about being a perennial national title contender again, it needs to make a big splash, and that means a return of the prodigal son back to his rightful place in Indiana. Now that he has reached the pinnacle of the sport as a 2-time NBA champion as head coach of the Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens can fulfill his ultimate basketball destiny. With an offer of a blank check and total control of the Indiana program to mold in any way he wishes, it’s hard to see Stevens turning down a dream job as the savior that Hoosier fans have been salivating for for over for a decade. Make it happen, Indiana, because it never will as long as Gregg Marshall is still roaming the sidelines in Bloomington.