Name: Gregg Marshall
Current position: Head coach, Wichita State (10th season)
Record: 260-89 at Wichita State, 454-172 overall
Salary: ~$3.3 Million per year
Two Sundays ago, Wichita State easily defeated Illinois State to claim the Missouri Valley Conference title, as well as its sixth straight NCAA Tournament berth. In Gregg Marshall’s decade-long tenure, he’s taken Wichita State to new heights, as the Shockers have become an Tourney mainstay and have won at least one game in each of the past four tournaments. With a Final Four berth and an undefeated regular season record under his belt, Marshall is now a household name among college hoops fans.
Gregg Marshall began his head coaching career in 1998 at Winthrop, a small university in South Carolina. He had an immediate impact, leading the Eagles to seven NCAA Tournament berths in his nine years at the school. In 2007, during his final year at Winthrop, the Eagles even won a tournament game over Notre Dame.
After that season, Marshall headed out to Wichita. It took him a few seasons to find his footing with the Shockers, but by 2012, Wichita State was a perennial Missouri Valley Conference contender. When Creighton left the Valley after the 2013 season to join the Big East, Wichita State became the de facto MVC favorite year in and year out. In 2013, Marshall had his greatest NCAA Tournament triumph. Behind a veteran-laden team that included future pro Cleanthony Early, the 9th-seeded Shockers stormed through the West region and reached the Final Four, where they lost a close back-and-forth game to eventual champion Louisville.
The next year’s team might have been even better though, as they went undefeated during the regular season, only to lose to Kentucky in a game that should have never been in the Round of 32. The following year, in 2015, Wichita State returned to the Sweet 16 after knocking off Indiana, followed by Kansas. The win over IU was a rollicking game where the shots were falling for both teams, but the Hoosiers failed to get enough stops to win. However, the Kansas game was a cathartic domination of Wichita’s in-state rival who refuses to schedule them. A year later, the Shockers sneaked into the field with a play-in game berth, but still made it to the Round of 32.
WHY HE MIGHT WORK
A proven track record. The Final Four berth and the Kansas victory show off Marshall’s success in the Tourney, but he has been very reliable and consistent over the years as well. In his 19 years as a head coach, he’s won his conference’s regular season title 11 times.
Solid player development. Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet were freshmen backup guards on the Final Four team, but over the next few seasons they developed into one of the most fun backcourts in college hoops. The Shockers can’t recruit at the level of Power 5 teams (his last three classes ranked 79th, 60th, and 60th), but Marshall always gets his squads ready to compete against the big guns. Baker and VanVleet have both spent time in the pros this season - on the Knicks and Raptors, respectively. Could Marshall combine this player development with convincing top recruits to come to Bloomington?
Can coach defense. Last year, the Shockers ranked first overall in the country for defensive efficiency. Considering the questionable defense that IU had under Crean over the past few seasons, this would be a welcome change. His teams have varied greatly in tempo over the years, but they don’t often plod along as much as Tony Bennett’s UVA teams do.
Never a dull moment. Marshall has never been afraid to voice his opinion about anything. Here he is, criticizing CBS bracketologist (and Purdue alumnus) Jerry Palm.
WHY HE MIGHT NOT WORK
He’s set for life in Wichita. Marshall may have the cushiest situation in college hoops outside of Coach K. He is settled there and by all accounts his family loves Wichita. His teams finish atop the Valley year after year, and this will continue since he’s lapping the conference in recruiting right now. WSU home games are always selling out. And because he’s gotten to a Final Four, Marshall knows that he doesn’t need to be at a major powerhouse to make a sustained tourney run.
Crean 2.0? Like Crean, Marshall has a reputation for developing players over the years and getting them ready for the pros. They’ve both made one Final Four. The two even kind of look alike. But, do IU fans want a guy who might be Tom Crean with a better defense and worse offense? I’m not sure. Like with Crean recently, the recruiting is also a question mark. It’s hard to tell if a guy who is used to finding players at the mid-major level will have the same success at a place like IU.
Wichita could match IU salary-wise. This is my big holdup for thinking that Marshall might go to the Hoosiers. Marshall makes just as much as Crean did at Indiana. And every time his name gets connected to a Power 5 job, he gets another raise and gets to wax poetic about how much he loves Wichita. Check out the name of Wichita State’s home court: Charles Koch Arena. Yep, that’s the name of one of the Koch Brothers, who have donated most of their fortune to conservative causes over the years. From all accounts, Marshall and the Kochs get along, and if following politics has taught me anything in the past decade, it’s that if the Koch Brothers are willing to spend big cash to get they want to get their way. So don’t think for a second that Wichita State wouldn’t put up a fight to keep Marshall happy.
I’m more bullish on Marshall than some of the other CQ staffers. Maybe I’m just more nostalgic for the VanVleet/Baker backcourt than I should be, but I like Marshall’s consistency, and his teams have some defensive intensity that’s been lacking in Assembly Hall. As for the recruiting piece, it’s hard to tell what the difference in resources between Wichita State and Indiana could make for his teams.
Personally, I’d like to see what he could do in Bloomington. That being said, it would take a lot of money to pry Marshall away from Wichita, between his family’s comfort and the Koch Brothers connections, and even the allure of coaching at IU might not be enough for Marshall.