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POAPS: Gregg Marshall

The People’s Champion?

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NCAA Basketball: Wichita State at Colorado State Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Today’s POAPS can be abbreviated. I doubt anyone reading this blog lacks familiarity with Gregg Marshall, the soon-to-be 54 year old coach at Wichita State, or of his stellar accomplishments at that school and before it at Winthrop.

Marshall got the POAPS treatment in 2011. Last summer, JEOHankins2 provided a 5 year retrospective on Marshall’s copious butt-kicking since that last search.

Two quick comments on my POAPS from 2011:

1) My main worry with Marshall was his lack of high-major experience and how that might hurt his recruiting. Marshall is so much more well-known nationally now, and he can point to a Final Four appearance along with NBA players. As such, recruiting seems like less of a concern.

2) I wrote in 2011 that there was no question Marshall would take the job if offered. Indeed, I viewed him as our “floor” candidate. We all know what happened – as in 2006, NC State said “hold my beer” and smashed through the floorboards, pulling a coach out from somewhere near the water table.

Note that I wrote my POAPS on Marshall in January, months before whatever happened with him and our job. Stories conflict; no one who was not involved directly can know for sure if Marshall in fact was offered our job in 2011 and if so, under what conditions. My educated guess is that Marshall was miffed at being a clear back-up choice after Smart turned down the job, and decided to pull his name from the search.

We know Marshall is a great coach. We know that he marries his skill with just the type of hardscrabble, **** you attitude that would work perfectly here. We know the fans would be over the moon with him. We know that Marshall to NCSU would give us all the satisfaction of telling Jeff Goodman et al. to suck it. Only one question really matters here:

Would he take the job if offered?

No, of course not. He’s making an obscene amount of money now – north of $3 million per year, well north of that per some reports. He’s got easily the best job in his conference, one of the best mid-major jobs period, and as close to lifetime job security as a coach can have, I’d wager. He’s turned down numerous Power 5 openings – most recently, spurning a reported $4 million plus offer from Alabama. He’s spoken more than once about how the grass isn’t always greener with the big Power 5 jobs. Ain’t happening, folks. He’s nah gah dahit. Move on.

And yet...

1) Pete Thamel’s otherwise detestable and banal column on the NC State job (“Unrealistic expectations! Shadow of UNC and Duke! HURRR DURRRRR!!!”) had one interesting nugget: “There is an increasing feeling in the industry that this could be the year that Marshall finally leaves Wichita.”

2) Wichita State is 15-1 in conference this year, 25-4 overall…and squarely on the bubble. Jerry Palm has them last 4 out, for example. Likewise, last year the Shockers went 16-2 in conference, but were relegated to a First Four game in Dayton after being bounced from their conference tournament.

Wichita State has a lot going for it. But the MVC has weakened considerably in recent years to the point where it’s barely even a mid-major conference.

Maybe Marshall is content to be the king of Wichita for his career – and there would be nothing wrong with that. I’m skeptical though. A guy with a supreme ego/competitive drive, who (as Thamel notes) views himself as a peer coach to the best of the best, at some point will want to put that to the test, no? At some point, won’t he chafe at dominating the MVC year in and year out only to end up as an 11 seed?

And if Marshall wants to make the move to a major conference job, the window will not stay open forever. 54 isn’t old, but it’s not young, either.

3) In a 2014 interview, Marshall revealed that State in 2011 was the closest he’d come to leaving Wichita. So the interest was there, and in many ways State is a better spot in 2017 than it was in 2011.

Assume that Marshall does want to go to a high-major conference. What are his options? He’s in Big 12 country. Kansas and Texas look like the best two jobs in that conference, neither is opening up anytime soon. Oklahoma State just hired someone else. I doubt he’s going to the SEC after turning down the big Bama bucks, unless it’s for Kentucky, and Cal ain’t leaving in the near future. He has no ties to the Pac-12 or the Big East. Among the better B1G jobs, Ohio State and Indiana could open soon. Maybe he’s considered for those gigs…or maybe they hire Chris Mack and Chris Holtmann instead. In the ACC, it’s hard to see him in the mix for UNC or Duke down the road. Bottom line: outside of NC State in 2017, I don’t see many obvious landing spots in the bigger leagues.

I still don’t think it will happen. I’m not even sure we can come up with the kind of $ needed to land Marshall (we may not need to offer a huge raise, but he sure as hell ain’t taking a pay cut). But impossible? No, not impossible.

One final point: BJD95 at statefansnation (I know, I know) observed, and I agree with this, that we can’t have two “A” candidates. We can quietly see if Marshall and Archie have interest, but we can’t pursue both in earnest. We damn sure cannot pursue Marshall as a backup plan – we know his ego will not take that.

This is the high stakes game that Yow has to play. What if she hears both coaches would be interested, but obviously neither is a sure thing. What does she do? What would you do?