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.