Continued from page 1

Somehow, they found their way to Wichita State’s low-key, brick-and-mortar campus, nestled within a working-class community on a wind-swept prairie in south-central Kansas.

“It’s pretty incredible what Gregg Marshall has done in his time there,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said, “with his personnel changing every year it seems.”

“I enjoy all my teams,” Marshall said, “but some are a little harder to deal with, some a little more reluctant to accept coaching. But the other day, I found myself really enjoying practice. And I’m not a smiling, happy-go-lucky guy at practice. It’s a time to work, to improve, to get better. But the other day, I thought, `Man, this is fun.’”

That’s a sentiment echoed by folks all over town.

Without a football program, the basketball team is the biggest thing going in a former oil boomtown that now relies heavily on the aviation industry and has struggled heavily during an economic downturn that has made corporate jets an endangered species.

Truth be told, it’s been that way for years.

The Shockers were a dominant program during the 1960s, led by Hall of Fame coach Ralph Miller and buoyed by stars such as Dave “the Rave” Stallworth. They were No. 1 for a short time during the 1964-65 season, ultimately losing to John Wooden’s UCLA team in the Final Four.

After a few down years, Wichita State regained national prominence in the late `70s behind future NBA players such as Xavier McDaniel, Antoine Carr and Cliff Levingston. Mark Turgeon arrived in 2000, ushering in seven more years of prosperity.

It certainly hasn’t ebbed with the arrival of Marshall, who took Winthrop to seven NCAA tournaments and turned down more than one BCS job before signing on with the Shockers.

“We were there for nine years,” Marshall said. “There were other jobs offered to me that were a little bit better, and I wasn’t interested. And I almost stayed at Winthrop. I had a 10-year contract on the table when I left. They were going to put my name on the court, but the caveat is I would have to be there 10 more years, and I didn’t want to do that.”

Instead, he wanted another challenge in a new environment.

Marshall rises from his seat during an hour-long interview in his office _ he’s always on the move, after all _ and starts pointing out mementos from his coaching career.

On one wall is a net from the championship he won as a player at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va., where he also got his coaching start. Nine more nets hang from nails on another wall, the seven Big South titles that he won with the Eagles along with his first Missouri Valley title at Wichita State and the NIT title that his Shockers won two seasons ago.

There’s a framed picture of him holding his son, Kellen, after Winthrop won its third Big South championship. The boy had predicted that the first team to 67 points would win, Marshall explained, and in the background the scoreboard reads, “Winthop 67, Radford 65.”

In the corner of Marshall’s office sits a surfboard from a trip to the Maui Invitational. Basketballs painted to mark milestones crowd a shelf behind his cluttered desk. The dry erase board is crammed with the names of potential recruits, the Xs and Os of a game plan, a breakdown of an opposing team’s roster and enough statistics to make a sabrematrician shudder.

Story Continues →