I’m the most casual college basketball fan there is, so when I say I don’t have Gregg Marshall in my list of elite coaches, it isn’t meant to be disrespectful. What it means is that, as a casual basketball fan, I really only know about the biggest programs: Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, and UCLA. Or the programs in my region: Indiana, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Cincinnati. Wichita State isn’t a program I hear a ton about, in fact I’ve said in the past that I wish mid-major programs would stop ruining my NCAA tournament. To some degree this still holds true. No matter how good Cinderella becomes, she isn’t something that I - a “basketball elitist” (who’s very casual) - wants to see year after year. So, when I hear about a random guy named Gregg Marshall from Wichita State which is in the same state as the Kansas Jayhawks considering a “crazy offer” from a non-basketball, but huge Power 5 school like Alabama I sit up and pay attention.
Now let’s break this down a bit: if you love the SEC, Alabama is biggest most-dominate team in college football. If you hate the SEC, then Alabama is second to either Ohio State (legit) or your team (LOL). But when we think of hoops, Alabama is among one of the most laughable programs in the Division I. Alabama’s last two tournament appearances came in 2012, and all the way back to 2006. Alabama’s last appearance in the Sweet 16 was in 2004.
In general, I think we can agree that if your team makes it to the Sweet 16, you’re tournament appearance is considered successful. Everyone has different bars of success, but the Sweet 16 is a good standard.
We know the Crimson Tide are not good at basketball. So, why the need to all of a sudden backup a medium-sized Brinks truck to a guy in Wichita, Kansas and hope he’ll make his way south? Bruce Pearl. Yes, it’s that simple. As Seth and Bird talked about on the SEC 411 podcast this week, Pearl taking Auburn to the third round of the SEC tournament changed everything in Tuscaloosa.
In Alabama, it’s all about either Alabama beating Auburn or Auburn beating Alabama, and even though the Crimson Tide beat the Tigers twice this year, had Alabama continued with Anthony Grant as their head coach my guess is that Auburn would have won at least one of those games in route to a Sweet 16 run in 2016.
This begs the question still though, why Gregg Marshall? Easy – he’s been successful at a mid-major program and almost anyone can be made available for enough money. Scuttlebutt says Alabama is willing to START the negotiations at $3 million dollars per year for his services and will force Marshall to say ‘no’ to Alabama.
If you’re Marshall, what’s keeping you in Wichita? At this point the only thing that keeps you there is loyalty. There’s literally no way the Shockers are going to outspend Alabama unless Alabama lets them, and at that point you should being sending yearly Christmas cards to everyone in Tuscaloosa if you stay in Wichita.
The bigger point is, haven’t you proved enough? Isn’t it time to take on the next challenge? At 52, Marshall isn’t getting younger and this might be his now-or-never moment.
Something else for Marshall to consider: when thinking about his own legacy, what defines success for him and what could he do at Alabama to improve or wreck his legacy? Spending 10 years building something in Tuscaloosa, making several NCAA tournament appearances in a row, winning an NIT championship, being near the top of the SEC standings, and beating Auburn every time would do nothing but improve your legacy.
Spending 10 years spinning your wheels, making a token NCAA appearance based on the Marshall name alone, and getting throttled by Bruce Pearl even once per year and it’s possible you’ve become the most expensive bust that Alabama has ever hired. Yes, I’ve heard of Mike Shula.
Marshall can cite his family, and his love for the people of Wichita, and his desire to beat Kansas and lead a mid-major program to Promised Land, but reality says he’ll never have the resources in Wichita State that he will at Alabama. For some, that’s reason enough to stay, but when you throw in a minimum of $3 million dollars per year, then the decision becomes easy.
Gregg - if you’re looking for a moving company, I’ve used Mayflower and they’re excellent.