ST. LOUIS — Wichita State basketball coach Gregg Marshall impressed voters with his immediate reconstruction of the Shockers this season. In the view of Lynn Marshall, his wife, that job started by assembling a team that is easy to like.
It’s always been Marshall’s way to merge his family and his team. His home is a second home to many players and his wife and two children are often at practice and on road trips.
“This is maybe my all-time favorite team,” Lynn Marshall said. “I like being around them. They’re real people. They want to talk to you. They want to be out in the community, not just because they have to.”
With that support off the court, the Shockers did good things on the court and Marshall earned Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year honors for a second straight season. He guided the Shockers to a 24-7 record and second place in the MVC after being picked fourth. The Shockers lost four starters from last season’s MVC championship team. They survived injuries to four starters, two of whom have not played since mid-December.
“Off the court, he showed us how he was as a person,” WSU junior Cleanthony Early said. “You’re comfortable knowing he always has your back, regardless of the situation. On the court, he’s pushing you to get the best out of you.”
Playing for Gregg Marshall means playing for Lynn. She loves the fact freshmen Fred VanVleet and Derail Green came to her house this summer to swim. She makes soup for players when they get sick.
“They’re not too proud to say ‘Yeah, we want to come over,’ ” she said. “A lot of kids don’t do that.”
Gregg Marshall is the first to win the award in back-to-back seasons since Ben Jacobson of Northern Iowa in 2009 and 2010. He is the first Coach of the Year from the non-championship team since Northern Iowa’s Eldon Miller in 1997. He received 87 votes, 23 for first place, from MVC coaches, media relations directors and media. Creighton’s Greg McDermott finished second with 64 votes, 13 for first. Southern Illinois’ Barry Hinson and Marty Simmons of Evansville also received first-place votes.
“If I’m the Coach of the Year, what does that makes Marty Simmons — the Coach of the Decade?” Marshall said. “He swept me. They had a tremendous year as well.”
Marshall credited his players for surviving the injuries. Starter Carl Hall missed seven games with a broken thumb. Evan Wessel is out of the season with a broken finger. Ron Baker is recovering from a stress fracture and may play this weekend.
“Those guys were incredibly resilient,” Marshall said. “They were tremendous in their resolve.”
WSU started 9-0 before injuries started to hit. The Shockers ignored the troubles and improved to 15-1. They followed a three-game losing streak with five straight wins. They pushed preseason favorite Creighton to the final day of the regular season before losing in Omaha and finishing second.
“There’s no team that he’s ever coached that’s been more like him than this team,” Lynn Marshall said. “Toughness, passion. They’re just gritty.”
Marshall, 50, is 133-68 in six seasons at WSU.