ATLANTA — Wichita State basketball coach Gregg Marshall likes to win and he likes to share winning with fans.
After victories, the Shocker locker room is often packed with kids (and some adults) invited to share the customary victory chant. While the NCAA Tournament is a bigger stage with more at stake, it hasn’t changed Marshall’s attitude toward enjoying the victories and inviting fans along for the ride.
“Why wouldn’t you enjoy this?” he said.
Not all coaches dance with the pep band and celebrate with fans so willingly. Not all coaches take on as many media requests as Marshall, who is grabbing almost every opportunity to talk about this ride. In front of the national media, he is drawing laughs and softening his image with his stories of working up through college basketball’s backroads.
When Thursday’s 15-minute news conference ended, he almost seemed disappointed.
In his first Final Four trip, Marshall appears intent on squeezing maximum enjoyment out of the experience.
“It’s an incredible ride,” said Lynn Marshall, his wife. “What’s not to enjoy? Over the last six years, we’ve made a lot of friendships with Wichita State fans and you see how happy they are.”
Wins are to be celebrated, no matter the time of year. Before each NCAA game, he takes time to look into the crowd and smile or lock eyes with key people. In Los Angeles, he acknowledged the hundreds of Shocker fans assembled behind WSU’s bench and grinned before turning to the game.
He knows how much Shocker basketball means to many of those fans. Earlier this year, a family friend died from pancreatic cancer. He told them Shocker games kept him going through his fight with the disease.
“He’s really, really proud to be the coach of their basketball team and take the team this far,” Lynn Marshall said.
Even future Shockers are noticing.
“After they beat (Gonzaga) and Coach Marshall was dancing — he had some nice moves,” said Ria’n Holland, a guard from North Carolina who signed with WSU last fall.
Marshall is proving that, in contrast to some coaches who might tighten up or clamp down in these stressful times.
“We’re going to enjoy it a lot when it’s over,” he said. “I’m not shirking my obligations as a basketball coach in my preparation for La Salle by doing the War Chant with the band in Salt Lake after a big win over Gonzaga. I think you can do both.”
Marshall’s happy tour of Salt Lake City, Los Angeles and Atlanta includes pumping up his school and adopted hometown at every opportunity. When asked about leaving WSU for a high-profile job, he turns the question into an advertisement for Wichita and WSU by dropping Pizza Hut, Koch Industries, entrepreneurship, aviation, Xavier McDaniel and the Shocker volleyball team into answers.
“To have the spotlight like this, we need to take advantage of it,” associate head coach Chris Jans said. “Coach is, rightfully so, trying to use this as an opportunity for greater exposure for our program.”
Marshall answered questions for Jim Rome, Doug Gottlieb and ESPN’s “Mike and Mike in the Morning” and “Pardon The Interruption.” An interview with Dan Patrick (for which Patrick later apologized) showed the hype isn’t all fun. Marshall is balancing preparing for the games with hundreds of demands away from the court.
“Part of my compensation from the university is to do TV, radio and print media,” Marshall said. “It’s a pretty big number, and I do it. But I told (athletic director Eric Sexton) he was going to have to pay me more next year for that.”