ATLANTA — Jim Schaus is in Atlanta. The man who hired Gregg Marshall, who became the man to lead Wichita State to its first Final Four in 48 years, will be wearing the green of Ohio University, though.
Schaus’ nine years as athletic director at Wichita State were, he says, among the best of his life. But he’s an Ohio man now, having left WSU in 2008 so that he could be closer to his father, Fred, who has since died.
"I certainly wouldn’t have missed this Final Four this year,’’ said Schaus, who is with some Ohio boosters. "I’m so ecstatic and excited for the university and the community. I certainly know how excited people in Wichita must be.’’
Schaus replaced Bill Belknap as Wichita State’s athletic director in July 1999, and almost immediately set about trying to fix the men’s basketball program, which had gone through 11 straight sub-par seasons.
After the 1999-2000 season, Schaus fired Randy Smithson and hired Mark Turgeon, who had been at Jacksonville (Ala.) State. Turgeon turned out to be the right man for the job and by the 2005-06 season, the Shockers were playing in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
When Turgeon left WSU for Texas A&M after the 2006-07 season, Schaus holed up and went about finding a replacement. He came up with Marshall, a coach he had been impressed with when the Shockers were playing in the first- and second rounds of the NCAAs in ’06.
Marshall’s Winthrop team was in Greensboro, N.C., too, and Schaus noticed how well-coached the Eagles were.
"When we hired Gregg at Wichita State, I felt like he had the ability and the pedigree that was just the right fit,’’ Schaus said. "I thought he had the aptitude to build on the success we had and at that point the high mark was the Sweet 16. Obviously, a lot of things have come together there to allow that program to continue to build and grow.’’
Schaus said he’s had fun watching the Shockers occasionally on television this season.
"Their depth and athleticism is impressive,’’ Schaus said. "To lose four starters from last season and the top five scorers — it’s just amazing what they’ve been able to do and it says a lot about program-building. I think Wichita State sent a strong message by winning at VCU early in the season. You’ve got to be a pretty tough team to be able to do that.’’
Might Schaus wander over close to Shocker fans today?
If not, he probably should. He’s as responsible as anyone for the revival of Shocker basketball with a great record of hiring. He’s 2 for 2.
"I’m going over to the games today with a group of people and we’re not sitting in the Wichita State section,’’ Schaus said. "But I certainly would love to get a chance to say hello and to see some folks. We haven’t been back to Wichita for five years. We’ve thought about it a number of times but we lead busy lives and have busy jobs.
“But every time we do catch a game on TV, my wife and I try very hard to look and see who we recognize. We have a lot of friends in Wichita. And a lot of fond memories.’’