Whenever Gregg Marshall is wooed by another university to come and take over its basketball program – pretty much every spring now – there is a sense from some Wichita State fans that he won’t leave.
Because it’s not what Lynn wants.
Lynn is Marshall’s wife of nearly 21 years and the common feeling in these parts is that she loves Wichita. And because she loves Wichita, Gregg will not leave.
It’s true that Lynn Marshall loves Wichita. What she really loves is the way Shocker basketball fans have embraced the Marshall family — Gregg, Lynn, Kellen and Maggie — in a way she never expected.
“I don’t think I’ve ever bonded with a group of people the way I have with our fans and our friends in this city,” Lynn Marshall said. “Personally, I just feel like I really connect with the people here. They’ve made us feel welcome from the time we got here.”
If a parade rolled through downtown Wichita every day, the Marshalls would be perpetual grand marshals.
It’s a city gone bonkers because of the success of Shocker basketball. And while Gregg, the coach, is the driving force, the magnetic Lynn, who grew up in a rural area of Washington, is the wildly popular First Lady of WSU hoops.
She’s at every home game and many that are played on the road. She is mild-mannered by day but an arm-waving, referee-disbelieving, 100 percent fan when the Shockers are in action.
“When I’m watching, I don’t think of anything except the game,” she said. “I don’t think about who’s there or anything like that. When I walk into that arena I get this feeling and it’s a very stressful feeling. You want to win and that’s the bottom line. There’s something that takes over your body.”
When Marshall was being courted by Alabama last week, Lynn said, there were moments when she thought they might actually be leaving for Tuscaloosa.
But visions of Wichita and the Shockers and the fans who have treated her and her family so well kept dancing through her head.
She said there was a time when the Marshalls nearly got on a private airplane and flew to Tuscaloosa. But before it could happen, a group of WSU boosters gathered at Flint Hills National Golf Club and helped put together a financial package that kept Gregg Marshall at WSU, where he’ll coach his ninth season in 2015-16 with a team that, if the pieces fall in order, could again advance far in the NCAA Tournament.
Lynn, who said she loves taking care of her family, their four Jack Russell terriers and a plush lawn and garden, was just getting off the phone with someone in the admissions department at SMU when a reporter contacted her this week.
Kellen, who will graduate from Trinity Academy in May, is enamored with SMU since meeting some golfers from the school last year during the dunk contest at the Final Four in Dallas.
“SMU is super expensive,” Lynn said. “I’m going to need to get on at Quik Trip.”
Yes, the wife of a man who just re-upped at WSU for seven years and reportedly more than $23 million, has a great sense of humor.
Lynn had a lot to say – most of it on the record.
On her hobbies: “I spend a lot of time in my yard and with my family. I love to cook. My focus in my life is taking care of my family. I’m also like some of those characters on the old TV show “Cheers,” when it comes to Tradition’s (Home) furniture store (Douglas and Hillside). That’s my hangout. I go there probably once a week but if you asked my husband he’s probably say two or three times per week. A lot of people know me now from Traditions and not so much from Wichita State. I’ve bought so much furniture from them that I don’t even have space in my house.”
On her playing days at College of Charleston, where she met Gregg when he was an assistant coach for the men’s team: “Gregg and I are exactly the opposite. He was a defensive player when he played, really tough. Obviously, he knows a lot about how to coach defense. And I was an offensive player. Could I run the play? Yeah, but it’s not like I could see all five positions at the same time. I was into score, score, score. When I really got yelled at I would start rebounding.”
On Gregg wondering if coaching women might be his best career path: “When he was coaching at College of Charleston, he said something about maybe going into women’s coaching. He didn’t think he was ever going to get an opportunity in men’s coaching. I told him, ‘Do not go into women’s coaching.’ I don’t think he has the mentality for it, or at least for dealing with someone like me. I told him that women start crying sometimes and he was like ‘What?’”
On what makes Gregg Marshall tick: “There are so many different facts to him. I think he’s a pretty smart guy and he has a personality for recruiting and meeting people in the community. He kind of has that personality to where he’s really good with people. And he’s so driven. One of our friends the last 20 years is a psychologist who lives in Washington but has worked with college kids his whole life. Probably 12 years ago he said to me, ‘Your husband is never really going to be content with his job.’ I wondered what he was talking about. But that’s him. He sees something and it’s like, ‘Well, I think we could do a little better.’ He’s always striving, never satisfied. He’s driven to succeed. That’s just who he is.”
On how long her husband will coach: “I want him to retire today. Oh man, I’ve told him so many times – this job makes my stomach hurt. I’m ready to retire but he says we don’t have enough money to retire. Come on, are you kidding me? I would say he’ll probably retire when he’s 60-something. But it’s really an unknown.”
On being competitive: “As soon as the ball was thrown up as a player, I was mean, very competitive. And when the game’s over, OK. It’s over. My uncle used to tease me when I was in the fifth and sixth grade about becoming a roller derby player because I was such a roughneck. I played football all through elementary and middle school at recess. All of my family is just horribly competitive – my dad, mom, kids, Gregg.”
On how spades, the card games the Marshalls play most often, sometimes crosses the competitive line: “We were on our way to Napa a couple of years ago with several couples and four of us started playing spades. It was me and our friend against Gregg and our friend’s girlfriend. Forty-five minutes into a three-hour flight and Gregg and I aren’t talking to each other.”
It’s the two-hour flight the Marshalls didn’t take – to Tuscaloosa – that indicates just how much they want to be at Wichita State and be a part of this community.
The money is crazy, Lynn said. She never dreamed she’d live in a big house and have all the amenities that come with being financially set.
She’s a farm girl at heart and the memories of a time when Gregg was making chump change to coach are still fresh in her mind.
After being interviewed, there was something Lynn Marshall thought she had omitted. Something she wanted to make sure people understand. Something that means more to her and her clan than the riches that come with success.
“Sometimes,” she texted, “a family just matches up with a community. And that’s what I think we have done. When you find something that you care about so deeply it’s hard to let go. I hope that makes sense.”