Gregg Marshall won Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year because he can push his players, probe their weak spots and make them like and respect him for the trouble.
“He’s been on us so hard,” Wichita State junior forward Carl Hall said. “We get into it a lot, because he wants me to play hard, and he knows how good I can be. He’s always got your back, and he knows how to get the message across.”
Marshall, in his fifth season at WSU, led the 15th-ranked Shockers (26-4) to the MVC championship and a certain spot in the NCAA Tournament. He received 37 of a possible 40 first-place votes, adding another to a season in which he won No. 100 at WSU and No. 300 overall. Evansville’s Marty Simmons, with three first-place votes, and Creighton’s Greg McDermott tied for second.
Marshall spoke at the Valley’s annual luncheon that starts the conference tournament, praising his players, past and former assistant coaches and recognizing family in attendance. His first WSU team finished 11-20 and in ninth place in the MVC in 2008. A championship seemed a long way off, but only for a few months. By the next season, WSU improved to fifth and it became clear Marshall wouldn’t stand for losing long. WSU finished second in 2010 and 2011.
“I was reminded, walking in here, by a couple friends, what a difference five years makes,” he said. “That first year I remember looking at my staff and mentioning, as we were struggling through a very difficult season, that ‘If you guys don’t recruit me someone I can look up to, I’m going to fire each and every one of you.’”
The talent quickly improved and Marshall got the most out of his roster.
The luncheon provided a snapshot of how the Shockers won the MVC by two games. Center Garrett Stutz and guard Joe Ragland picked up their All-MVC awards. Hall got his hardware as Newcomer of the Year. They took home the Defensive Team of the Year trophy.
“These guys can make you look really good,” Marshall said.
The players say the same about Marshall.
“It’s been an honor playing for him,” Ragland said. “He challenges you daily. You can have a good game, and you think you can relax and the next day he’s challenging you. It’s his style of coaching, and it’s the reason why we’re so successful.”
Marshall is the fourth Shocker coach to win the honor, joining Ralph Miller (1954), Gary Thompson (1965), Eddie Fogler (1987) and Mark Turgeon (2006).