Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall largely escaped questions about job openings in Salt Lake City.
Then he came to Los Angeles, where UCLA and Southern Cal are looking for coaches. The national media looked at his resume and wondered, “Why would you stay in Wichita, where running water is scarce and the risk of bison stampede is high?”
Marshall, 50, answered their questions in largely the same way he has in recent years. He talked about how much he likes his current job, while stopping short of guaranteeing an eternal stay in Wichita.
“Doing my job has always, for me, been the No. 1 goal,” he said. “We live well in Wichita. We love Wichita. Everything is in place for us to be there for a long time. By treating this job, as I did with Winthrop, like it’s the Celtics or the Lakers in L.A., it’s taken care of us. So we’ll deal with anything like that when it comes along.”
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Marshall, unsuccessful in his efforts to convince the national media that Kansans don’t live in mud huts and travel by covered wagon, went into more details.
He talked about Koch Arena and its practice gym, its offices, its locker room and the fans who fill the seats. That locker room, Marshall said, is scheduled for a renovation in the off-season. He talked about an administration that isn’t interested in a football team taking resources away from hoops. He talked about the volleyball team making the Sweet 16 and the women’s basketball team making the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s a tremendous athletic department,” he said. “Great city. We’re not named South Central Kansas State. We’re Wichita State. We’re the hometown team and we don’t compete with NBA, NFL, Major League Baseball or college football.”
He talked about unlimited use of a private plane for recruiting and a budget that lets him do what he wants for his program.
“They’ve never told me, ‘No,’ ” he said.
He also educated the national media on Shocker basketball history.
“Great players,” he said. “X-Man (Xavier McDaniel) and Antoine Carr and Dave Stallworth, Cliff Levingston, Cleo Littleton, and on and on. Cal Bruton. We’ve been to the Final Four. We’ve been to the Elite Eight.”
After Thursday’s game, he told Yahoo.com that he turned down $2 million offers from schools in past years. He also said conversations with Creighton coach Greg McDermott, formerly at Iowa State, and Doc Sadler, who left Texas-El Paso for a failed stint at Nebraska, influenced his thinking.
"I’m not in search of anything," he said. "I’ve got a great life, great family, great community I live in, great school, great administration, great players. This could be a destination job for me. Now it may not be, but I’m just saying I’m not in a big hurry and I never have been."
California connection — Marshall is continuing to be asked about his level of interest in the UCLA coaching job, and Friday that gave him a chance to talk about his friendship with Jim Harrick, who led the Bruins to their last NCAA championship, in 1995.
Harrick blended in among WSU’s fans Thursday at Staples Center, wearing WSU’s colors and cheering for the Shockers. His relationship with Marshall began when Marshall was an assistant at Marshall University for two years. The coach there, Greg White, knew Harrick.
Marshall said he is attempting to sign Harrick up for the annual golf tournament in Wichita that helps raise money for travel and other expenses.
"Jim Harrick treated me like I was a BCS head coach," Marshall said. He was so nice to me (and) my family, so friendly, so fun, so outgoing. We’ve gotten together at the Final Fours when I was a young assistant coach. He would pick up the tab. He was just tremendous, and I’ve always tried to include him anytime that I can."
Marshall’s tab — Marshall, who has already earned $204,000 in bonuses for reaching the Elite Eight, will earn another $136,000 if the Shockers win Saturday.
Three wins and a national championship would bring his total postseason bonus to $612,000.
Money, money — WSU is making it rain NCAA units for the Missouri Valley Conference.
Each NCAA game played (referred to as a unit) is worth roughly $1.57 million, from NCAA distributions, to the MVC. Creighton earned two units. WSU has four, with potentially one more (the Final Four is considered one). Those six units are worth around $9.6 million to the MVC.
WSU will get a larger distribution than the other schools to help pay for its travel expenses in the tournament.
That money is paid out to MVC schools over a six-year rolling process. Creighton, leaving the MVC for the Big East, leaves behind its NCAA units.
The Valley brought in three units from 2012 and three in 2010. It played one game in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
Since 2000, Southern Illinois is the MVC’s biggest money-maker, with 11 units. Creighton (9) is second, followed by WSU (8) and Northern Iowa (7).
Fresh look — WSU freshman Derail Green knows how he will describe this season, depending on how Saturday’s game goes.
To this point, the highlight was the win over No. 1 Gonzaga in Salt Lake City.
“We beat the No. 1 team in the country,” Green said. “That doesn’t happen a lot.”
Green, a forward from Houston, is redshirting this season. The NCAA Tournament has lived up to his expectations.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said. “It stinks because I’m not playing, but it’s still fun.”
Right place to dress — Ohio State’s LaQuinton Ross, the hero of Thursday’s win over Arizona, claimed Kobe Bryant’s locker in Staples Center.
Bryant is known for his big shots. Ross added one to his list with a game-winning three.
“I knew I called dibs on (his locker) early,” Ross said. “To find out I had that locker, it felt great. That’s one of my favorite players growing up and somebody I model my game after.”
Honor men — Marshall shared National Association of Basketball Coaches District 16 Coach of the Year honors with Creighton’s Greg McDermott.
There are 24 districts and seven winners are current or former MVC coaches: Saint Louis’ Jim Crews (Evansville), Kansas State’s Bruce Weber (Southern Illinois), Western Illinois’ Jim Molinari (Bradley), New Mexico’s Steve Alford (Missouri State), Oregon’s Dana Altman, Marshall and McDermott.
MVC winning big — The proliferation of postseason tournaments is turning March into a big month for the MVC.
WSU is in the Elite Eight. Evansville and Northern Iowa are in the semifinals of the Collegeinsider.com Tournament.
The Valley is 12-3 in postseason games, trailing the Big Ten’s 15 wins. The Valley’s winning percentage of .800 matches the West Coast Conference among conferences with five games.
Evansville plays at East Carolina on Friday. UNI plays host to Weber State on Friday. The Panthers eliminated Bradley in Tuesday’s quarterfinals with a 90-77 win.
Early arrival — During Friday’s news conference, Marshall recounted the story of bringing high-profile junior college recruit Cleanthony Early to the Shockers last year. Mother Nature played a role.
Early was taking his recruiting visit to WSU while a major storm was taking place in Early’s native New York. The visit was scheduled to end after two days but no flights could get Early home and Early’s mother was apprehensive about him traveling in bad weather, anyway.
The Shockers requested and received a waiver from the NCAA to extend Early’s visit. That allowed Early more time in Wichita, more time with his future teammates, and more time to be sold on coming to WSU.
"He got to know our players very, very well — liked them, liked our staff," Marshall said. "We ran out of things to show him. I mean, our visit was over. But that ended up working to our favor. It was a long, long visit that the NCAA had to continue to approve him staying in Wichita, but we couldn’t get him home."