On Thursday, Wichita State basketball coach Gregg Marshall talked about a seamless transition with the promotion of Chris Jans to associate head coach.
Later that night, Jans called. He needed to see Marshall right away.
“He comes over,” Marshall said. “He said ‘I know this is terrible timing, and if you tell me not to pursue this, I won’t.’ ”
Jans told him that New Mexico State wanted to talk to him about its vacant head coaching job.
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At that point, many thoughts flashed through Marshall’s brain. His desire to help a friend beat back his disdain for the hassle of hiring and the pressing need to deploy a full staff for recruiting periods this month.
“I’m thinking about a guy who’s given us nine very good years,” Marshall said. “I told him that because it’s a head coaching job, I think we need to pursue it and you need to pursue it.”
On Monday, New Mexico State hired Jans, 48, and Marshall is happy for his trusted former assistant.
“We want to see our coaches and our players achieve their dreams and aspirations,” Marshall said. “That’s what we preach. When we’re successful, things like this happen.”
Jans spent the past two seasons at WSU, in 2015-16 as a consultant and in 2016-17 as a special assistant to the head coach. He was a member of Marshall’s original staff at WSU in 2007-08 and was promoted to associate head coach in 2011.
“You don’t receive these opportunities without a lot of help,” Jans said during a news conference in Las Cruces, N.M. “I worked for (Marshall) for nine years. I was fortunate to work alongside the best college basketball coach in the country.”
Jans coached the 2014-15 season at Bowling Green. Bowling Green fired Jans on April 2, 2015, after an incident at a bar near the Ohio school’s campus. Jans acknowledged acting inappropriately toward some female patrons.
“He made a very bad decision when he got his opportunity three years ago,” Marshall said. “He’s a different guy. He’s made some real improvements and changes in his life.”
Jans thanked Marshall, WSU president John Bardo and athletic director Darron Boatright for giving him another chance. He thanked Bowling Green for his chance in 2014.
“I let them down,” he said. “I had an incident that I’m not very proud of. I failed that night.”
Jans also said he want didn’t want to let that mistake define him.
“I made a decision I was going to fight back,” he said. “People will give you a second chance.”
Marshall’s coaching tree grows again and in some ways the story is similar to former Shockers assistant Steve Forbes. He spent two seasons at WSU after a brush with the NCAA as part of Bruce Pearl’s issues at Tennessee in 2011. Forbes coached in junior college for two seasons before Marshall hired him in 2013.
Two seasons later, Forbes became head coach at East Tennessee State.
“We’ve been Reclamation State U.,” Marshall said. “Those are talented guys who are both well on their way to having head coaching successful careers.”
New Mexico State athletic director Mario Moccia worked at Southern Illinois from 2006-14, where he watched Jans help build the Shockers into a strong Missouri Valley Conference program.
Moccia said he consulted with Marshall and Boatright during the hiring process and their recommendations convinced him to consider Jans. He also talked to Creighton athletic director Bruce Rasmussen, who told him that Creighton offered Jans an assistant coaching position recently.
Jans will replace Paul Weir, who spent one season as head coach at New Mexico State before New Mexico hired him away last week.
Jans’ departure comes at a bad time for Wichita State. The Shockers face an important recruiting period, starting later this month, during which coaches will work toward rebuilding a roster that is scheduled to lose seven seniors in 2018. Jans replaced Greg Heiar, who went to LSU early last week.
The last two weekends in April are an evaluation period where coaches are allowed to travel and watch tournaments across the nation.
To demonstrate the urgency and the amount of work ahead, Marshall, on the road recruiting Monday, said one of his cell phones is dead and his second is busy in use.
On the other hand, the hiring is another plus for Marshall’s growing coaching tree.
Jans joins Earl Grant, now at the College of Charleston, from Marshall’s original WSU staff now leading programs. And there are other former Marshall assistants from Winthrop and WSU, such as Forbes, Drexel’s Zach Spiker, Dana Ford at Tennessee State and Charleston Southern’s Barclay Radebaugh, in the first chair.
“There’s only 351 of them out there,” Marshall said.
Brown remains undecided — Gary Brown, father of WSU senior-to-be Zach Brown, said his son has not decided on declaring for the NBA Draft.
No matter what he decides, Gary Brown said he expects his son to return to WSU for his senior season. Zach Brown, a forward from Houston, can declare for the draft and retain his eligibility if he does not hire an agent.
“My instincts tell he’s going to return,” Gary Brown said. “He loves the program. He wants to help Wichita State win a championship.”
Teammates Shaq Morris and Markis McDuffie have declared for the NBA Draft without hiring an agent.
Both did so with Marshall’s approval.
“Those players deserve the opportunity,” Marshall said. “The only thing I don’t want them to do is screw up their eligibility.”
All three athletes submitted requests to the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee for information about their status as a professional prospect.
Sunday is the deadline to declare for the draft as an early entrant. Players who do not sign with an agent are allowed to return to school if they pull out of the draft pool by June 12. The NBA Draft is June 22.
Early entrants give themselves the ability to participate in NBA workouts before making a decision. The information can also be valuable to an athlete contemplating a future in other professional leagues. Taking this step has become increasingly common in recent years, even for players who largely intend to return to school.