”Shaka Smart will never leave VCU” was a popular narrative around college basketball. The Rams’ head coach had reportedly turned down truckloads of offers since their 2011 Final Four run and was keeping VCU’s business office busy with non-stop compensation adjustments.
Two years after Butler’s Brad Stevens, another man with a mid-major Final Four under his belt, exited the “Will He Ever Leave?” Club, Smart did leave.
Only one remains.
Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall, who also owns a rare mid-major Final Four appearance, has reportedly rejected multiple offers to leave the Missouri Valley for the bright lights of major conferences. Following the Shockers’ dominating NCAA Tournament second-round victory over Arizona on Thursday, we can only wonder if Marshall’s time in Wichita is dwindling.
Could an upperclassmen-led tourney run prompt him to finally leave? If so, here are a handful of potential landing spots for the highly sought-after Marshall:
Stillwater, Okla., is just a two-hour drive from Wichita and Marshall could maintain many of his relationships with high school and junior college coaches in the Midwest.
Longtime Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder made a somewhat similar hire in 2008 when he tapped a mid-major head coach in Travis Ford. Ford led UMass and Eastern Kentucky for a combined seven seasons (2000-2008).
Can Marshall do better than Oklahoma State? Yes.
This is obviously dependent on Rick Pitino leaving or being dismissed from Louisville, where an NCAA investigation into discretions by former staffer Andre McGee has placed significant heat on the two-time title-winning head coach.
It’s safe to assume Pitino, 63, has no interest departing college basketball under a cloud of suspicion. He could, however, have no choice if the NCAA slaps the dreaded “lack of institutional control” designation over his program and donors yank their support.
Louisville is a premier job that hasn’t been vacant since 2001. Ninety-five percent of head coaches in America would take an interview.
Gregg Marshall is not a west coast guy. Wichita State is his first job west of the Mississippi and he rarely courts pacific coast players.
Stanford is a little different, though. It’s an elite academic institution who, over the last decade, has proven they’re willing to step up athletic commitments. However, it’s still unlikely that Marshall’s compensation will be higher than it is now. Fired head coach Johnny Dawkins’ annual salary was rumored to be south of $2 million; Marshall earns about $3.3 million per season.
Don’t bet on it, but don’t dismiss the possibility.
Like Rick Pitino at Louisville, this is dependent on Roy Williams stepping down. Unlike Pitino at Louisville, Williams isn’t bracing for a potentially deadly NCAA investigation, even if North Carolina is still battling issues of their own.
Williams, 65, has rejected speculation on an impending retirement, routinely saying he has gas left in the tank. If the Hall of Famer opts to hang ‘em up, Marshall should earn a call from athletic director Bubba Cunningham.
It’s worth noting that Marshall grew up four hours southwest of Chapel Hill in Greenwood, S.C. He spent one season as an assistant at Division II Belmont Abbey (Charlotte), eight years as an assistant at the College of Charleston and nine years as head coach Winthrop (Rock Hill, S.C.).
Duke is almost identical to North Carolina. The Blue Devils know Mike Krzyzewski, 69, will announce his retirement in the next few years and will choose from a deep pool of candidates.
Obvious names are former Coach K assistants Steve Wojciechowski (Marquette head coach) and Chris Collins (Northwestern). If they opted for someone with no direct ties to the program, Marshall would be an intriguing fit.