Mike Davis said one of the biggest distractions to his six-year run in Bloomington has been the constant speculation if he'd be back the following season or not. Winthrop's Gregg Marshall can sympathize, but for different reasons.
The soon-to-be former IU coach has faced yearly speculation about whether he'd lose his job at seasons' ends, while Marshall's success has resulted in his name being linked to coaching vacancies on an annual basis. In the last five years, Marshall has been rumored to be a candidate for vacancies at South Carolina, Tulsa, Tennessee and Virginia, and he's been kicked around as a possibility at both Cincinnati and Indiana this season.
What could be so intriguing about a coach from the little-known Big South Conference? How about some big-time success? In eight years at the Rock Hill, S.C., school Marshall has guided Winthrop to six conference championships and an amazing six NCAA tourney berths. That's quite a run for a school that comes from a conference that is always limited to just the one automatic NCAA bid that goes to the postseason conference champion.
Overall, the 43-year-old Marshall has compiled a 165-77 record and has won at least 20 games in five of his eight seasons. His last two years have been among his best, going 27-6 in 2004-05 and 23-7 this season. His squad earned a No. 14 seed a year ago and lost in the opening round to Gonzaga, while this year's team earned the Big South's automatic berth with a 51-50 win over Coastal Carolina over the weekend.
That sort of success has made him an intriguing candidate when jobs come open, but he's bucked the trend and remained at Winthrop. He signed a new deal last April that has him under contract through 2015.
"I get tired of the speculation," Marshall said last spring after signing the contract extension. "The players get tired of it. This is where I want to be."
That might be, but with the sort of success he's enjoyed he continue to get wooed by big-conference programs, and you have to believe that the time will come when the opportunity and money will too good for Marshall to say no. Indiana would certainly appear to fall into that category.
A native of Greenwood, S.C., Marshall spent eight years as an assistant at the College of Charleston (1988-96) and two years at Marshall (1997-98) before being named Winthrop's head coach in April, 1998.
What Makes Him a Viable Candidate: He hasn't done it in the national spotlight, but Marshall's success during his eight years is impressive. There isn't a major conference school that can claim six conference postseason championships in the last eight years, and Winthrop has to win the Big South Tournament Championship to earn its spot in the NCAA field year in and year out.
While Winthrop isn't on the level of a Gonzaga, it's obvious that's the model Marshall is trying to imitate to get his program on the national map. This season, Winthrop played the likes of Marquette, Alabama, South Carolina, Memphis and Auburn to get some national exposure and to try to prepare it for a better run in the NCAA tournament. Despite the six appearances, Winthrop has yet to win an NCAA game. A year ago it gave Gonzaga a scare before falling 74-64 in the first round.
Ultimately, Marshall is going to have to make the jump into a major conference if he wants to consistently have a chance to make a run in the postseason. It's just a matter of the right opportunity coming along.
What Makes Him a Longshot: He's never coached in the Midwest, and likely doesn't have any recruiting contacts in some of IU's most important areas, most notably Indiana, Illinois and Ohio. That's one of the critical elements to this hire for Greenspan – Indiana has to get back to being able to keep the best in-state players coming to Bloomington. While Marshall might have the personality to be able to do that – that's something I can't speak to – he'd have to put that on display in an interview with Greenspan.
HoosierNation.com's Take: Despite his success, he's a virtual unknown to most IU fans, and would lack the "splash" effect that Greenspan likely wants to make. Make no bones about it – there's a contingent of IU fans that wants Steve Alford to be the Hoosiers' next coach, and they likely won't be tremendously happy if the former IU All-American is passed over for someone who doesn't have a big name. Now, if Winthrop makes a run in the NCAA Tournament later this month and maybe goes to the Sweet 16, then Marshall will become a national name overnight and then perhaps he's a more viable candidate. But without that sort of national publicity, I don't see Greenspan going in this direction.
COACH SEARCH: Is Timing Right for Marshall?
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