Mid-Major Magic

Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall is regarded as one of the top mid-major coaches in the country, and he is a potential candidate for the Wolfpack.

Gregg Marshall began his coaching career as an assistant at his alma mater, Randolph-Macon College, where he spent two seasons before heading to Belmont Abbey for another year.

It was here that he got his big coaching break. With an opening on his staff, College of Charleston head coach John Kresse hired Marshall as an assistant, where he would stay eight years. During Marshall's time there, the Cougars received an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament in 1994 and consecutive NIT invitations in 1995 and 1996.

He also landed several highly-regarded in-state prospects including Marion Busby, Thaddeous Delaney, and Indiana Pacer point guard Anthony Johnson.

In 1996 Marshall left the College of Charleston and served as an assistant coach at Marshall University for two seasons, as he helped guide the Thundering Herd to the 1997 Southern Conference championship.

Following the 1997 season, he was hired to build a program at Winthrop.

In Marshall's first year as a head coach on any level, Winthrop compiled a 21-8 overall record including a 9-1 Big South Conference slate and the school's first NCAA Tournament appearance. Winthrop's improvement of 14 victories over the 1997-98 year was one of the biggest turnarounds for NCAA Division I programs.

Marshall also directed the Eagles to a school-record 12-game winning streak during January and February. He did this despite having his team picked to finish last in the conference in nearly every poll and national publication. He was rewarded by being voted the 1999 Big South Coach of the Year.

"He really turned it around," Winthrop AD Tom Hickman said prior to Marshall's final season at the school. "I think he put our program to where, I think at least, we have the best program in our league.

"It really provided a shot in the arm for the entire department and other programs. I think that's due to a lot of the exposure we've got from the men's basketball program."

A four-time Big South Coach of the Year, Marshall won six regular season titles and seven tournament titles at Winthrop, leading the team to seven NCAA Tournament appearances and the program's first NCAA win in 2007 (a victory over Notre Dame). He finished his career at Winthrop with a 194-83 record, and a 104-24 mark in the Big South.

Following the 2006-2007 when Marshall led Winthrop to 29 victories and a perfect 14-0 Big South record, he left the program to take over as head coach at Wichita State, one of the top mid-major programs in the country.

Marshall built on his reputation as a program builder at WSU. Taking over a team that had finished sixth in the Missouri Valley, things started slow for Marshall as WSU finished 11-20 and 4-14 in his first season.

However, the next year his team won 17 games and reached postseason play (CBI Tournament), and he followed that up with 25 wins in 2009-2010 and has accumulated 27 wins thus far this season. In four years, Wichita State's overall wins and conference wins have increased each year, showing the progress the program is making under Marshall.

The Shockers have yet to reach the NCAA Tournament under Marshall, but came very close this season and have made it to the final four of the 2011 NIT with a 27-8 record and a 14-4 mark in the Missouri Valley Conference.

He's accomplished nearly everything you can ask him to do at the mid-major level, outside of a lengthy NCAA Tournament run. It appears the time has come for Marshall to get the chance to showcase his coaching abilities in one of the premier conferences in the country. Will NC State give him that opportunity?

What Makes Him A Viable Candidate?
He's young, he's a fiery competitor, and he has had a great deal of success at Winthrop and Wichita State.

What sticks out the most about Marshall is his competitiveness. Cocky and arrogant, Marshall is confident in his abilities and has the track record to suggest he should feel that way.

"He was relatively young when we first hired him, and he is an emotional-type coach both on the floor and off the floor," Hickman said. "He shows that enthusiasm in our department and staff meetings, and I would say he's just a very enthusiastic person."

Marshall, 48, still has his best coaching days ahead of him. He has 13 years of head coaching experience and also spent several seasons on the bench as an assistant under legendary mid-major head coach John Kresse. Marshall has plenty of time left to build a major power, and he fits Yow's stated criteria that she wants a coach who could be in Raleigh for a long time.

Also, Marshall has built multiple programs, which is a definite plus. He created a dynasty at Winthrop, developing it into the premier program in the Big South Conference. In his final season at Winthrop, the Eagles finished No. 22 in both the AP and Coaches' Final Polls. All four regular season losses came to Top 25 opponents, with two of the games decided by single-digit margins. He left Winthrop in much better shape than it was in when he inherited it.

Marshall is in the process of doing the same at Wichita State, and he has shown that he has what it takes to lay the foundation for a successful program and sustain that success after reaching the pinnacle of his conference.

He makes roughly $925,000 at Wichita State, so if NC State is interested then financially it could definitely work. Marshall has recruiting ties in the region and given he has spent nearly all of his career in the south he could be looking to return from the midwest.

What Makes Him A Longshot?
Several reasons. First of all, his personality has been mentioned as a potential concern. He can clash with the media and his cocky persona doesn't go over well with athletic directors. There were reports that he had poor interviews in previous years and that is why he didn't leave for a high-major job when he was at Winthrop.

His lack of postseason success is also an issue. In seven tournament appearances, Marshall won just one NCAA Tournament game at Winthrop. Granted, any victory for Winthrop would be a huge upset, but that has been the calling card for mid-major coaches looking to move up.

Mid-major coaching candidates are judged by what they do in March. Look no further than Steve Donahue (Cornell), Sean Miller (Xavier), and Darin Horn (Western Kentucky) who used stellar showings in the Big Dance to land high-major jobs at Boston College, Arizona, and Seton Hall respectively. Marshall was able to win a game his final season at Winthrop, defeating Notre Dame, but has yet to even reach the NCAA Tournament in four years at Wichita State.

Finally, there are concerns over can he recruit well enough to win in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Marshall has never coached on the high-major level, and he's never even been associated with a high-major program.

Does he have what it takes to land elite talent, the talent needed to win banners in the ACC? Can you handle the media, the boosters, the pressure and expectations that comes with managing a high-major program?

Pack Pride's Take
It's a risk, but if you're going to go the mid-major route, Marshall is certainly one of your best options.

A lot is made of postseason success, and it is certainly important, but regular season success is just as important as well, particularly on the mid-major level. Some feel winning big consistently against even competition is more impressive than stringing together a couple of upsets in March, and Marshall has consistently been amongst the best of his peers, whether at Winthrop or Wichita State.

Notable head coaches such as Ben Howland, Jim Calhoun, and Jay Wright had a total of two NCAA Tournament wins (both by Calhoun) as mid-major coaches, but they had consistently strong programs and that translated over to the next level for them.

When programs swing for the fences during coaching searches they normally strike out and end up inking a mid-major coach. Those coaches are risks, but all coaches are. What Marshall has proven is that he will build his program and he will win a lot of games, and at a relatively young age he still has plenty of upside.


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