WICHITA, Kan. — There are some coaches in college basketball who always seem composed. They may be churning below the surface, but outwardly theyre calm, keeping everything bottled up until a player makes an errant pass or an officials call goes the other way.
Gregg Marshall is not one of those coaches.
The sixth-year coach of Wichita State is the fly that fell in the can of Red Bull, perpetual motion personified. He stalks the sidelines in his jet-black suit for 40 minutes every night, his screaming voice augmented by his flailing arms and stomping feet. Hed be wasting his time if he wasnt talking to four people at once calling for a sub, conferring with an assistant, ripping a referee, all while ordering up the next play.
We dont always do things perfect, and when we dont, he can get loud, admitted Carl Hall, a senior forward. But he just wants to win. Thats him. Hes all about winning.
Hes been doing plenty of that lately.
The Shockers rose to No. 20 in the polls and first place in the Missouri Valley after a dramatic win over then-No. 12 Creighton last Saturday. Now at 18-2 after beating Missouri State on Wednesday night, theyre well on their way toward a fourth straight season of at least 25 wins, and their second consecutive NCAA tournament berth.
Theyve beaten mid-major darling VCU on the road, Iowa on a neutral floor and Southern Miss another NCAA tournament-bound team at Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita.
Theyre also perfect at Koch Arena, their raucous on-campus home.
Since Ive been here, weve been first or second in the Valley. Weve always had winning teams, said Demetric Williams, a senior guard. Thats our expectation.
Even when injuries ravage the team, that didnt change. Three starters went down during a week in December, and only Hall has returned. Sharpshooter Evan Wessel had season-ending surgery last week, and versatile guard Ron Baker isnt expected back until February.
Not that it matters much to Marshall. Hell coach whoever is on the floor.
Its pretty incredible what Gregg Marshall has done in his time there, Creighton coach Greg McDermott said, with his personnel changing every year it seems.
I enjoy all my teams, Marshall said, but some are a little harder to deal with, some a little more reluctant to accept coaching. But the other day, I found myself really enjoying practice. And Im not a smiling, happy-go-lucky guy at practice. Its a time to work, to improve, to get better. But the other day, I thought, Man, this is fun.
Thats a sentiment echoed by folks all over town.
Marshall took Winthrop to seven NCAA tournaments and turned down more than one BCS job before signing on with the Shockers.
We were there for nine years, Marshall said. There were other jobs offered to me that were a little bit better, and I wasnt interested. And I almost stayed at Winthrop. I had a 10-year contract on the table when I left. They were going to put my name on the court, but the caveat is I would have to be there 10 more years, and I didnt want to do that.
Instead, he wanted another challenge in a new environment.
Marshall rises from his seat during an hour-long interview in his office hes always on the move, after all and starts pointing out mementos from his coaching career.
On one wall is a net from the championship he won as a player at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va., where he also got his coaching start. Nine more nets hang from nails on another wall, the seven Big South titles that he won with the Eagles along with his first Missouri Valley title at Wichita State and the NIT title that his Shockers won two seasons ago.
Theres a framed picture of him holding his son, Kellen, after Winthrop won its third Big South championship. The boy had predicted that the first team to 67 points would win, Marshall explained, and in the background the scoreboard reads, Winthop 67, Radford 65.
In the corner of Marshalls office sits a surfboard from a trip to the Maui Invitational. Basketballs painted to mark milestones crowd a shelf behind his cluttered desk. The dry erase board is crammed with the names of potential recruits, the Xs and Os of a game plan, a breakdown of an opposing teams roster and enough statistics to make a sabremetrician shudder.
Marshall insists hes not a sentimental person, despite all the keepsakes. But that would help to explain why he spent so many years in Rock Hill, S.C., and why hes turned down offers to leave Wichita State for higher-paying jobs in marquee conferences.
Besides, Marshall said, he has a seven-year contract in the seven figures that rolls over every year, and theres something to be said for stability. Another good recruiting class is coming in next season, and with a few returning stars, the Shockers momentum appears to be building rather than petering out.
Is it possible that Marshall will move on someday? Sure. Maybe even this year. But it would take the right offer in the right place, and it would have to come at the right time.
You cant buy happy, he said with conviction. Winning is important to me. Weve proven we can win here. And so it would have to be really, really special.