Jon Teitel's Interview Series: Wichita State's Gregg Marshall

July 5th, 2010

Next up in CHN writer Jon Teitel's greatest coaches series is current Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall, who is considered by many to be the greatest coach in the history of Winthrop Basketball. Before leaving for the Missouri Valley Conference, Marshall established the Eagles as the standard in the Big South, making seven NCAA Tournament appearances and winning six Big South regular season titles. 

Jon Teitel: You spent eight years working under John Kresse at the College of Charleston. How did you like working with him and what made him such a great coach?

Gregg Marshall: He just knows how to coach basketball; he can recruit, manage people, do all the Xs & Os, etc.

JT: What are your memories of the 1994 NCAA Tournament (you received an at-large bid as a 12-seed but 17-year old freshman Tim Duncan had 16 points, 13 rebounds and eight blocks in a ten-point win for Wake Forest)?

GM: I took the Charleston assistant job in 1988 when we were an NAIA school and we had to wait eight years to receive an automatic bid to the tourney due to winning a conference title. We had a tremendous freshman of our own named Thad Delaney, and we went 24-3 that year against Division I competition. We were ahead for 37 minutes but Wake Forest made three three-point shots in the final three minutes to pull away. The game was much closer than a ten-point spread. Once Charleston became eligible for an automatic bid, they started making the tourney a lot.

JT: You coached at Winthrop for nine seasons and made seven NCAA Tournament appearances. How were you able to remain so dominant over such a long period of time?

GM: It is not easy; you have to recruit players who can make you better. Our administration helped make it a better job by improving everything from the facilities to the weight room to the office.

JT: In 1999 your team won its first Big South title and made its first-ever NCAA Tournament before losing to one-seed Auburn. How big a deal was it for the school to make the tournament, and was it just a case of Auburn being a more talented team?

GM: That Auburn team was unbelievable, as they were beating SEC schools by forty to fifty points thanks to guys like Bryant Smith and Chris Porter. Our team made a statement that we were going to compete for a championship every year. They were invested and wanted to win. I think someone calculated that an NCAA tourney appearance that year was worth about $2.5 million in publicity/revenue.

JT: What are your memories of the 2006 NCAA Tournament (Chris Lofton made a fade-away jumper with three seconds left to give two-seed Tennessee a two-point win)?

GM: He got the ball, took three steps, and the ball went in. We had every opportunity to win the game, but missed a few jumpers down the stretch. Lofton was a great player...but he traveled.

JT: In 2007 you became the first coach in Big South history to go undefeated in conference play. How were you able to keep your team focused every single game, and where does that accomplishment rank among your career highlights?

GM: We had a special group of guys who wanted to achieve great things. It was a veteran group that had previously been very close to advancing in the tourney, but they wanted to win, not just get there. We needed a good seed, as our highest in the past had been a 14-seed. We had no guarantees that we would get in as an at-large if we did not win our conference tourney. We played a bunch of great non-conference teams that year: North Carolina, Maryland, Wisconsin, etc.

JT: What are your memories of the 2007 NCAA tourney (Torrell Martin scored 20 points and had 11 rebounds as you became the first Big South coach to win a first round tourney game by beating Notre Dame, then lost to Oregon thanks to 22 points from Aaron Brooks)?

GM: Martin might be the best guy I ever coached at Winthrop but Craig Bradshaw outplayed Luke Harangody in that game as a senior from New Zealand. We also got a great performance from backup guard DeAndre Adams, which ended up being the last two college games he ever played due to his tragic death that summer.

JT: Soon after the tourney you decided to take the head coaching position at Wichita State. Why did you take the job, and what was the biggest difference between the two basketball programs?

GM: It was a tremendous opportunity for me and my family. It is a program where there are no excuses, as we have everything we need to compete and win. It is a great combination of "fiscal and physical", a team with a great history that is part of a great league.

JT: You had to overcome dual tragedies in the summer of 2007 as Wichita State recruit Guy Alang-Ntang collapsed and died during a pickup game you were at and Winthrop player DeAndre Adams died as a result of injuries sustained in a car accident. How were you able to deal with these devastating events, and what impact did this have on your role as a coach?

GM: During my second day on the job, my first official act was to go watch Guy play in a game. I had six scholarships and I wanted him to be one of my six, as it is hard to get a lot of good recruits in the month of April. I met him earlier that day; we shook hands and he was going to be a Shocker...then 45 minutes into the game he collapsed and died. I had never seen anyone take their last breath, so it was one of the most devastating things I have ever witnessed. On Mother's Day weekend, I heard that DeAndre had some brain trauma after running off the road, and he succumbed to his injuries one week later. I also lost my last grandparent that spring, as well as a next-door neighbor in South Carolina, so it was a very difficult summer.

JT: Your team plays a "50 Gap Defense", which is based on forcing tough shots and eliminating easy baskets. What is the secret to your defense, and how did you come up with that style of defense?

GM: This past year we played a little more in the passing lanes, but we do both. The guy guarding the ball is left on an island, but it helps eliminate penetration. I was having a hard time recruiting guards who could keep the ball in front of them, which is why I decided to use the same type of defensive philosophy that is used by guys like Dick Bennett and Tubby Smith.

The best coaches in Big South history:

Charleston Southern: Gary Edwards (1987-1996): 115-139, two-time conference Coach of the Year

Coastal Carolina: Russ Bergman (1985-1994): 149-112, two NCAA Tournament, four conference titles, three-time conference Coach of theYear

Gardner-Webb: Rick Scruggs (2002-2010): 87-122, one conference title, one-time conference Coach of the Year

High Point: Bart Lundy (2003-2009): 96-87

Liberty: Jeff Meyer (1988-1997): 134-127, one NCAA Tournament, one conference title

UNC Asheville: Eddie Biedenbach (1996-present): 181-202, one NCAA Tournament, four conference titles, three-time conference Coach of the Year

Presbyterian: Gregg Nibert (1989-present): 349-274, two conference titles, two-time conference Coach of the Year

Radford: Ron Bradley (1991-2002): 192-125, one NCAA Tournament, three conference titles, one-time conference Coach of the Year

Virginia Military: Charlie Schmaus (1976-1982): 75-90, one NCAA Tournament, one conference title, one-time conference Coach of the Year

Winthrop: Gregg Marshall (1998-2007): 194-83, seven NCAA Tournament appearances, six conference titles, four-time conference Coach of the Year