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Warning to schools interested in Gregg Marshall: It won’t be easy to pry him from Wichita State

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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Gregg Marshall and Demetric Williams (USA Today Sports Images)

LOS ANGELES — At a time when high-profile programs were gauging Gregg Marshall's interest in leaving Wichita State a few years ago, the Shockers coach had a conversation with two colleagues during the NCAA tournament that helped influence him to stay.

On one side of Marshall was Creighton coach Greg McDermott, who left Northern Iowa for Iowa State in 2006 and endured four straight losing seasons before returning to his Missouri Valley comfort zone. On the other side of Marshall was then-Nebraska coach Doc Sadler, who left UTEP for the Huskers job in 2006 and finished in the lower half of the Big 12 all six of his seasons in Lincoln.

"They looked at me and said, 'Be careful what you ask for,'" Marshall said. "That always stuck with me."

Marshall will surely be a hot name on the coaching rumor mill again this spring with Wichita State in its first Elite Eight since 1981, but the Shockers coach was candid after Thursday night's victory over La Salle why it won't be easy to entice him to leave.

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Seated in a folding chair outside his team's locker room, Marshall declared himself content in Wichita, noting he has a seven-figure salary, a house on a golf course, a supportive fan base and administration and a program formidable enough to contend for league titles and NCAA bids every year. The 50-year-old did not rule out leaving Wichita State if an elite program in a high-profile league showed interest, but he said he has turned down $2 million offers from major-conference schools in the past because he's not eager to mess with happy.

"I'm not in search of anything," Marshall said. "I've got a great life, great family, great community I live in, great school, great administration, great players. What more do I need? More money? That's the only thing. We can obviously make runs in the NCAA tournament from Wichita State.

"This could be a destination job for me. Now it may not be, but I'm just saying I'm not in a big hurry and I never have been."

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Gregg Marshall (USA Today Sports Images)

Whereas it used to be rare for coaches at mid-major programs to spurn more lucrative offers from schools in higher-profile leagues, Marshall's mindset reflects how that has changed in recent years. Like Marshall, Butler's Brad Stevens, VCU's Shaka Smart, Harvard's Tommy Amaker and Valparaiso's Bryce Drew have all rebuffed interest from major-conference programs within the past few years.

One reason for the increased reluctance to jump jobs is elite programs from non-BCS conferences are now paying seven-figure salaries, upgrading their facilities and chartering flights to road games in hopes of enticing their coaches to stay. Between the smaller gap in salary, the greater job security and the fact programs like Butler, VCU and George Mason have shown it's possible to reach a Final Four without playing in a power conference, it's easy to see why athletic directors are having a harder time prying coaches away.

Marshall cites his hardscrabble background as one of the reasons he passed on interest from Nebraska last spring and NC State the previous year.

Having played for Hal Nunnally at Division III Randolph-Macon College in Virginia, Marshall doesn't have ties to a Division I program or major coaching tree that he can fall back on should he make a misstep in his career. He calls former College of Charleston coach John Kresse a mentor after working under him from 1988 to 2006, but Kresse retired more than a decade ago.

"I don't have a parachute," Marshall said. "I didn't play big-time Division I. My dad's not a coach. I don't have a guy that's going to place me in certain spots. If I fail, I go straight to the bottom."

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Nonetheless, Marshall will probably have another decision to make this offseason with jobs at USC, Minnesota and UCLA already open and the domino effect likely to lead to more vacancies.

Already an attractive candidate after taking Winthrop to seven NCAA tournaments in nine years and winning a league title at Wichita State last season, Marshall has probably saved his best coaching job for this season. The Shockers (29-8) are one upset of Ohio State away from reaching their first Final Four since 1965 despite graduating their five leading scorers from last year's team.

The ability to make a run like this and the support he has received from the Wichita community only reaffirms Marshall's contentment at the school.

"I don't care if you pay me $2 million or $3 million. If I go home and I'm losing, it's no fun," Marshall said.

"There is value in being loved. There's value in walking down the street and people going, 'There's our coach. He's a great coach.' I don't want my children having to go to school and getting ridiculed with all the crazy stuff people say. That's not worth an extra $200,000 or $400,000 to me. My kids will have bragging rights at Wichita schools."

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