Gregg Marshall: Sticking with the Shockers.
The word from Wichita is that Gregg Marshall is staying put. From what we can gather, he and Wichita State have come to terms - at least in principle - on some contract changes (presumably more money). He is no longer a candidate for any coaching vacancy.
The news comes as a bit of a surprise to some. Not so much that Marshall will remain in Wichita, which was always a possibility - but that in their opinion South Carolina never appeared to have made a serious run for his services. For example, Wichita Eagle sports columnist Bob Lutz has expressed some puzzlement over why USC never made an overture to Marshall. Likewise, The State's top basketball reporter, Andy Shain, has openly questioned whether USC ever approached Marshall at all.
The inescapable implication, from their perspective at least, is that Marshall may have been willing, but that South Carolina Athletic Director Eric Hyman passed him by.
On the other hand, the Post & Courier's Sports Editor Gene Sapakoff thinks it simply boiled down to the fact that Carolina would not meet Marshall''s salary ask - saying that Marshall wants to be wanted, but that Hyman wouldn't or couldn't pay him $1.8m or higher for seven years. Likewise, 107.5 The Game's Heath Cline sees this as Marshall withdrawing his name from a job he wasn't getting right now (though Cline seems to be saying it had more to with contract length than just dollars and cents).
It's likely we will never know for sure whether Eric Hyman made a meaningful effort at hiring Gregg Marshall. Either way, the revelation that Marshall is out of the hunt for the USC opening is bit of melancholy news - at least for me. And for some of you, too, I suspect.
After all, Marshall has been on our minds for years.
More than a few Gamecock fans thought that Marshall - the former Winthrop coach who had just taken over the Wichita State Shockers in 2007 - was the best candidate for the USC job when it opened up in 2008 following Dave Odom's "retirement." With all his success in Rock Hill (heading up a program he built from nothing into a giant-killer and perennial NCAA Tournament team) plus his Palmetto State roots, the five-time Big South Coach of the Year seemed tailor-made to succeed Odom. Marshall had even once been quoted as saying South Carolina was his "dream job."
Of course, Eric Hyman ultimately chose Darrin Horn - then a "hot" mid-major coaching prospect fresh from a Sweet 16 run with his Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers. The conventional wisdom was that Hyman held some sort of personal antipathy for Marshall; in fact, that still remains the c.w. after four years - which, again, is something we will probably never know is true or false.
Even with Horn at the helm, many USC fans continued to invoke Gregg Marshall's name as the one guy who might be able - and willing - to reverse the meager fortunes of Gamecock hoops, which had gone into steep decline after Horn's first season in Columbia. As the Shockers seemed to improve each year under Marshall - compared to the way the Gamecocks seemed to regress under Horn - the Greenwood native was the the guy we wanted on the sidelines at the Colonial Life Arena in place of the passionate but apparently star-crossed former Hilltopper.
Where Horn didn't seem to "get" us, we felt that Marshall would. Where Horn seemed to alienate the local basketball community, we felt sure Marshall would right the ship. We were Marshall's dream job, after all. For many of us, Marshall became our dream coach.
In fact, so many USC partisans talked openly about Marshall as a "savior," that a fair-sized and vocal minority of the fan base became adamantly opposed to the Shockers' coach - questioning his abilities and whether he could do better than Horn. Some of the arguments got heated; the back-and-forth over Horn versus Marshall on the boards often got downright ugly. As much of a distraction as it turned out to be, it all became water under the bridge once Eric Hyman surprised us by terminating Horn.
When the news broke that there would be a new coach in Columbia, Marshall seemed like a better fit now even more than he had been before; the Shockers had won the 2012 Missouri Valley regular season crown, and made it back to this year's NCAAs after winning the NIT in 2011. He had proven he could take another squad back to March Madness. Plus, the Shockers were a senior-laden team which might be expected to take a small step backward next season, so if there was ever a time for Marshall to return to his home state (and his wife's home state, too), this was the time, wasn't it? Best of all, we had the money to pay him now. Or so we thought.
But it was not meant to be. He's not coming home. And all of the energy we expended in debating the point - both pro and con - is now moot. For the second time in four years, we're not going with Gregg Marshall.
Maybe we'll get a "better" coach. Maybe we won't.
Maybe we'll look back on this day as yet another "coulda, shoulda, woulda" in a program that exemplifies the old saw of never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Or maybe our next hire will be the one who solves the puzzle of Gamecock hoops that has agonizingly eluded every South Carolina coach who has followed the legendary Frank McGuire.
I'm not angry at Eric Hyman. If Marshall priced himself out of our league, then that's on him - not Hyman. And if Hyman truly could not work with Marshall - for whatever reason - then perhaps it's for the best that Marshall stays in Wichita. After all, a dysfunctional A.D.-H.C. relationship (e.g., Mike McGee and Eddie Fogler) can set back a program for years, and the South Carolina men's basketball program is already on life-support as it is. Eric Hyman has cast his lot with USC and done amazing work on our facilities upgrade; we have to accept his judgment on this issue because, frankly, we have no choice. He's not going anywhere any time soon. We shouldn't want him to, either.
All that being said, I still feel like Carolina has somehow lost something. And I have a feeling it's going to be a hard feeling for me to shake - regardless of who we hire in Marshall's stead.
Best of luck to Coach Marshall and Wichita State.
After all - who knows if our paths will cross once-more in the future?