In Marshall They Trust: Shockers had faith their leader wouldn’t leave them


Gregg Marshall is a household name in the city of Wichita. He’s the man who led his team to eight straight NCAA tournaments, a Final Four in 2013, and a perfect regular season in 2014.

But recently, Marshall has had a fair share of misfortunate events come his way. In 2017, for the first time, he lost a player due to academic reasons. That same year, six seniors graduated, Landry Shamet traded up for the NBA as an underclassman, and the team’s third-best three-point shooter, Austin Reaves, transferred.

Marshall recovered the best way he could. He stacked last season’s roster with 11 newcomers, including seven true freshmen. One bright accusation was West Virginia transfer Teddy Allen, who was moving to be closer to his support system in Nebraska. But the bright outlook would suddenly dim down.

Wichita State didn’t come out of the gate fast. For the first time in Marshall’s tenure, the team dropped their opening game of the season. Four-star freshman Chance Moore stepped away from the program and Allen wasn’t granted a waiver of eligibility from the NCAA. Then, from Dec. 22-Jan. 26, the Shockers lost seven of eight games, dropping their overall record to 8-11. 

When everything was looking down, Marshall worked tirelessly to coach his team out of the hole they were in. WSU won nine of their last 11 games to round out the regular season. 

In the American Athletic Conference tournament, they walloped East Carolina and got their revenge on Temple after a historic collapse at home earlier in the year. The late-season magic eventually ran out at the hands of eventual-champion Cincinnati, a game in which the Shockers came up one possession shy of forcing overtime for an appearance in the AAC title game.

Marshall was emotional after the game against the Bearcats. With tears in his eyes, he sat outside of the locker room on a stool and addressed the small group of media members who made the trip down to Memphis.

“There’s been disappointment. There’s been shortcomings. There’s been doubt,” Marshall said in March. “But the way that they have handled not only their business but the example that they’ve set for the young players — for me, as a 56-year-old man, has been incredible.”

With the recent hot streak, Marshall was hopeful to make the National Invitational Tournament. After all, it was in his mind at the beginning of the season. With the official invite coming, his team responded with another push.

Marshall’s squad won three straight away games against the No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3 teams in their region to punch their ticket to New York City and a chance to play in historic Madison Square Garden.

Marshall’s coaching abilities were on display to a national audience in the postseason, posing a potentially dangerous situation for the program.

Before the final buzzer against Lipscomb sounded, social media was buzzing. Multiple unverified sources asserted that Marshall was being linked to potential head coaching jobs ranging from Virginia Tech and Arkansas. 

Later on, Allen, who didn’t suit up during the 2018 season, was dismissed from the team after a domestic dispute over the summer. Allen had been expected to take the crucial leadership role from recently graduated Markis McDuffie. 

Given circumstances, Marshall’s departure could seem imminent.

On April 23, The Athletic’s CJ Moore published an article that gave clarity to those rumors and ended up being true.

Wichita State pays Marshall just over $3.5 million a year for his duties. In a previously secret offer, Moore confirmed in his piece that the Razorbacks did make an offer to the Shockers’ leader. A lucrative deal that could guarantee Marshall roughly $1 million more per year.

Had Marshall accepted the offer, he would have been the third-highest paid coach in the nation, per USA Today.

But he was content. His team’s hot streak and demonstrated potential at the end of the year likely factored into Marshall’s decision to stay in town.

“He’s really ambitious. He really wants more and more and more,” senior center Jaime Echenique said. “He’s not just going to give up against adversity. Like yeah, last year was a tough year for us, but he never gave up. He always kept teaching, kept coaching, and always had us learning.

“That just shows how great he is and how he’s not ever going to give up against adversity.”

Echenique said he tried not to look too far into the potential departure. He said his own recruitment process gave him the assurance he needed to know his coach wasn’t going anywhere. 

“You know, during my recruitment process, there was also a lot of speculation like, ‘Oh, he’s going to leave. He’s going to go to Louisville, or somewhere else,’” Echenique said. “But when you see this man, he’s built a legacy here, and he doesn’t want to throw that away. I think he has so much expectation in this program that he doesn’t feel the need to move.” 

Sophomore Isaiah Poor Bear-Chandler said Marshall’s decision to stay meant a great deal on a personal level. He said it shows that Marshall trusts the potential of his returners and incoming players.

“Honestly, it shows how much he really cares for us, and how much we care for him for having him stay with us,” Chandler said. “He’s one of our leaders. I just feel like he has a lot of potential to show this year with this group of guys.”

Echenique, Chandler, and sophomore point guard Jamarius Burton agreed that they didn’t believe for a second that Marshall was leaving.

“I can describe what he feels here with one word: ‘Love,’” Burton said of his coach. “He loves this place. He loves this fan base and he loves this program.

“Wichita is his home.”