‘The whole thing’s a surprise:’ Boatright discusses transitional phase for the basketball program 

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Joseph Barringhaus

Wichita State’s Director of Athletics Darron Boatright addresses fans at the State of the American pep rally.

It’s no secret that the upcoming basketball season will be a challenging one. 

One week ago Head Basketball Coach Gregg Marshall resigned from his position after a three-month-long investigation into misdemeanor allegations, the Shockers got a new head coach for the first time in 13 years, and the team had to pull out of their first game of the season due to multiple positive COVID-19 tests. 

Wichita State Director of Athletics Darron Boatright discussed this crucial time for the basketball program and all the new changes in an interview with The Sunflower Tuesday.

Boatright said that Marshall’s resignation and the events leading up to it came as a surprise to him. 

“I’m not really going to get into [the situation] but the whole thing’s a surprise and not something you ever want to be a part of,” Boatright said. “It just came down to it and we had to go through that process and this is the result. The whole thing’s been a surprise.”

WSU promoted Isaac Brown as the interim head coach for the 2020-21 season last week. Brown has been an assistant coach on Marshall’s staff for the past eight seasons and has 19 seasons of Division-I coaching experience.

Boatright said that Brown’s experience stuck out when choosing an interim head coach.  

“He knows the system as well as anyone else on the staff,” Boatright said. “I felt that he would have the support of the players, I felt that he’s a very positive individual, always trying to build the guys up. I thought they would respond pretty well to it. It’s a pretty natural fit for me, it just made a lot of sense.”

Throughout this tumultuous time for the basketball program, Boatright said that the players have handled it all very well and have remained professional throughout the process. 

“They’ve been very professional about the manner they’ve gone about all of this, including COVID, classes being online, practices being canceled,” Boatright said. “They’ve really dealt with a lot and they’ve had to deal with the coaching situation that they have. They’ve really had a professional mindset and it’s been pretty impressive.”

Boatright said that a coaching search will be something he’ll focus on closer to the end of the year. 

“What I want to focus on right now is supporting this group of kids and this group of coaches and seeing anything that I can do to help them,” he said.

The program was set to begin its season on Wednesday in South Dakota but had to pull out of the tournament due to multiple positive COVID-19 tests within the program. The Shockers are expected to return to Wichita on Tuesday. 

Boatright said that upon their return, the travel party will be retested and then will meet with the medical staff to determine the next steps.

“In terms of will we need to go into quarantine as a whole team if the whole team was exposed or if there were just a few that were exposed,” Boatright said. “We’ll have some decisions to make there but our medical staff and team doctors will make those recommendations for us.”

WSU was planning on playing three games at the Crossover Classic and now only have four non-conference games on the schedule. There is a possibility that WSU will add more non-conference games but all upcoming plans are relying on COVID testing results.

“We could [hold more games] but I just want to see with the testing if we’re even going to have that as an option,” Boatright said. “If we’re shut down then there’s no sense to even try and add non-conference games. We’ll just monitor that and make those decisions over the next couple days.”

The university announced this week that no fans will be allowed to attend games through Dec. 31. Boatright said that decision came from the city and county but that it will have a large impact on the athletic department. 

“It will have a tremendous impact, both financially and through the atmosphere of the games through December if we get to play,” he said.

With the financial implications, Boatright said they will use up some of the reserves that have been built over the years to help replace the fan-related revenue. 

“We’ll have to use up our reserves that we’ve accumulated over the years. Our chief financial officer has done a good job of any time that we’ve had money remaining at the end of the budget cycle, he’s done a good job of stocking that back and not letting us waste it for times like now. That’s the first place we’ll go.”