2013-14 RTC National Coach of the Year: Gregg MarshallPosted by Walker Carey on April 2nd, 2014
Rush the Court is releasing its season superlatives throughout this week. Our RTC All-America teams were released on Tuesday, while our National Coach of the Year is here today, and our National Player of the Year will be announced on Thursday.
The 2013-14 RTC National Coach of the Year Gregg Marshall has been a winner ever since his career commenced. The first stop in his journey was at Winthrop, where he quickly took an unknown program to unprecedented heights. In his nine seasons in Rock Hill, South Carolina, Marshall took the Eagles to their first seven NCAA Tournaments in program history. In 2007, Marshall’s squad finished the season in the AP Top 25 and advanced to the round of 32 with an upset victory over Notre Dame. Following that run, Marshall left Winthrop to take over at Missouri Valley Conference stalwart, Wichita State. In just his third season, the Shockers were NIT champions. One season later, they were back in the NCAA Tournament, and they haven’t looked back since. The nation finally took notice of Marshall’s magical touch during last year’s NCAA Tournament. As a #9 seed, Wichita State got past both #1 seed Gonzaga and #2 seed Ohio State on its way to an improbable Final Four berth. In the national semifinals, his Shockers put quite the scare into eventual national champion Louisville before succumbing late.
With many players from that team back in the fold this season, Wichita State did something no team had done since the 1990-91 UNLV Runnin’ Rebels. It entered the NCAA Tournament with an unbeaten 34-0 record. Like Marshall’s previous teams, these Shockers did not feature any McDonald’s All-Americans or other marquee recruits, but rather talented players such as Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker, Tekele Cotton, and Cleanthony Early who completely bought into Marshall’s system emphasizing team basketball. One of the most astonishing facts about Wichita State is that from January 11 through the MVC Tournament, the team won each of its games by at least seven points. The Missouri Valley, as a whole, did not provide Wichita State with enough competition on a nightly basis, but that should not matter. The Shockers went unbeaten and if accomplishing such a feat was so easy, why haven’t other great teams from non-power leagues routinely done it? Because it is nearly impossible.
Wichita State’s season came to an end when it was narrowly bested by a talent-laden Kentucky squad – the same Kentucky that did not recruit any of the current Shockers – in an epic round of 32 battle that will go down in NCAA Tournament lore.
“Were any of you guys recruited by Kentucky?”
Wichita State guard Ron Baker: “No.”
Wichita State guard Tekele Cotton: “No, sir.”
Wichita State forward Darius Carter: “No, I wasn’t either.”
(3/22 NCAA Tournament press conference from St. Louis)
Since John Calipari took the Kentucky job prior to the 2009-10 season, the Wildcats have represented the pulse of the recruiting world. Only in very rare situations has a major prospect not received interest (and reciprocated) from the Kentucky program during the recruiting process. Considering this, it seems logical to question how a team with zero major prospects out of high school enter the NCAA Tournament with a perfect 34-0 record and battle a team filled with McDonald’s All-Americans to the very end in a two-point loss that could have gone either way?
The answer is that Marshall coached these Shockers beyond their individual talent levels to play to the best of their abilities. To never once let up. To “play angry.” It should not be a surprise because Marshall has maxed out his teams since he became a head coach some 16 years ago. In a college basketball landscape where things have become greatly more individualized over the last few decades, teams like this season’s Shockers and coaches like Gregg Marshall are rare, and for that reason, they should be celebrated.
Also Receiving Votes: Tony Bennett, Virginia; Billy Donovan, Florida.