Coaches We Hope Stick Around… But Won’t Blame If They Don’t

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 26th, 2015

Ah, late March – the most worrisome time of year. There will be firings, hirings and anxiety over whether several beloved mid-major coaches finally make the leap. Nothing like the smell of pink slips and greenbacks in the morning. With the carousel already fully in motion, let’s take look at a few of the most highly-coveted O26 coaches out there and why they should stay put… but why we also won’t blame them if they leave. [Note: We don’t include Shaka Smart on this list because we hope he’s entering Mark Few O26 lifer-status.]

Gregg Marshall – Wichita State

Here's to hoping Gregg Marshall is a lifer. (David Eulitt / Kansas City Star)

Here’s to hoping Gregg Marshall is a lifer. (David Eulitt/Kansas City Star)

  • He should stay! You know what Wichita State has that Alabama doesn’t (besides Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker, of course)? A Final Four banner. Better yet, two Final Four banners. In fact, the Shockers probably have a better basketball program than the Crimson Tide from top to bottom – history, community support, momentum, etc. – and they don’t fall far behind in terms of compensation, either; Marshall’s base salary is $1.85 million this year, not including incentives. The eighth-year head coach has already led his team to a #1 seed, a Final Four appearance and a Sweet Sixteen, accomplishments he’s sure to build on next season if VanVleet and Baker stick around. Plus, how would he “Play Angry” at a power program? That ethos depends on perceived disrespect and thrives on an underdog mentality, which I’m not sure he could manufacture at a revenue mill like Alabama or Texas.
  • Why we wouldn’t blame him… If someone backed up the Brinks truck and said, “Just give me a price,” how would you react? At some point – regardless of landing spot – the monetary offer becomes too eye-poppingly good to pass up. According to CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish, Alabama is willing to offer Marshall “in excess of $3 million per year,” which would put him among the very highest-paid coaches in the game. If the Texas job opens up, the ‘Horns might offer something similar. That’s serious money and both schools’ available resources can back that up.

Steve Prohm – Murray State

  • He should stay! Cameron Payne – one of the best point guards in college hoops – is only a sophomore. Sharpshooters Jeffery Moss (11.1 PPG) and Justin Seymour (45% 3FG) are also set to return next season. Prohm, who has gone 104-29 since taking over in 2012, should continue winning big for the foreseeable future. Murray State’s fan base is among the strongest at the mid-major level, and the 36-year-old coach signed an extension through 2018 just last summer. Stick around, Steve!

  • Why we wouldn’t blame him… The line between March glory and Selection Sunday heartbreak can be razor-thin for mid-majors, a reality which Prohm knows all too well; after going undefeated in conference play, Murray State’s NCAA Tournament hopes were dashed by a ridiculous Taylor Barnette three-pointer in the Ohio Valley championship game (and its NIT Final Four hopes were dashed by an even more ridiculous Trey Freeman three-pointer last night). At some point, the anxiety of an entire season’s worth of work boiling down to Championship Week must wear on a coach. Also, if Marshall doesn’t take the Alabama job, there’s a good chance that Prohm – a Crimson Tide alumnus – would become a prime candidate.

Michael White – Louisiana Tech

All Michael White has done is win at Louisiana Tech. (allfortennessee.com)

All Michael White has done is win at Louisiana Tech. (allfortennessee.com)

  • He should stay! White signed a six year, $3.6 million extension last offseason before spurning Tennessee, which must be a sign that life is pretty good in Ruston. He’s also young – just 38 years old – and in four years at the helm has amassed a 101-39 record and three Conference USA regular season titles. Considering his age, his Louisiana roots (White attended high school in New Orleans) and the fact that his dad [Duke] and brother [Buffalo] are both athletic directors, what’s the rush? With those coaching chops and those connections, you’d have to think top gigs will always be out there.
  • Why we wouldn’t blame him… Like Prohm, White knows the pain of winning 25-plus games and dominating your league only to falter in the conference tournament and miss out on the chance to Dance; it’s happened to Louisiana Tech three years in a row. On top of that, the spry coach will be without Conference USA Player of the Year Kenneth ‘Speedy’ Smith (7.5 APG), second-team all-conference guard Raheem Appleby (15.1 PPG) and all-defensive team center Michale Kyser (2.7 BPG) in 2015-16. If the perfect offer arises, maybe it’s time to go.

LeVelle Moton – North Carolina Central

  • He should stay! Moton could become synonymous with North Carolina Central much the same way Mike Krzyzewski is with Duke – which would really be unique, considering both schools are located in Durham. In a matter of six years, the former NCCU shooting guard has elevated the program from the depths of Division I basketball – in 2010, the Eagles were a 7-22 Independent – to back-to-back 25-plus win seasons and a berth in the 2014 NCAA Tournament. After going 31-1 in conference play since the beginning of last year, Moton has a chance to gain legend status at NCCU if he continues turning his alma mater into a MEAC powerhouse.
  • Why we wouldn’t blame him… It’s incredibly difficult to win big – or remain relevant – in the MEAC. Moton did receive a hefty raise last season, but his base salary [$250,000] still pales in comparison to what he’d get at a larger program. At some point, you have to strike when the iron is hot, and – after receiving looks from Florida Atlantic and Marshall last spring – the iron might be hotter than ever this offseason.

Brad Underwood – Stephen F. Austin

  • He should stay! Underwood – 61-8 since the beginning of last season – is off to one of the greatest two-year head coaching starts in college basketball history. He also waited two-and-a-half decades before receiving his first head coaching gig, which – at 51 years of age – you have to wonder will be his last. Not that 51 is too old to move up the coaching ladder, of course, but why mess with immediate, profound success?  More importantly, why mess with success when you’ve just signed a long-term contract worth nearly $400,000 per year? It doesn’t get much better than that at the mid-major level, especially in a league like the Southland. Keep winning, keep breaking records and keep making life hell for power conference foes in the NCAA Tournament.
  • Why we wouldn’t blame him… He’s 51 – why wait around any longer? After being pursued by Southern Miss last offseason, one would think Underwood’s stock has only risen in the time since. Even if he doesn’t take another job this spring, it would be hard to blame the guy for leaving if Kansas State opens up in the next couple years; the longtime assistant spent six seasons in Manhattan under Bob Huggins and Frank Martin.
Tommy Lemoine (215 Posts)


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