Regardless of whether Gregg Marshall was ever summoned to any superior’s office at either of the two Division I schools where he has served as head men’s basketball coach, he cannot say he wasn’t warned.
We are slightly more than a month past the 20th anniversary of the dismissal by Indiana of Hoosiers legend Bob Knight, perhaps the most gifted basketball coach in the game’s history. It was a decision rendered somewhat reluctantly by a university that had countenanced his often inappropriate and occasionally cruel behavior, but reached a breaking point when video was made public by CNN earlier that year showing Knight striking IU guard Neil Reed in the throat.
Every college coach in every sport was on notice from that point: If the best there is can lose a job over unacceptable methods, so can you.
To use the word “unacceptable” to describe what Stadium’s Jeff Goodman reported in regard to Marshall’s recent work at Wichita State is to euphemize more than warranted. According to Stadium, Marshall twice punched a player during an October 2015 practice, choked assistant coach Kyle Lindsted during a practice the following season, used racially and ethnically insensitive language and body-shamed another player.
Shaquille Morris, a 6-8, 280-pound center who played 134 games for Marshall at Wichita State — averaging 14 points and 5.6 rebounds his senior year — was the player Marshall struck during that 2015 practice. His anger initiated after Morris, then a sophomore, committed a foul that sent a Shockers player to the floor. After Marshall struck him the first time, Morris told Stadium, he turned to leave the gym; Marshall approached from behind and hit him again.
According to the report, NBA champion Fred VanVleet, then a senior star with the Shockers, made it known he would not allow the team to practice unless Marshall apologized to Morris.“I love my teammates, the city and Wichita State,” Morris told Stadium. “But if I could go back to that day when he punched me, I would have left.”
Goodman also reported that, upon learning of Stadium’s investigation, Wichita State hired a law firm, Tueth Keeny of St. Louis, to examine the program.
Yet as shocking as the allegations are, you will have a difficult time finding anyone in college basketball who is surprised. By the specific charges? Sure. But Marshall’s sometimes difficult disposition hardly was a secret.
He made it quite public in an embarrassing display during an August 2016 exhibition tour game at McGill University in Canada. Apparently unhappy with the physical play of the opposition, Marshall charged onto the court and fought through the attempted restraint of several players and assistant coaches to individually confront each of the three game officials. It took over a minute to get him off the court.
Wichita State’s remedy? Athletic director Darron Boatright suspended Marshall. For the last game on the Shockers’ exhibition tour.
Not exactly a zero-tolerance policy, right?
In the immediate aftermath of the Montreal incident, Bob Lutz, columnist for The Wichita Eagle, wrote this: “Marshall is a beloved coach in Wichita and for good reason: He’s engaging, charitable, witty and charming. But he has a trigger and the explosions should be filmed by National Geographic.”
Marshall is an extraordinary basketball coach. He owns a 525-204 record in 22 seasons, which includes 14 NCAA Tournament bids and a trip to the 2013 Final Four. His 2013-14 team compiled a 34-0 regular season and became one of only 19 teams — and the first in over two decades — to enter the NCAA Tournament with a perfect record. He was named national Coach of the Year by nearly every major selector that year, including Sporting News. Marshall’s success led to Wichita paying him $3.5 million annually to keep away suitors from more powerful and prestigious conferences.
As impressive as that resume might be, however, it never will compare favorably to Knight’s. And we saw how that story ended.
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