ATLANTA — Gregg Marshall sat in his office on the campus of Wichita State on a cold January morning, his familiar eye glasses set aside, and gazed at the championship nets nailed to the wall.
Every one of them represents a league title he won at Winthrop. Seven in all.
Seven times in nine seasons he took the tiny school in South Carolina to the NCAA tournament, and he insists that he would have been perfectly content doing the same thing for the better part of another decade. He’s not the sort to uproot his family, jump to the next best thing, the bigger job with the bigger salary, especially when they too often turn out to be a mirage.
So it took the right opportunity at the right time for Marshall to leave for Wichita State, where he now has the Shockers in the Final Four. And he insisted back in the quiet solitude of his office that it would take the right opportunity at the right time to pry him loose again.
“You can’t buy happy,” Marshall said. “Winning is important to me, and we’ve proven we can win here. And so it would have to be really, really special, and the timing would have to be right, and it’s not just me. It’s my players and the players I recruited and my family.”
There was a time not so long ago that Marshall’s steadfast dedication to the Shockers would have run countercurrent to big-time college basketball. The coaching ladder was one to be climbed until your arms gave out, until you reached the pinnacle of the sport — or until you fell.
So there was Louisville coach Rick Pitino, who will oppose Marshall on Saturday night at the Georgia Dome, skipping town after five years at Boston University to become an assistant for the New York Knicks. And there he was after just two years and an improbable Final Four run at Providence in the late 1980s, leaving to take over the same NBA team as its head coach.