Unless you’ve been living under a rock for a week, you know that Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall in some really hot water right now. KSR wrote about the initial allegations made last Thursday, followed by the school’s response on Friday.
Still, maybe it’s because it’s Wichita State. Or that we’re in the middle of the NFL and college football season and the NBA Finals just ended. But it feels like this should be a bigger story. One of the most successful coaches of his generation is entangled in a nasty controversy, with players accusing him, on the record, of everything from racially charged comments to punching a player.
PUNCHING A PLAYER! How is this not a bigger story?
Regardless, even though KSR has kept you updated on this story, I wanted to take you on a deeper dive into this Marshall stuff. Not only on what has already happened, but also what could happen going forward.
Here is everything you need to know about the Gregg Marshall situation at Wichita State.
How did this all start?
Considering that this story broke right in the heart of Thursday night’s Buccaneers-Bears game, it would have been easy to miss most of the pertinent details.
Because of it, here is a quick rundown (much of which, many of you probably already know thanks to the previous post on this site).
It all started with an initial report by The Athletic, one which disclosed that Wichita State was in the process of conducting an internal investigation into Marshall’s behavior in and around the program. The investigation is already underway, with both current and former players being interviewed by a third party firm. The Athletic’s report said that the investigation stemmed from two separate incidents – one in which Marshall shoved former Wichita State forward Shaq Morris in the back in 2015, and another in which he got in a verbal confrontation with a student who was using his parking space a year later in 2016.
As we later found out however, the reason that Wichita State had already launched an internal investigation is because Stadium’s Jeff Goodman was working on an even bigger report, which he dropped on Thursday night as well.
It’s worth noting that these are still all just allegations. But here are just some of the accusations of Marshall’s misbehavior from the Stadium report.
- An accusation by Shaq Morris that Marshall not only shoved him in 2015, but that he punched him as well. Morris spoke to Goodman on the record (in other words, he attached his name to it) and another teammate confirmed, on the record, that the incident happened as well. Several teammates also told Goodman the incident happened, without attaching their name to the allegation.
- Another allegation stated that Marshall choked former Wichita State assistant Kyle Lindsted during the 2016-2017 season. Lindsted denied comment to Goodman.
- Furthermore, Marshall is accused of making a racially insensitive remark to Isaiah Poor Bear-Chandler, a current player who is of Native American descent. In the comment, Marshall told him “to get back on his horse,” per the report.
- Marshall also allegedly made a racially insensitive remark to former player Jamie Echenique, who was born in Colombia, that “a great coffee bean picker” because of his struggles to catch the ball
- The coach also allegedly made a comment to former wing Erik Stevenson that he was afraid of African-American teammates. After passing up a shot in practice one day, Marshall was alleged to have said: “I think you’re afraid of brothers, guys raised by their grandparents eating PB&J’s.”
Again, those are just some of the allegations made in Goodman’s report.
But the bottom line is, they aren’t good.
What prompted the investigation by Stadium??
While this is speculation on my part, the Goodman report said that Stadium had been working on the report for six months. To me, that date is important for one very simple reason: Six months ago is when all hell broke loose in Wichita.
Again, this is just speculation on my part, but if you can think back to six months ago, two important things happened as it pertains to this story. The first, was that the NCAA Tournament was cancelled. The second was, that the day after the NCAA Tournament was cancelled – at a time when most people were hesitant to do much of anything – several Wichita State players put their name in the transfer portal. Within a week, six players total had entered the portal (in Marshall’s defense, one player did decide to return to the school).
Now at this point, it’s easy to say “Yeah, but transfers happen everywhere.” What was different about Wichita State however was this: Two of their top three scorers (Stevenson and Jamarius Burton) entered the portal, as well as Grant Sherfield, a highly-touted freshman who was third on the team in minutes played.
Therefore, while transfers happen at every program, it was hard to argue that Wichita’s transfers happened because of playing time or shots taken. Instead, the mass exodus led just about everyone in college basketball to ask the question “What the hell is going on at Wichita State?” because it certainly felt like something much bigger than basketball.
It appears as though it was.
Should we have seen this coming?
In defense of all of us, be it fans, media or anyone in between the answer is both “yes” and “no.”
On the one hand, the exodus of players essentially confirmed what has been a talking point in college basketball back circles for years: That Marshall is hard to deal with. In his defense, in the two times I’ve spoken to him for stories, he’s always been really gracious with me. But again, these were the conversations in the back channels of college basketball. At best, people would use the term I dropped above “difficult to deal with,” or that his temper could run hot from time time.
And there was plenty of other anecdotal evidence to confirm that as well.
There is of course the run in that this very website had with the Marshall family at the NCAA Tournament a few years ago.
I will remind everyone that @DrewFranklinKSR was threatened by the NCAA to lose his media pass and approached by a Security guard to be kicked out of the arena simply for posting a video of Gregg Marshall’s wife screaming at officials
— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) October 9, 2020
There is also this video of Marshall getting ejected from a preseason exhibition game in Canada that has made the rounds the last few days. While plenty of coaches have been ejected and had to be held back by assistants (including yes, John Calipari) this seems like another level. Especially considering it is a preseason, mid-August exhibition game.
And finally, while it isn’t apples to apples to the stuff above, there is the question that has largely hung over Marshall for most of his last few years at Wichita: How has a guy this successful, not gotten an opportunity at a bigger program?
Now, there are some logical answers to that question. For a school that was in the Missouri Valley until a few years ago, the gig pays insanely well. Marshall made $3.5 million last season according to USA Today, which put him 15th nationally and ahead of guys at traditional college hoops powers like Archie Miller (Indiana) and Sean Miller (Arizona), as well as Tony Bennett, who was coming off a national championship last year. There’s also the fact that Wichita recently moved to the AAC which allows them to compete more easily for at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament.
Still, even with the money that Wichita is paying him and the upgrade in conference three seasons ago, it doesn’t fully explain why Marshall has never gotten a bigger look at better job. While Marshall has publicly campaigned for a handful of jobs in the past (most notably Texas) and others appeared to at least be interested (including Arkansas just two off-seasons ago), as best I can tell, the biggest job he’s actually been offered is Alabama.
Sure, there might be other official offers we don’t know about. But the bottom-line is that you’d think that a guy with Marshall’s success, which included seven straight NCAA Tournament’s from 2012-2018, would have been in higher demand.
It feels like this is at least part of the reason why?
So what’s next?
As KSR wrote on Friday, Wichita State is in fact in the middle of an internal investigation. The investigation has already been launched and has already included interviews with current and former players, current and former staff members and Marshall himself.
According to the statement by the school, “activities of the team will continue as scheduled” until the conclusion of the investigation. In other words, practices will go on. And Marshall remains the head coach.
Has Marshall responded?
Yes, Marshall put out a detailed response via his agent on Friday. You can read the whole thing here, but the important part to know is this: Marshall doesn’t deny that he can be a gruff, sometimes demanding coach. But he sold himself sort of being a tyrant or out of control, saying:
“Many players thrive in the system we have created and are energized by our team culture,” Marshall wrote in the statement. “For those players, I am a motivator, a pusher, someone who can tap into their greatest potential. For others, I can be demanding, harsh or strict. I don’t argue with those descriptions.
“What I am not is demeaning or abusive. I have deep respect for all my players. I believe unequivocally in their value as athletes, as students, and as people. Any portrayal of me to the contrary is wrong.”
Has anyone come to the defense of Marshall since this article came out?
While the allegations don’t look good, it’s important to note that several players have come out to the defense of Marshall.
Nick Wiggins, whose two years at Wichita State in 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 overlapped with the two most successful of the Marshall era (a Final Four in 2013, an undefeated regular season, before a loss to Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament in 2014) spoke out on Twitter, refuting both the allegations of racism or verbal abuse.
Here he is on the verbal abuse, and if you read to the end, he discusses the racial allegations as well.
About the verbal abuse… if you ever been on a good team, adversity hits. Either you strong enough mentally to get through it or you will fold. If a coach says something to you, he cares about you/ sees potential. If he doesn’t say anything at all, y’all know the rest 😂💩
— Nick Wiggins (@Wiggys__WORLD) October 10, 2020
All the players/ writers/reporters lying and saying he was a racist, cut the shit. 💩💩 idk what 30+ former players/coaches you talked to @GoodmanHoops GM doesn’t have a racist bone in his BODY.
— Nick Wiggins (@Wiggys__WORLD) October 10, 2020
Cleanthony Early, who was also part of the 2013 and 2014 teams quote tweeted Wiggins, and essentially confirmed what he said.
There are a handful of others who have chimed in as well, but I’ll save you the laundry list of tweets. Just know that there are people out there defending Marshall.
There are two things that are probably worth noting.
One, the players who have spoken out in favor of Marshall all played at Wichita before any of the incidents alleged by Goodman happened. So while they are speaking in generalities about their time at Wichita, they can’t speak to any of the specific allegations against Marshall as it pertains to the incidents in 2015, 2016 and beyond.
Two, as best I can tell, none of Marshall’s most prominent players have spoken out in his defense yet, including Fred VanVleet (Toronto Raptors), Landry Shamet (Los Angeles Clippers) or Ron Baker, a former NBA player who now plays overseas.
So what’s next and will he survive?
The short answer is “I just don’t think so.” And to be clear, I’m generally not “fire everybody” guy. I try to look at both sides to every story and come to my own conclusions, without falling in line with common group think.
But with that said, this is bad. Really, really bad.
Understand that the verbal abuse is one thing. Whether anyone wants to admit it or not, yelling – in some form or fashion – is a part of how most coaches actually coach. Many yell, swear, scream whatever – and that’s just how it’s always been in sports. I’m not just talking about Gregg Marshall here, but Nick Saban, Tom Izzo, John Calipari, Rick Pitino, Jim Calhoun, Kirby Smart, on and on and on and on. Some of the best to ever do it were and are yellers.
Still, it’s one thing to yell and drop a swear (or 10) and it’s another to be accused of the racial slurs that Marshall was said to have dropped. Yes, players have come to his defense and said he’s not a racist. Yes, Marshall claims that everything he has said is in the name of motivation. But you can’t make the comments about Native Americans or Colombians that Marshall was accused of making and expect to keep your job. Again, these are still allegations. But there seem to be quite a few people willing to confirm that all of the things that Marshall is accused of saying, were actually said.
Beyond that though is the physical stuff. Just like the racial stuff, Marshall can claim it was a “motivational tactic” until the cows come home. But understand that Marshall is accused of punching a player – and both the player and multiple teammates claim that it happened. This isn’t just one rouge guy that’s upset. This is four, five, six people saying that an incident of physical violence happened.
In the end, a coach can survive a lot of things. But physically punching a player isn’t one of them. Bob Knight couldn’t. Woody Hayes couldn’t. And Gregg Marshall sure as hell won’t.
Yes, there are two sides to every story. And yes, I believe that Marshall should be allowed to present his to the investigators. I also think think this investigation is largely being done so the school can cover its grounds legally, eventually fire Marshall with cause, and not pay him any of his buyout that would be owed.
Marshall might survive the week.
He might survive into the season.
But once the investigation is complete, I wouldn’t expect Marshall to survive as the head coach at Wichita State very much longer.