When NC State decided to cut ties with Mark Gottfried, local media spent a week debating whether the Wolfpack coaching gig was still considered one of the elite jobs in the nation. Even before national media chimed in with their opinion, Triangle fans and media burned up social media in anticipation of what they would say. And when those national columns were filed, they didn’t disappoint. “It’s a middle of the pack job.” “Who would take it?” “They need to adjust their expectations.”
Fortunately, NC State doesn’t have to worry about hearing comments like that ever again. With one simple move, they can prove, unequivocally, that the State job is one of the best in the country, and set the program on the path to a status equal to the job’s. What do they have to do?
Hire Gregg Marshall.
Yes, he’s expensive. He turned down Alabama last year to nearly double his salary at Wichita State to $3.3 million. Doesn’t matter. Find the money. Pay him.
After the initial flurry of candidate names, the consensus seems to be focusing on a few up-and-coming coaching names, who might do a great job at NC State. They’d certainly be less costly than Marshall. Some might be as intense. Some might be as good a recruiter. There’s just one problem with them:
They’re not Gregg Marshall.
They’re Will Wade, of VCU … or Kevin Keatts of UNC-Wilmington … or Butler’s Chris Holtmann … or Dayton’s Archie Miller.
All are strong coaches. All could be great coaches. But, for the sake of argument, pretend for one second that Duke, Carolina, Kentucky or Kansas has a job opening. Would they look at Wade, Keatts, Holtmann or Miller?
Wake Forest would. So would Georgia Tech, Pitt and Boston College.
So, NC State, who are you?
The blue bloods would go after Marshall. All of them. And so should be Pack.
Giants don’t clip coupons. The one percent get their diamonds at Saks Fifth Avenue, not the rough.
If NC State wants to be considered one of the elite coaching jobs in the country, they need to go after the elite coach and land him. Break out the checkbook. Write a five, followed by six zeroes. Better yet, leave the amount blank. Just be sure to use two g’s at the end of Gregg.
If administration or boosters balk at the price—they have to buy out Gottfried, after all, and pay Marshall’s Wichita State buyout—respond with three words.
“Are we elite?”
Then three more.
“Hire Gregg Marshall.”
Here’s another experiment. Pretend you’re a Carolina or Duke fan. Who’s the one guy you don’t want NC State to get? They’d never admit it, but Marshall would strike fear in the hearts of blue bloods as soon as he arrived on campus to interview.
If hired, he’d challenge Duke football coach David Cutcliffe as the best coach in the conference at identifying talent. Since he’s in the middle of nowhere, at Wichita State, people assume he’s making something out of nothing on the recruiting trail. Fred VanVleet was a four-star recruit, though. Cleanthony Early was the top JUCO player in the nation. This year’s leading scorer, Markis McDuffie, was a four-star. Marshall got them all to come to Wichita, to play for the Shockers. In Wichita.
He’d also refuse to back down, on the recruiting front or at the scorer’s table, arguing a call during a game. Not since Rick Barnes squared off against Dean Smith have we seen a coach who was truly fearless to stand up to the league’s coaching legends.
NC State shee? Gregg Marshall takes no shee … from anyone.
This is a guy who has false front teeth, because he had his knocked out so many times, dentists gave up trying to put them back in. It’s a guy that got his nose broken in a practice fight with a teammate that coaches said was the worst brawl they’d ever seen on a court.
It’s a guy that, before playing Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament, ripped the Cats for not scheduling a non-conference game against him. “I think if I got to know President Obama, and he did an executive order, maybe an amendment somehow, we could get Kentucky to our place,” he said at the press conference. “But short of that I don’t think it is going to happen.”
He lost that game to Kentucky when a potential game-winning three pointer was off the mark.
NC State needs to hire Gregg Marshall, because as much as the rival teams would hate having him around, the Wolfpack fans would love him.
Never has a coach’s world view more perfectly lined up with that of State fans. He wears his lack of coaching pedigree like a badge of honor.
“I don’t have a guy,” Marshall told USA Today of his coaching pedigree. “Before I became a coach here, I was advised by some people to stop being the head coach at Winthrop and go be an assistant for (Tom) Izzo, Krzyzewski or Roy Williams.Then I’d have the successful head coaching tenure however long you have it because now you have the lineage.”
At one NCAA Tournament press conference, he talked about learning the ropes on the staff of Charleston coach John Kresse. “He’s my Coach K,” Marshall said.
This is a guy that has said, “Nothing has ever been given to me. I’ve had to fight and scratch and claw for every single thing. Does everybody in the world of basketball think I’m the greatest thing? No. But does everybody think (John) Calipari is the greatest thing in the world? Does everybody think (Rick) Pitino is the greatest thing in the world? Does everybody think Krzyzewski is the greatest thing in the world?”
When interviewing for his first head coaching job, at Winthrop, he told the administration about his work for Kresse, saying, “I was not the architect, but I was the foreman, and I carried some bricks. I slung some mortar, and I could steal the blueprint.”
“They fell for it,” Marshall said, and so will Wolfpack Nation, hook, line and sinker.
At Winthrop, he had to raise money the way most low-major programs do, by playing non-conference road games at some of the top programs in the nation. It’s an experience that still eats at him, nearly a decade later.
“When I was a coach at Winthrop,” he said, “you go on the road and we would usually win one of those per year. Going on the road five or six times and having to play the blue bloods of college basketball. It is after Christmas when you realize that you are not a pincushion or punching bag. We can now win some of these games.”
At Wichita State, this is the guy that got two of the roughest players in NBA history—Antoine Carr and Xavier McDaniel—speak to his team before an NCAA tournament run, and coin the team’s rally cry: “Play angry.”
“If you’ve ever seen X and Antoine play, they played angry,” he said. “They were aggressive and tough and were the initiator of hard contact in the post. They were boxing out and beating checks, beating folks to loose balls, 50/50 balls. That’s what ‘play angry’ means, to defend with your feet, put your chest on people. This team has embodied that creed. So I’m glad that those gentlemen gave us that advice.”
The next tier of coaches are more likely to say yes. Making all that money at Wichita State, why would Marshall ever want to leave for NC State? Because there are currently four Hall of Fame coaches in the ACC, including two just up the road. He’d like nothing better than to harass them all into retirement.
He’s won at places he’s had no business winning. He’s irritated people and fought for everything he’s earned. That’s why he’s worth $5 million. And if Illinois or Indiana offers five, then he’s worth six.
Hire Gregg Marshall, and NC State won’t have to worry about how good its job is for another decade or more.
After leading his team on an improbable trip to the Final Four, Marshall glowered at questions about his magical run.
“I think Cinderella just found one glass slipper,” he said. “I don’t think she found four. So that’s just the way it is.”
Hire Gregg Marshall. Whatever it takes.
That’s just the way it is.