Wichita State needed to make history to keep its history-making basketball coach.
Coach Gregg Marshall turned down a chance to fly to Tuscaloosa, Ala., with his family and give Alabama’s vacant coaching position a close look when he reached an oral agreement to remain at Wichita State on Wednesday. Wichita State will pay him about $3 million a year, continuing his seven-year rollover contract, a figure that few considered realistic a few days ago.
“That’s quite a commitment on their part,” Marshall said. “A show of faith and appreciation: faith for what we’re going to do and appreciation for what we’ve done.”
The salary, when the contract is signed, is likely to make him one of the top-10 highest-paid coaches in the country, a significant statement for a program that resides outside the five power conferences. His salary peers work at places such as Michigan State, Ohio State, Arizona, Wisconsin and Oklahoma.
Marshall ranked No. 24, according to USA Today’s database of salaries, entering the season. Moving him up the scale limits the already shrinking number of attractive schools capable of matching Marshall’s comfort level and the school’s passion for basketball.
“It’s a huge step,” said Myles Solomon, Marshall’s attorney. “It was never an issue of them not trying to do things. It was always about how far they could go. This is kind of an unprecedented number for a school that is not in the (top five conferences).”
After an initial offer early in the week, Wichita State needed to get closer to Alabama’s offer of around $4.2 million a year for six years. The community responded. Business leaders and big boosters, with Charles Koch of Koch Industries playing a lead role, organized, donated and lobbied to raise Marshall’s salary from its current base of $1.85 million.
“It’s a hard push to do, because it was a significant financial stretch,” Wichita State athletic director Eric Sexton said. “But it was an easy push to do, because it’s the right thing to do.”
Alabama set the stage when its desire to throw big money at Marshall leaked out in the days before Wichita State’s NCAA Tournament game against Notre Dame.
Alabama athletic director Bill Battle and another representative of the school flew to Wichita on Monday and spent around eight hours pitching Marshall. The family couldn’t visit Tuscaloosa until today because of school commitments, giving Wichita State time to organize and respond. The tension continued until Wednesday evening when, after reports of the trip to Tuscaloosa surfaced, Marshall agreed to the deal.
“It was a lot of back and forth,” Marshall said. “We were basically contemplating if we were going to get on a plane and look at what sounds like a tremendous opportunity at the University of Alabama. The gentlemen that we met with on Monday were classy, successful, intelligent and really were easy to like. That tugged on heartstrings.”
Monday, with the threat sitting on a runway at Jabara Airport and the offer on the table, boosters mobilized.
“When I had the opportunity to visit with Gregg, I encouraged him to stay at Wichita State,” Koch said in an emailed statement. “He adds tremendous value to our community, not only by winning but by doing so with character.”
With the improved offer, Solomon said, Wichita State emerged as the clear choice. He says that 25 percent of his conversations with Marshall are about money and 75 percent are about making sure a job is a good fit. As in years past, his affection for the school and Wichita and his family’s feelings won the day.
“It’s stressful,” Marshall said. “You’ve got to weigh your career path and possible moves that that entails vs. your family’s stability. You also have to factor in your players and the recruits you have in your program. We end up staying, because of our commitment.”
Baker, VanVleet file NBA paperwork
As expected, Wichita State juniors Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet filed paperwork with the NBA to receive evaluations of their likely draft status.
NBA front-office personnel provide athletes investigating their potential draft status an evaluation of where they might land. First-round picks receive guaranteed money. Second-round picks do not.
Athletes who want to declare as an early entrant for the NBA Draft must do so by April 26. Players who did not sign with an agent can withdraw their name by June 15.