For any professional sport team to win games it needs good athletes. If a team is to be successful in the playoffs it needs good chemistry. In college basketball, if a team goes undefeated and wins its conference tournament it was the result of having a great coach.
Yesterday, Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall was named the Sporting News Coach of the Year. He has been a stabilizing force for a talented Shockers basketball team all season long. His “play angry” ideology allows him to manage the egos of his players because only the hungriest, most aggressive players are fielded. It just so happens that his best players are usually his most hungry and aggressive. Marshall’s ability to motivate is better than most big profile college coaches who have done less with more talent.
As the lone undefeated team in Division-I basketball, WSU ran through the Missouri Valley Conference tournament and won every game by a double-digit margin. Even in games against the No. 2 team in the Missouri Valley Conference, Indiana State, the Shockers were successful. The Sycamores are having one of their best seasons since the Larry Bird era but lost three times to WSU this year. Any time a challenger rises against the Shockers they’re quickly thrust back into the obscurity from which they came.
One of Marshall’s most underrated but redeeming qualities is his aptitude for recruiting. Last season, Wichita State made a deep NCAA Tournament run and then-freshmen Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet were major contributors. The Shockers’ Cleanthony Early has been a versatile force since he transferred from the JUCO ranks and looks to be a legit NBA prospect.
This year, the trio has been able to maximize their strengths under their coach. Once the Big Dance rolls around, Marshall will have to match up against other talented coaches and we’ll see how effective his methods are.