Tom Sorensen

It’s not the first time Tom Sorensen has pushed Gregg Marshall for a job ...

Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall has teams, every year, that play with an urgency that would translate everywhere.
Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall has teams, every year, that play with an urgency that would translate everywhere. ASSOCIATED PRESS

Editor’s note: This column originally published on Feb. 18, 2012.

Coaches ranked the teams they wanted to play in ESPN’s BracketBuster games this weekend and Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall ranked Murray State, undefeated at the time, first and Davidson second.

The Shockers play Davidson in Davidson today at noon.

Still have connections to the Carolinas?

“I got 71 comps for the game,” Marshall says by telephone from Wichita, Kan. “What’s that tell you?”

Marshall grew up in Greenwood, S.C., hometown of Carolina Panther and former Appalachian State star Armanti Edwards. Marshall got his undergraduate degree from Randolph-Macon (Va.).

He became a head coach that everybody noticed, or should have, at Winthrop. Even then he had major college hair.

Marshall led the Eagles for nine seasons, invariably into the NCAA tournament. Winthrop is as far south of Charlotte as Davidson is north of Charlotte and the teams scrimmaged regularly.

“I have great respect for coach (Bob) McKillop and what he’s accomplished at Davidson, “ says Marshall.

When local jobs opened nobody had enough respect for Marshall to offer one. Wichita State did.

Marshall says he likes his new turf.

“The fan support here is unbelievable, “ he says.

Marshall won 11 games his first season, 17 his second, 25 his third and last season 29 and the NIT championship.

The Shockers are 22-4 this season and ranked for the first time since 2006-07. (They’re 24th.) They play the same style Winthrop did.

“I wouldn’t say frenetic, “ says Marshall. “But close.”

There’s urgency. It’s as if his players are late.

They play tough defense and rarely take bad shots. Marshall has always recruited superior athletes, and he’s always convinced them to give up the ball.

The style worked in Rock Hill, works in Wichita and, you know, might even work in Columbia.

“I can’t address the rumors, “ Marshall says when I ask about the South Carolina job. “I have a team to coach.”

Marshall, who turns 49 this month, could have had the job at N.C. State, which eventually went to Mark Gottfried. “It wasn’t the right time, “ Marshall says.

The Shockers like their coach. He has a rollover contract that, coupled with an annuity, pays him $1 million a year.

“How many hamburgers can a man eat?” Marshall asks.

How many basketball games does South Carolina want to win?

The Gamecocks are to hoops what football is to Duke.

But Duke fans get to sit outside.

Darrin Horn, out of Western Kentucky, where he did fine work, is in his fourth season as South Carolina coach. His record is 50-42. The Gamecocks are 10-15 this season and 2-9 in the SEC.

They lost a nonconference game to Elon. Elon is well-coached, and the game was at Elon. You do not go to Elon expecting to win - unless you play in the SEC.

South Carolina basketball has to be gutted. This will not be a job. It will be a mission.

I got to know Marshall at Winthrop. There are coaches who will win anywhere, and he’s one of them.

If I’m the Gamecocks, and as expected fire Horn after the season, Marshall is the first coach I approach to replace him.

It will cost me a lot of hamburgers. But if basketball is to become a major sport, there will be a price.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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