Gregg Marshall is a reminder of how many coaches have 'a good life, man'
It used to be rare for a college basketball coach to make a million bucks a year. Now it's not that rare at all, which is why hiring coaches has become more difficult over the past few years.
Gregg Marshall was leaning back in a chair late Thursday in a hall inside Staples Center, discussing his team's win over La Salle and upcoming matchup with Ohio State. The conversation shifted from one game to the next. Back and forth. Back and forth. Then things turned to UCLA, which, at the time, was searching for a new coach.
Some reporters suggested Marshall might be a candidate in Westwood.
He used the moment to talk about his life at Wichita State.
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"I'm already making seven figures," Marshall said. "You can eat a lot of steak and hamburger and pizza for what we're making at Wichita State . ... I live on the golf course. We have a beautiful backyard. My wife has four dogs. She gardens. We fly around on private planes to Napa and back to South Carolina. We have a good life, man."
The Marshalls do have a good life, man.
And here's the thing: It's not really a unique life for a college coach anymore.
Every year around this time, power-conference jobs open, at which point men who do not work in power conferences -- like Gonzaga's Mark Few, Butler's Brad Stevens and VCU's Shaka Smart, just to name a few -- immediately emerge as candidates, according to various reports that sometimes do (but most times don't) make sense.
Folks always expect them to jump.
But they never jump.
(Or at least they haven't yet.)
And the reason, for the most part, can be found in Marshall's above quote -- because they also have good lives, man. More to the point, lots of coaches now have good lives, man.
At least 40 men currently make at least seven figures coaching college basketball.
Think about that for a moment.
I can remember as the Memphis beat writer when it was considered crazy that John Calipari almost made $1 million per season -- which was just a few years after Memphis icon Larry Finch made $182,000 in his final season coaching the Tigers. That was 1997. Now Calipari makes almost $6 million per season at Kentucky, and the Memphis coach (Josh Pastner) gets more than $2 million per year, which is less than what Memphis actually paid Calipari before he left. In other words, Memphis can pay more if it must pay more. That school will never lose Pastner in a bidding war. FedEx would not allow it.
So Pastner is still the coach at Memphis. And Stevens is still the coach at Butler. And Smart is still the coach at VCU. And Marshall is still the coach at Wichita State, and he'll almost certainly remain the coach at Wichita State next season regardless of whether almost anybody else calls with an offer.
Because he has a good life, man.
He's a comfortable and well-compensated coach who has a good relationship with his administration, and, now that Creighton is gone, Marshall also has the best job in the Missouri Valley Conference. He lives in a Midwest town that, Marshall notes, is perfect for raising a family. More than 10,000 fans fill his arena for games. He has access to private jets. The cost of living in Kansas makes his salary go farther than it otherwise would.
So why would Marshall be in any rush to leave?
Answer: He wouldn't.
And don't pretend Marshall must leave to give himself a chance to compete at the highest level, because that's not true. Dude is three days away from coaching Wichita State in the Final Four -- just like Jim Larranaga once coached George Mason in the Final Four, just like Smart once coached VCU in the Final Four, just like Stevens twice coached Butler in the Final Four. All of that happened in the past eight seasons, by the way. Combined, those stories have provided hope for the so-called little guys, which has A) convinced nontraditional powers to pour money into programs and B) made coaches hesitant to leave said programs for mid-level (or even top-level) jobs in bigger conferences.
Consequently, UCLA had trouble hiring a coach.
And Minnesota swung and missed a few times, too.
And whichever athletic director finds himself in need of a coach next March is probably also going to have trouble hiring a coach, because the era of overwhelming a candidate with millions of dollars and a perceived better opportunity is mostly over. These days, almost every attractive candidate is already in a position he perceives as pretty good or great, at least in part because he's probably already making millions of dollars.
Bottom line, there are lots of coaches with good lives, man.
You might be able to get one of them to jump.
But very few seem eager to do it.
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