Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall was asked Monday about his mentor. John Kresse, a reporter pointed out during a national conference call, did “great” things at the College of Charleston but never reached the Final Four.
Age: 50Born: Feb. 27, 1963, Greenwood, S.C.College: Randolph-MaconFamily: Wife Lynn, son Kellen (16), daughter Maggie (13)College of Charleston: Assistant coach on John Kresse's staff, 1988-96Winthrop: Seven NCAA Tournament appearances in nine seasons, 194-83 from 1998-2007Wichita State: Shockers play Louisville in the Final Four semifinals Saturday in Atlanta; 139-69 in six seasons; Two NCAA Tournament appearances, won NIT title in 2011.
Marshall got as defensive as a grateful man gets on his way to an unlikely Final Four appearance.
“You know, Coach Kresse spent most of his career as an NAIA coach,” Marshall said. “And he did make the Final Four; it was just in the NAIA tournament at Kemper Arena in Kansas City. In fact, he won it all (in 1983).”
Wichita State is this year's Final Four surprise story, a No. 9 seed on the way to Atlanta after NCAA tournament wins over Pittsburgh, Gonzaga, La Salle and Ohio State.
Kresse is happier than a Wichita State student eating free pizza. Marshall was his rising star assistant coach from 1988-1996 as College of Charleston was transitioning from NAIA power to NCAA Division I postseason regular.
“The end of the Ohio State-Wichita State game … Those were the longest minutes since I got out of coaching,” Kresse said.
Kresse worried Sunday that he might not be able to attend the Final Four. He thought he might have to give way to the oddest of basketball injuries.
“I cracked some ribs two weeks ago,” Kresse said. “I fell off my bed while I was having a dream. Usually, I have coaching dreams, but this was a basketball playing dream. I don't have those often, but I was on defense and I stole the ball and all the sudden I fell out of my king-size bed.”
Those ribs felt so much better Monday afternoon when Marshall called offering Final Four tickets. Kresse will sit with Marshall's family and stay at the team hotel.
Marshall probably won't sleep much in Atlanta.
He didn't get back to his Wichita home from Saturday's Elite Eight victory over Ohio State in Los Angeles until 5 a.m. Sunday.
Unlike most Sundays at the Marshall household, a CBS crew arrived to set up a mini-studio in the basement, allowing for a live interview with Marshall and Shockers guard Malcolm Armstead.
Then Marshall watched the Louisville-Duke game with wife Lynn, son Kellen and daughter Maggie while sorting through congratulatory messages.
But Marshall doesn't claim to be a better coach than he was last week.
“I don't think you have to make a Final Four in Division I to validate yourself as a great coach,” he said. “There are so many coaches I've encountered throughout my career at the NAIA level, Division II, Division III — I've coached at all of those levels. And there are some great junior college coaches and, I mean, some of the best coaches are high school coaches.”
It's possible that Kresse soon might be linked to Marshall's feats more than the other way around.
And the mentor is just fine with that.
“I wouldn't have been where I was without Gregg in the eight years he was with me,” Kresse said.
Kresse calls Marshall a “miracle maker” for a Final Four run after Wichita State lost its five top scorers from last year, and for reaching the NCAA tournament seven times in nine seasons as head coach at Winthrop.
Kresse knows too well what Wichita State is up against. Louisville played at TD Arena on Dec. 4. It was a nice chance for Kresse to catch up with longtime friend Rick Pitino, and for the Louisville head coach to see his daughter Jacqueline, a College of Charleston student.
Louisville clobbered the Cougars, 80-38.
“One of the most intense performances I've seen in a long time,” Kresse said.
Win or lose against Louisville, Gregg Marshall is a Final Four coach.
With, he insists, a Final Four mentor.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff.
How C of C, USC and Clemson missed on Marshall
The College of Charleston, South Carolina and Clemson had their chances to land Gregg Marshall as head basketball coach. Twice apiece.In chronological order: 2002, College of CharlestonFor many College of Charleston fans, Marshall was the obvious choice when Kresse resigned; he had guided Winthrop to four NCAA Tournament trips in four years as head coach. But a search committee led by former athletic director Jerry Baker picked Virginia assistant coach Tom Herrion. Sure, Marshall might have stayed only a few years before moving up. But, in retrospect, what were they thinking? 2003, ClemsonClemson plucked Oliver Purnell away from Dayton, and it's hard to fault former athletic director Terry Don Phillips here. Purnell took the Tigers to three straight NCAA Tournaments (no wins) before sensing a drop-off and leaving for DePaul.2006, College of CharlestonSo strange. Herrion was forced out but not until June. Power brokers circumvented the athletic department and got Marshall to commit. Marshall was introduced as head coach, but within 24 hours “pulled a Bobby Cremins” – the reference to Cremins returning to Georgia Tech after taking the job at South Carolina, his alma mater. So, of course, Cremins rode to the Cougars' rescue.2008, South CarolinaTwo NIT titles and one NCAA Tournament appearance over seven years were not enough to keep Dave Odom around at South Carolina. Eric Hyman did many excellent things at the school but the former athletic director whiffed in his first major hire, Darrin Horn of Western Kentucky. 2010, ClemsonClemson looked to the Midwest for a Purnell replacement, and tabbed a young and respected floor coach that had been a head coach in the Carolinas. But it was Wright State's Brad Brownell, formerly of UNC Wilmington. Brownell extended the Tigers' NCAA Tournament streak to a record four years in a row in 2011, with slippage ever since. 2012, South CarolinaHyman on his way out the door in Columbia fired Horn. He looked to Kansas for a new head coach but apparently didn't seriously consider Marshall, hiring Frank Martin away from Kansas State. The move was widely applauded by fans and media. Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff.