Gregg Marshall and friend
SPLURGE! caught up with head coach of Shocker men’s basketball Gregg Marshall to ask him a few questions about his philosophy and approach to coaching. Along the way, we also found out some things about the coach that you might not know — some of his favorite words of wisdom, his inspiring leadership style, his impassioned locker room speeches and what exactly “play angry” means to him and his players.
SPLURGE!: You have become very well known for your passionate locker room speeches. How do you approach those moments alone with the team?
Coach Marshall: Before and during the game, there’s a very workman like, serious tone to the locker room. It’s a time where all the hard work and effort and energy that we put in is gonna be on display and there has to be not only a physical component but a mental component — you have to be focused and ready to do your best. That’s where I think the “play angry” mantra was a good example — it doesn’t mean you’re trying to hurt anyone or do anything malicious or dirty, but rather it’s saying to be the actor and not the reactor. Be the one that wants it more and tries to achieve success more than the opponent. So after the game, assuming that we won of course, there’s a much more festive, fun, jubilant atmosphere in the locker room and we like to share our success and victories with our friends, families and fans. We have a victory song that we sing and have one person lead us in that song each time we are victorious in the locker room.
S: What inspires you?
CM: I love putting together a unit each and every year that can win. There’s a lot that goes into that. You have to go out and recruit the players, young men that fit the style and your program. After you have scholarships filled and have gotten your young men that will represent your program on campus, then it’s a matter of molding them, individually and collectively, into a unit that can win. It’s not always the biggest or most athletic five or the five that shoot the best — it’s the five that give you the best chance to win. There are so many factors involved in winning a basketball game — there’s offense, defense, rebounding, ball handling, being a good teammate and understanding what we’re trying to accomplish every possession — it’s really fun to watch these young men get better individually and collectively, both on and off the court, so that they can achieve success later in life — get degrees, play professional basketball. Ultimately to see them settle on a career with that degree in hand and know they’ve got good experiences that they can draw from while being in our program — that hard work and dedication and commitment to something can lead to great things and success.
S: If you had to pick one phrase or quote that you would say are your “words to live by”, what would they be - Coach Marshall’s words of wisdom?
CM: Some words that my college coach gave to me — “Preparation is the mother of victory." That isn’t just scouting the players and getting ready to play a game. It’s about educating yourself so that you can do something after basketball, preparing to be successful in life. I always talk to these guys about that — they’re so young, some are 17 when they arrive and maybe 23 at the latest when they depart, and in those years there’s so much going on. The bottom line is that if they’re lucky they’re gonna live another 60 years, and it’s not just the next 60 minutes that’s the most important. They need to be preparing to live a long, healthy, fruitful, successful life. So don’t make a bad decision — don’t think what you do today or tomorrow or tonight is the most important thing that you’ve got going.
WuShock with Coach Jody Adams
How did Coach Jody Adams take the Women Shockers to their first NCAA tournament appearance last year?
1.) Intensity! Intensity! Intensity! That's a direct quote from Adams, by the way, delivered during a recent practice. Adams and her entire staff preach that there's only one way to go in practice — hard — and that carries over to games. After a little time in her program, most of her players eventually get the message, at least if they want to see any playing time.
2.) Attention to detail. It can be something as simple as making a sharp 45-degree curl instead of a lazy 90-degree turn off a screen. Adams and her staff are watching. Players who can't focus are going to get that chance while doing extra push-ups or sprints.
3.) Improvement. "Let's get better today," Adams tells her players near the beginning of practice. Everybody's got a role on the team, whether it's defense, rebounding, scoring or leadership, and everybody can get better at that role.
4.) Defense. Adams has produced the last 2 Missouri Valley Conference Defensive Players of the Year in Haleigh Lankster and Alex Harden. "She's all about defense," says Michelle Price, another Shocker who's on Adams' list of tough defenders. "Other teams don't like us. It's mainly because of our physicality."
5.) Recruiting. No one wins without talent, and this year's recruiting class was ranked 47th in the country, the second time Adams has cracked the top 50. This team is a little bigger than last year's. Adams said her current crop of guards may be quicker, and her forwards better able to play facing the basket, than previously. She also likes their collective basketball IQ and commitment to defense.
6.) Leadership. Adams says she can only provide so much of it. The rest is up to players with time invested in the program. "We will go as our leaders lead us," she said.
7.) Expectations. Think Adams is satisfied with producing the program's first conference championship and NCAA bid? Then you don't know Adams. "I expect us to win a championship," she said. "I expect us to be in the NCAA again this year."
8.) Passion. As a fifth year senior, Price has seen the program improve from 18-15 her first year to 24-10 last year. Did she ever doubt it would happen? Not with Adams at the helm. "She has a passion for the game," Price said. "It's contagious."
Shockers look to test their mettle early
Coach Gregg Marshall isn't one to ease into a season. As in years past, he's scheduled a number of tough non- conference games to get his team ready for the Missouri Valley Conference campaign and, hopefully, another NCAA run. Here's a look at some expected highlights.
Western Kentucky— NOV. 11
A perennial NCAA tourney team from the Sun Belt Conference, the Hilltoppers should provide WSU its first real test of the season three games in.
Tulsa— NOV. 20
Former KU great Danny Manning is now coaching at Tulsa, adding another layer to this Arkansas River match-up, to be played on the Golden Hurricanes' home court.
Texas or BYU— NOV. 26
Either team WSU would face in the championship game of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic, to be played at the Sprint Center in kansas City, could present problems. Texas, despite recent struggles, draws from a vast talent pool, while BYU has made the last five NCAA tournament fields.
St. Louis — DEC. 1
The Billikens won the Atlantic 10 Conference and advanced to the third round of the NCAA tourney last year. Hosting the Shockers in St. Lou is highlighted on their schedule. This could be a dog fight.
Tennessee — DEC. 14
Like St. Louis above, Tennessee didn't make the top 25 pre-season poll (WSU is 16th) but did receive a significant number of votes, meaning coaches think they're better than last year's record showed.
Alabama — DEC. 17
This game should bring back fond memories for Shocker fans. WSU beat the Crimson Tide for the NIT title in 2011, a game that many think set the stage for the team's incredible NCAA tourney run last year. Always athletic, Alabama might be itching for revenge on its home court.
Davidson — DEC. 29
This team from Marshall's old stomping grounds has appeared in six or the last nine NCAA tournaments, and made its own epic mid-major run in 2008 before losing to kansas. WSU will be glad to be at home for this one.
SPLURGE! brings you the ultimate Shocker basketball inside scoop from the man himself, Coach Gregg Marshall
After an emotionally charged NCAA tournament and a run at the Final Four last spring, Coach Gregg Marshall and his Shockers caught and managed to keep the attention of the nation, and certainly the love and admiration of their fans. With the new season gearing up, it has become quite clear that the enthusiasm for the team has remained high over the off season.
Last month, Shocker faithful gathered at koch Arena for the annual “Shocker Madness” event. There were a record number of people in attendance. “I think there were between 7,000 and 7,500 people there,” says Coach Marshall. “All indications are that season tickets are about sold out and donations are up.” So, has the enthusiasm from last spring continued on into the coming season? “I think that that’s the case. The attendance at Shocker Madness is an indication of that.”
Inside insight on this season's lineup
We’ve got some very talented guys like Cleanthony Early, Ron baker, Tekele Cotton and Fred VanVleet that played a lot in the NCAA tournament and Final Four run and then we’ve got a lot of first year guys, and those guys are gonna have to step up. You can’t do it with four, you’ve got to have eight or nine guys that can really play. The guys that played bit parts last year need to be bigger parts and the guys that are brand new need to assume their roles and give us more “bullets in our gun” if you will, to compete. Last year we had injuries to some key guys, but we were able to sustain success because we had other talented guys that assumed those roles when injured players went down.
Inside insight on the expectations for the Shockers
In my career as a coach there have always been expectations. We’ve had some pretty good years in there — we’re coming off some championships in the not too distant past and some people want to repeat that. Once you get to a certain level they want to maintain that and even do it again and do it better. I understand that. It’s not something that’s new to me, and I don’t think it’s new to these players. We’ve had an NIT championship and a five seed in the NCAA tournament in the two years prior to the Final Four run. We have expectations of ourselves, and that’s to me the most important thing. Ya know, what is it that we expect of ourselves? We expect to do the best that we can each and every day to try and become the best team that we can. And if we do that, everything else will take care of itself.
Inside insight on the approach to practice coming off the Final Four
Well, it’s the first time I’m coming off a Final Four as coach so what I always talk about is that every season is a different season. We put last season to bed. Especially when it’s a successful season and we’ve had a number of those in recent years. That’s over, those guys are gone. Carl Hall and Malcom Armstead and Ehimen Orukpe and Demetric Williams are not walking back through that door. They were seniors, they made their legacy, and now it’s up to this group. What are you gonna do — what is this group gonna do? So we talk about re-paying the price of success. You have to re-pay the price of success, it doesn’t just happen. So we’re guarding against complacency, and we haven’t really seen that — I think this team understands what they’ve got to do and the target is now squarely on our backs. So we’ve got to play well, and we have to prepare to play well.
Inside insight on what he's most excited about
Seeing these guys develop, seeing how we can take the confidence and the fact that we accomplished so much last year and build upon it. I want to see if these guys can maintain and take it another step. We’ve been steadily progressing this program now for the last several years and this next step is going to be very difficult to continue to get better. The old adage of sports is that it’s a lot easier to build a program then it is to maintain it. It’s harder to maintain it once you’ve gotten it there. But if we can maintain and continue to work and continue to develop these young players, it’s obviously possible for us to get to the Sweet Sixteen or Elite Eight or the Final Four and win conference championships again.