Gregg Marshall resigned Tuesday as Wichita State men’s basketball coach, nearly three months into an investigation that he physically and verbally abused players.
Marshall, who brought the Shockers back to national relevance in reaching the 2013 Final Four and won the most games in program history during his 13 seasons, reached an agreement with WSU that will pay him $7.75 million over six years, the school announced in a release.
Isaac Brown, WSU’s longest-tenured assistant, will serve as interim coach.
“This was a difficult decision, but one I feel was necessary for my family, the university and, most importantly, the student-athletes,” Marshall said in the release. “I remain grateful for my years spent at Wichita State. I wish to thank the coaches, student-athletes, the university, the community, and all of Shocker Nation for their unending dedication, support and loyalty. I am incredibly proud of this men’s basketball program and all it has achieved over the past 14 years and am confident of its continued success.”
The decision comes eight days before the start of WSU’s 2020-21 season and during an ongoing investigation into allegations made against Marshall by former players that he punched a player, put his hands around the throat of an assistant coach and used demeaning language in personal, cultural and racial insults. According to records obtained by The Wichita Eagle, WSU hired St. Louis-based law firm Tueth Keeney on Aug. 25 to conduct the investigation.
It’s the end of the most successful 13-year run in WSU history, as Marshall won 73% of his games (331-121) and guided the Shockers to the 2011 NIT championship, 2013 Final Four and seven straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament from 2012-18.
“Our student-athletes are our primary concern,” WSU athletic director Darron Boatright said in the release. “While the university acknowledges the success of the basketball program under Coach Marshall, this decision is in the best interest of the university, its student athletes and the WSU community. WSU will continue its pursuit of excellence with the help of its student-athletes, staff and loyal supporters of the basketball program.”
Allegations against Marshall went public in an Oct. 9 report by Stadium when former player Shaquille Morris claimed that Marshall struck him twice during an October 2015 practice and that he saw Marshall choke former assistant coach Kyle Lindsted during a practice from the 2016-17 season. Teammate Ty Taylor confirmed Morris’ story in the Stadium report.
Five other players besides Morris and Taylor from WSU’s 2015-16 team independently told The Eagle that Marshall hit Morris, while eight others from the 2016-17 team told The Eagle that Marshall put his hand around Lindsted’s throat.
After not addressing those specific incidents in his original statement following the Stadium report, Marshall staunchly denied the allegations.
“In response to the allegations put forward in the media, I simply state unequivocally that I have never physically struck a player or colleague,” Marshall previously wrote in an Oct. 13 statement to The Eagle. “Allegations claiming otherwise are false.”
Marshall was allowed to continue coaching the team in preseason practices, but was absent from practices starting Nov. 9. A university spokesperson told The Eagle that “Coach Marshall has taken a few days off for personal reasons” at the time.
Multiple sources confirmed to The Eagle that Marshall’s son, Kellen, who was a graduate assistant on the coaching staff also resigned his position.
The timing comes just nearly a week away from when WSU is scheduled to begin its 2020-21 season on Nov. 25 against Utah State in the opening round of the Crossover Classic in Sioux Falls, S.D.
With so little time before the start of the season, WSU promoted Brown, who has been with WSU since 2014. He was Marshall’s most-experienced assistant coach and was leading practices in Marshall’s absence. Former Shockers were already lobbying for him to get the job when national media reports indicated WSU was expected to part ways with Marshall last Tuesday.
“What the program needs right now is stability,” Boatright said in a release. “Isaac has been here for seven years and has good rapport and relationships with the players and staff. I think he is a natural choice.”
“I know this is a difficult time for our kids, but we will come together as a team and continue to compete,” Brown said in a release. “We have a great group of kids and staff, and we will work hard each day to represent our school and our city.”
Marshall received support from former WSU basketball players since the allegations were made public, but none of those public supporters were with the Shockers during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons when the coach allegedly engaged in the physical abuse that triggered the investigation.
Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker and Landry Shamet — three of Marshall’s most famous alums who all reached the NBA — have not publicly weighed in on their view of Marshall in light of the allegations.
The closest any of them have come was when Baker was asked about the topic on the 4 SZNS NBA Podcast released on Nov. 10.
“Think about 14 years ago and think now what Coach Marshall has done there, so (the boosters) coming out and saying they support (Marshall), I totally get it,” Baker said. “But my only defense right now is they weren’t in the gym when those things were happening. So they’ve got to understand where I come from when I walk the fence line. There will definitely be a time where I think I’ll get into more depth.”
According to Stadium’s report, which cited Morris and Ty Taylor, Morris fouled Zach Brown hard in an October 2015 practice just before Shocker Madness. The foul caused Brown to land awkwardly on his back, which incited Marshall, who told Morris it was a dirty play. Morris told Stadium that Marshall struck him on the left side of his face “with a punch” and then, after a heated exchange, Marshall kicked Morris out of practice and told him to go on the opposite court and “roll on the court until practice is over.”
Morris refused and began walking out of the gym when Marshall allegedly ran up behind him and struck him. Morris told Stadium that Marshall hit him over his right shoulder and “hit me in my jaw.” The five players who spoke with The Eagle on background all said they saw Marshall punch Morris in the back of the head, in the neck.
The second alleged incident occurred during a practice in the 2016-17 season when Marshall became frustrated with a player he believed was not assigned to the correct drill. When Marshall ripped into the player, Lindsted began to defend the player and took responsibility for the decision. Eight players from the 2016-17 WSU team, not counting Morris or Taylor, who are on record with Stadium, told The Eagle they saw Marshall put his hand around Lindsted’s throat in anger and squeeze.
“I looked over and saw Coach Marshall choking him,” Morris told Stadium. “Then people started deescalating the situation, trying to calm him down.”
Lindsted was an assistant at WSU for three seasons from 2015-18 before leaving for an assistant coach position at Minnesota, where he still coaches. When reached by The Eagle, Lindsted declined to comment.
In a statement released to the press shortly after the allegations were made public, Marshall defended his coaching style while admitting “it isn’t for everyone.”
“Many players thrive in the system we have created and are energized by our team culture,” Marshall wrote in the past statement. “For those players, I am a motivator, a pusher, someone who can tap into their greatest potential. For others, I can be demanding, harsh or strict. I don’t argue with those descriptions.
“What I am not is demeaning or abusive. I have deep respect for all my players. I believe unequivocally in their value as athletes, as students, and as people. Any portrayal of me to the contrary is wrong.”
Due to his extraordinary success with the Shockers and him and his family being embedded in the Wichita community, Marshall built up a lot of good will in Wichita over the last decade-plus.
That was evident in an Oct. 22 letter to the editor published in The Eagle written by wealthy donor Tom Devlin, who developed and sold Rent-A-Center. “I, along with many others,” Devlin wrote, “stand united in support of Gregg Marshall.”
Not long after, a group of 179 people calling themselves “Shockers for Gregg Marshall” purchased a full-page advertisement in The Eagle and signed their name and pledge support to Marshall for his “sterling character” and said “we’ll be rooting for Coach Marshall and the Shocker team for years to come.”
The petition included a pair of high-profile basketball players in Xavier McDaniel and Aubrey Sherrod and many of WSU’s wealthiest donors, including Devlin, Bob Geist (of Pizza Hut fame) and Al Higdon, a partner in a successful advertising company.
“Coach Marshall has been an important part of the Wichita community for more than a dozen years, and we just feel that he does a great job with not only the team on the court, but also we’ve watched him helping student-athletes all that time,” Higdon told The Athletic. “He’s been an integral part of the community with not-for-profit leadership. We just want to make sure that he knows that we’ve got his back.”