With Alabama Athletics Director Bill Battle openly courting and failing to land Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall, the state of Alabama basketball appears to be in unprecented limbo.
Battle is to be commended for swinging for the fences in trying to land Marshall, the Shockers’ head coach since 2007. But now that Marshall has turned down the Tide’s offer, the question of where he goes from here becomes a little less clear.
Especially since the other usual suspects are finding places to roost elsewhere. Texas is reportedly trying to lure VCU’s Shaka Smart. Tennessee landed Texas’ old coach, the accomplished Rick Barnes. Mississippi State hired longtime UCLA head coach Ben Howland. Dayton gave Archie Miller a much deserved contract extension. And of course Auburn has the charismatic Bruce Pearl securely in Lee County. And now, Bama’s #1 target declined. With every passing day, the number of qualified suitors appears to dwindle.
Coach Battle’s meeting with Marshall in Wichita on Monday led to mass hysteria among Bama fans, hoping for a triumphant retrieval and a quick, Sabanesque press conference Monday night. That didn’t happen. It didn’t happen Tuesday either. Or today. And despite F5 keys being worn out on computers by the Bama nation in hopes of breaking news on Bama message boards, the silence became deafening.
Until late tonight, when the silence was broken like a resounding blast from a gong.
Which leads to the question: Can big money lure a stellar coach to the Capstone? I mean, to give the Tide basketball program life again? It worked in football, but then…you can complete the rest of that sentence. Alabama appears committed to making its next basketball coach a very, well-paid member of the Tide’s athletic community, if his name was Gregg Marshall, that is. Despite complete mediocrity on the hardwood for as long as I can remember, Bama still managed over $8 Million in profit last year.
It was widely thought that Marshall had the right stuff, which is why Battle was reportedly prepared to offer him $3.5-$4 Million to take the helm. But money apparently wasn’t the issue. Thought to be one of the up and coming coaches in college basketball, Marshall appears poised to take over for one of the big boys in his next stop. And sadly right now, one of those players IS NOT Alabama.
The Twitterverse reported that Marshall and family were preparing to visit Tuscaloosa on Friday, all while Wichita State assembled the “home team” ante to keep him. Alabama has a distant history as being the 2nd most accomplished basketball program in the SEC, though the decades of basketball relevancy under Wimp Sanderson seem like, well, decades ago. And sadly, that span isn’t being erased any time soon.
You had to think that if Marshall met with Bill Battle for eight hours on Monday (which was the scuttle), pondered the possibility since then, and planned on bringing the family to the Capstone on Friday, Good Friday at Alabama appeared to be on it’s way to being great.
But, not so much.
Now that Marshall has rendered an answer, few other answers in this search are certain. One point of encouragement, however, is that when persuing Marshall, Alabama appeared ready to take basketball seriously again. That kind of thinking is encouraging. It makes a guy think Bama is at least heading down the right path.
But with news like tonight’s answer, where that path leads, at this point, isn’t quite as clear.