Twenty minutes after the game, Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall sat calmly and explained his tirade. He mentioned that former baseball manager Earl Weaver, famous for his ejection theater, went through his mind. Lynn Marshall, his wife, theorized that perhaps he watched too much rugby.
Composure had returned to Shockers basketball in the post-game glow of victory after an ugly scene overshadowed a comeback in a physical game in steaming hot gym.
Wichita State defeated McGill University 77-71 on Tuesday at Love Competition Hall, which no doubt contributed to Marshall’s calm. He missed most of the comeback after earning a second technical and ejection and chasing two referees while players and coaches tried to hold him back.
“I’m definitely not proud of my reaction to that situation, but at some point your players have to know you’re going to stand up for them and you’ve got some fight in you,” he said. “Once I reacted, I said ‘I might as well get my money’s worth.’”
A foul call on WSU’s Zach Brown, whistled while boxing out, set off Marshall after three quarters of irritants piled up. Three times, the scoreboard operator failed to credit WSU for a point. He handled the first two with good humor, joking about McGill’s reputation as the Harvard of Canada. He found nothing funny about the third mistake. Of more concern, Marshall wasn’t pleased with the officiating in a no-blood, no-foul game — center Rauno Nurger suffered a concussion and needed three stitches to close a cut on his chin.— and wasn’t pleased with his team’s play into the third quarter.
WSU trailed 58-46 late in the third period. Then the Shockers rallied and Marshall’s discontent with the calls grew. With WSU down 58-56, the game came to a turning point When McGill scored after Brown’s foul gave it possession back, Marshall attacked.
Assistant coach Greg Heiar tried to head off the issue, telling Marshall “Coach, we don’t need this,” several times. When Marshall left the sideline to confront the referees, players Darral Willis and Zach Brown, Heiar, assistant coach Isaac Brown and director of operations Dominic Okon tried to stop him.
“He’s a strong old man,” Willis said.
Marshall pulled away from Willis, brushed past Zach Brown and Heiar and later pushed Isaac Brown away. When he got his words in, he departed the court to boos. His players applauded. Marshall said he spent the rest of the time in the office of Jose Valdes, McGill’s women’s soccer coach.
“He was so nice,” Marshall said. “We talked. He was great.”
The episode ran more than minute and a cell-phone video was posted on YouTube soon after the game.
Did Marshall go too far?
“Perhaps,” he said. “I wasn’t going to do anything physical, but I wanted to make sure they understood what I felt was happening was incorrect and wrong.”
While Marshall lost his composure, his players found new energy and purpose. Those who weren’t trying to keep him away from the officials huddled up. When play resumed, the bench surged with passion.
“Once Coach got kicked out, we all got in a huddle and said ‘We need this for Coach,’” Willis said.
Down 60-56, the Shockers surged ahead 63-60 on a dunk by Landry Shamet. Two free throws by Conner Frankamp made it 68-63. A three-pointer by Markis McDuffie cut off McGill’s final rally by putting WSU up 71-65.
“We saw how much Coach wanted it, we saw his passion,” Zach Brown said. “We played with such energy. Maybe that was a tactic for us to come on and see how passionate he is about this game. If it is a tactic, it is a very smart move. It really brought the fire out in me.”
Marshall’s dramatics sent his players into something close to a frenzy and the Shockers finished the game on a 21-11 run. A press and zone defense wore down and rattled McGill in the fourth quarter.
“I appreciate them having my back,” Marshall said.
Zach Brown led WSU with 14 points. Markis McDuffie, Conner Frankamp and Darral Willis each added 13. Francois Borque led McGill with 23 points.
The Shockers outscored McGill 29-13 in the final quarter and improved to 2-1 on its four-game exhibition tour. They play their final game against the IndiSport All-Stars, a collection of local and regional professionals, at 3:45 p.m. Wednesday.
WICHITA ST.: Kelly 3-4 0-0 6, Shamet 4-8 3-5 11, Morris 2-4 1-2 5, McDuffie 4-7 4-5 13, Frankamp 5-8 2-2 13, Brown 4-8 5-6 14, Smith 0-2 1-2 1, Nuger 0-0 0-0 0, Willis 5-9 3-4 13, Allen 0-2 1-2 1, Hamilton 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 27-56 20-28 77.
McGILL: Ogundokun 5-13 0-0 11, Jolin 1-4 0-2 2 2, Codogan 2-4 1-1 6, Daoust 5-8 1-2 13, Bourque 10-11 3-5 23, Leung 2-7 2-2 8, Cummins 1-5 1-2 4, Pieper 0-1 0-0 0, Beckett 1-4 2-4 4, Ivaniukas 0-1 0-0 0, Trahan 0-2 0-0 0. 27-60 10-18 71.
Three-point shooting: WSU 3-15 (Frankamp 1-3, McDuffie 1-3, Brown 1-2, Shamet 0-3, Kelly 0-1, Smith 0-1, Hamilton 0-1), McGill 7-28 (Leung 2-7, Daoust 2-5, Ogundokun 1-6, Codogan 1-3, Cummins 1-1, Jolin 0-2, Bourque 0-1, Beckett 0-1, Trahan 0-2). Rebounds: WSU 28 (Kelly, Shamet, Brown, Willis 4), McGill 25 (Bourque 6). Turnovers: WSU 11 (Smith 3), McGill 14 (Bourque 5).