While there may be debates over who the best coach is in conferences such as the Big East, there was no such controversy in the Missouri Valley, where one leader stood head and shoulders above his counterparts after replacing each of his top five scorers from last season and still winning 24 games for an encore.
Today, that person was rightfully recognized, as Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall was named the Coach of the Year in the Valley for the second straight season. Marshall, who has guided the Shockers to an NIT championship and NCAA Tournament appearance in his first six seasons, becomes the first coach in Wichita State history to win the award twice; and is the second Valley head man to capture the honor in consecutive seasons, and first since Northern Iowa's Ben Jacobson in 2009 and 2010.
"You're comfortable knowing he always has your back," Shockers forward Cleanthony Early, the Missouri Valley's Newcomer of the Year, said of Marshall. "On the court, he's pushing you to get the best out of you."
The push that Marshall gave his players this season could more accurately be described as somewhat of a shove, as Wichita State needed to replace core veterans such as Toure' Murry, Joe Ragland and David Kyles. However, the coach; who gradually built Winthrop into a regional powerhouse the same way he has done with the Shockers, reached into the junior college ranks again with Early one year after finding success down that road with Carl Hall, and has received incredibly valuable contributions from Oregon transfer Malcolm Armstead as well after the senior replaced Ragland at the point guard position.
Marshall defeated Creighton's Greg McDermott to win his second straight Coach of the Year award despite McDermott's Bluejays getting the best of the Shockers in the last game of the regular season to steal the top seed in this week's Valley tournament, which began earlier tonight with Drake defeating Bradley. The Shockers will open postseason play in St. Louis tomorrow against the winner of tonight's play-in game between Missouri State and Southern Illinois, with the winner of that quarterfinal matchup to face either Northern Iowa or Illinois State in the semifinals on Saturday.