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Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall defends coaching style as school investigates alleged abuse

WICHITA, Kan. — Wichita State University has ordered an independent investigation of alleged abuse by men’s basketball coach Gregg Marshall, the school confirmed Friday.



Gregg Marshall et al. standing in front of a crowd: Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall on the sidelines at Koch Arena in Wichita, Kansas, on January 18, 2020.


© Bo Rader/Wichita Eagle/TNS
Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall on the sidelines at Koch Arena in Wichita, Kansas, on January 18, 2020.

But in the meantime it will be business as usual for the team, as Marshall and the team will continue to prepare for the upcoming season as normal, the school said in a written statement.

Wichita State ordered the investigation into Marshall’s conduct by an outside law firm earlier this year and acknowledged it only after published reports by Stadium and The Athletic, two major sports news outlets.

One of those reports was the result of a six-month investigation by college basketball insider Jeff Goodman outlining a pattern of physical and verbal abuse by Marshall that has driven away some players.

Among the allegations in Goodman’s report, which was published by Stadium:

— Marshall punched former Shocker center Shaquille Morris in the head during an October 2015 practice.

— Marshall choked former assistant coach Kyle Lindsted during a preseason workout in the 2016-17 season.

— Marshall demeaned players with ethnic and racial slurs.

— Marshall body-shamed one player because of his weight.

In a statement given to The Eagle, Marshall did not specifically address any of those allegations but did admit his coaching style “isn’t for everyone.”

“Many players thrive in the system we have created and are energized by our team culture,” Marshall wrote in the 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.”

Goodman’s story quotes Morris extensively and says the allegations were confirmed by multiple other former players who wished to remain anonymous. One former Shocker who went on-record in the story is former guard Ty Taylor, who told Stadium he witnessed Marshall punch Morris in the head. Multiple former players have confirmed this account to The Eagle.

Marshall, 57, is entering his 14th season at Wichita State, where he is the program’s all-time winningest coach and led the Shockers to seven straight NCAA Tournaments from 2012 to 2018, including the 2013 Final Four. He is paid $3.5 million annually, which makes him one of college basketball’s highest-paid coaches.

“I have always pledge my full-hearted commitment to my team,” Marshall wrote in the statement. “I hope that no player or coach in my program ever doubts my respect for them or my investment in their success. If there is any question of my love for my team, it’s my responsibility to do a better job of demonstrating my dedication.”

The reports come following an increase in transfers out of the program in recent seasons. A total of 17 players have transferred since the 2015-16 season. WSU lost young, talented players in Austin Reaves (2018) and the trio of Jamarius Burton, Erik Stevenson and Grant Sherfield this spring. All had major roles on the team.

The investigation into Marshall’s conduct was triggered after six scholarship players decided to transfer this spring. That’s an unusually high number in any offseason, but it was even rarer considering WSU finished with a 23-8 record and was on the brink of returning to the NCAA Tournament before the season was halted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Since the stories about the investigation emerged Thursday, a handful of former Shockers — including Cleanthony Early, Joe Ragland, Ramon Clemente and Chadrack Lufile — have defended Marshall on Twitter.

“Marshall has always challenged me in different ways that I didn’t understand or wasn’t comfortable with especially (my) first year being there,” Lufile tweeted. “From the classroom to the court he made sure that I was held accountable for everything I needed to do in order to perform and graduate!”

“Was Gregg Marshall a tough coach 100 percent yes,” Clemente tweeted. “But that’s what I signed up for and I never expected anything easy from that man. But 11 years later I still apply that toughness to the person that I am today. I’ve been successful since I left campus and coach is a huge part in that.”

“As professional as they come!!” Ragland tweeted about Marshall. “Let’s not only hear it from the gentlemen who couldn’t cut it. The man was a competitor and winner, also really looks after his players on and off the court!”

As part of the probe, Wichita State hired an out-of-state law firm that specializes in higher-education law. The firm has been interviewing current and former Shockers, according to an email obtained by The Eagle.

In an email to former Wichita State men’s basketball players, lawyer Adam Henningsen says that his St. Louis-based law firm — Tueth, Keeney, Cooper, Mohan and Jackstadt — has been retained by Wichita State “to assist in gathering information relating to the Men’s Basketball program.”

Henningsen has not responded to multiple requests for comment in the past week.

Wichita State University acknowledged the investigation Friday afternoon in a written statement and said it is “being completed in an expeditious and deliberate manner.”

“The university is in the process of an independent investigation conducted by Tueth Keeney, a St. Louis-based law firm. Tueth Keeney has a reputation of working with numerous public and private colleges, universities, community colleges, and other educational institutions on a wide range of issues, including conducting investigations of personnel and student-related matters, and other compliance issues.”

The written statement says the university has received full cooperation from Marshall, university staff, coaches and current student-athletes, and team activities will continue as scheduled.

Marshall’s contract to coach basketball at WSU is not technically between him and the university, but with a nonprofit corporation called the Wichita State University Intercollegiate Athletic Association Inc.

Under that contract, he receives an annual base salary of $270,000 from ICAA. The contract shows that most of Marshall’s pay goes to a private limited liability company called Marshall Hoops LLC.

The contract, signed in July 2017, indicated that Marshall Hoops would be paid $2.73 million for the 2017 season and $3.2 million for 2018.

The documents provided by the university under the Kansas Open Records Act did not show what the payments to Marshall Hoops would be for 2019 or 2020.

An earlier version of the contract indicated Marshall would be paid $3.5 million in each of those two years, but those paragraphs were deleted in the 2017 update that directed the bulk of Marshall’s pay to his LLC.

The contract also indicates that Marshall would have to be paid up to $15 million if his contract were to be terminated early without cause.

However, a clause in the contract says he could be dismissed for cause without any further payments if he commits an “act of discreditable conduct … that is inconsistent with the professional standards expected of a head coach of an intercollegiate sports team that results in material injury to the reputation of Wichita State University, the ICAA or the Program.”

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©2020 The Wichita Eagle (Wichita, Kan.)

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