Lure of home may be USF's foe

Coaching candidate Gregg Marshall has become an icon in nine years at Winthrop.

Published March 25, 2007

TAMPA - Gregg Marshall faces a major decision in the coming days.

The Winthrop basketball coach and his wife, Lynn, toured the USF Sun Dome and campus Friday and met with school president Judy Genshaft as athletic director Doug Woolard wooed the top prospect to take over the Bulls.

The question before Marshall is whether he wants to make Tampa his new home.

Is USF a compelling enough job to persuade him to leave his native South Carolina, where he has coached for most of the past two decades?

"He's close to being the mayor of Rock Hill, where you're just worshipped and adored by people," said former College of Charleston coach John Kresse, who had Marshall as an assistant from 1988-96. "He knows if he leaves, that's something he'll have to reclaim elsewhere."

Marshall, the only candidate known to have been brought to campus, returned to Rock Hill Saturday and told the Rock Hill Herald a formal offer has not been made.

"Doug Woolard is a man of integrity," he told the newspaper. "He's got a school in the Big East conference and he wants it to be the best. It's a school that's successful in other sports, and he wants it to be successful in basketball."

Rock Hill, about 25 miles south of Charlotte, N.C., and Winthrop have found such success with Marshall.

"I think our success that has built up over the last nine years has steadily increased the recognition, visibility and knowledge of Winthrop," said athletic director Tom Hickman, who hired Marshall and has crafted a 10-year contract proposal, with roughly a 50 percent raise, with the hopes of keeping him.

Hickman laughed at Kresse's mayoral comparison.

"I don't know how much the mayor is liked here," he said. "But Marshall has built a tremendous following. I think for him, it's more like being a rock star here."

The rock star will likely wait until at least Monday before deciding to continue talks with USF. Marshall's basketball success has become synonymous with Winthrop - two of the prominent images on the main page at Winthrop.edu are his players and their fans - so separating the coach from the program he has built won't be easy.

If anyone can relate to the allure of staying at a small college in South Carolina, it's Kresse, who retired last year after 23 years as coach in Charleston. And if anyone can understand the difficulty of luring Marshall from Rock Hill, it's Kresse. Last summer, Marshall was hired as his replacement and introduced at a news conference, but the next day, Marshall changed his mind.

Kresse said the University of South Carolina, with the prestige of the Southeastern Conference in Marshall's home state, remains "a job he has dreamed about, (something) he'll always have in the back of his mind."

"He's done remarkably well here," Kresse said, "and his wife and children are very happy here as well, but most coaches want to take the next step to the highest level, like in the Big East."