The smart choice for the New Mexico Lobos is to promote Craig Neal from interim to head coach, but if athletic director Paul Krebs goes another way they should look to the Missouri Vally Conference and try to land Wichita State's Greg Marshall.
Marshall just led his Shockers to their first Final Four appearance since 1965, with a 70-66 win over Ohio State on Saturday night. However, getting Marshall to leave the Valley for a Mountain West school will not be that easy. While the Mountain West is a better league, it is not all that heads and shoulders above the Missouri Valley.
Marshall has had success at his only two head coaching jobs: Winthrop and Wichita State. At Winthrop, Marshall led the Eagles to seven NCAA Tournaments, won six regular season conference titles and never had a losing season in his eight years there. At Wichita State the success kept coming -- well that is after his first year struggles that resulted in an 11-20 record -- with four seasons of 20 wins or more, and two NCAA Tournament berths.
The results are there for Marshall to be successful at a higher profile job, but the question is does he want the job?
Marshall has stated he does not want to go to a bigger school just for the paycheck, and that he is comfortable getting wins at Wichita State:
"I'm not in search of anything," Marshall said. "I've got a great life, great family, great community I live in, great school, great administration, great players. What more do I need? More money? That's the only thing. We can obviously make runs in the NCAA tournament from Wichita State."
"This could be a destination job for me. Now it may not be, but I'm just saying I'm not in a big hurry and I never have been."
"I don't care if you pay me $2 million or $3 million. If I go home and I'm losing, it's no fun," Marshall said.
The gap between schools from the Missouri Valley and those in the Big Ten, Big East, Big 12 and other power leagues is shrinking. A lot of coaches at the so-called mid-major leagues are earning in the seven-figures and are chartering planes for more and more of their games. The only reason to go to a program with more pedigree is for the challenge, and a few more dollars.
Another reason successful coaches at the mid-major level are reluctant to leave is because it is now possible for them to make it to the Final Four. It started with George Mason a few years ago but now consider that Butler has been to a pair of Final Fours to go along with a national title game appearance, so has VCU, Memphis, Louisville and now Wichita State.
Since 2005 -- when Louisville was part of Conference USA -- there has been a mid-major in the Final Four seven times. Prior to that the last three mid-majors were Utah in 1998, U Mass in 1996, and then UNLV back in 1990 and 1991. Now, it is almost a yearly occurrence for these schools from a smaller league to make a Final Four run.
Heading to New Mexico is different then taking over for a power program that has fallen on hard times. The Lobos have a history of winning, and have been one of the best programs West of the Rockies ever since Steve Alford took over. This would not be a rebuilding job that Marshall would have to take over, but it would be a well established program capable of winning the Mountain West in his first season.
However, the New Mexico job may not be a big enough job to take a risk of giving up what he has at Wichita State. Marshall has great job security and already makes over $1 million per year. New Mexico could pay him around the $2 million range, and if he were to have similar success as Alford then he would have the same type of job security he has now.
At the end of the day, Marshall leaving Wichita State for New Mexico probably won't happen, and really it shouldn't as long as the Lobos hire Neal to be the next head coach. If there is a reason for New Mexico to interview other candidates then Marshall should be on the short list.