Why Wichita State and Gregg Marshall Ended Up in a Scandal and the Challenges Marshall has Now
Highly accomplished men’s basketball coach Gregg Marshall, of his own unsavory doing, is done at Wichita State University.
He resigns today as the leader of the Shockers’ basketball program, his name and reputation — once glorious — now stained after stories of a temper run amok and physical and verbal abuse towards players and at least one assistant coach.
Marshall will walk away with an agreement to pay him $7.75 million over the next six years, a bit of information that will surely inspire many critics to speak out in print and on the airwaves in the coming days as an example of bad behavior being rewarded.
How did we get here? Much the same reason that most scandal and crisis happens when it comes to leadership misconduct. It gets enabled from above.
It isn’t just Marshall who must own this scandal. WSU administration must too. This scandal is mostly but not all Marshall’s fault. The administration chose to look the other way. Why?
Because Marshall won big for the program and university, to the tune of 331 victories, a .732 winning percentage, eight NCAA Tournament appearances, a trip to the Final Four in 2013 and one unbeaten regular season. That brought positive publicity and financial benefits. It’s difficult to correct, discipline or break up with someone who provides you so much that you want and enjoy.
Marshall stepped down and while there was appreciation expressed for what he had, there wasn’t remorse; no mention of wrongdoing, regret, embarrassment, empathy or commitment to seeking help and healing relationships. It was a golden opportunity, bypassed.
It might arguably leave the media, public and victims of Marshall’s behavior wondering ‘Does he get it? Does he care?’”
It’s revealing, giving off the impression Marshall just wants his problems to blow over without the pain and effort required to show humility, humanity, and make amends. It’s a big character failing and crisis communications failing. Marshall chose “no” as an answer to show the character the media, public and prospective future employers expect in a scandal and crisis.
Marshall might believe this approach will work out well for him yet that’s a false belief.
What would work out for him? If he wants to truly reconstruct his reputation — and that’s what is necessary because of what has been revealed — a reconstruction, then Marshall has to show the tenacity and courage towards problem solving that he expected of his players.
To facilitate his recovery and accelerate his resilience, Marshall will have to humble himself in a way he hasn’t yet done and maybe doesn’t want to do. He’ll have to understand the magnitude and clarity of his transgressions, place himself in other people’s shoes, conduct the empathy that is wanted, expected and meaningful and then make sustained efforts to make amends.
Marshall will have to own the reality he needs professional help for the severe reactivity he’s displayed, to learn to master his impatience and temper that has caused problems for players, coaches, his employer and possibly even his family.
The question is will Marshall take any of these steps, commit to them, as a show of noble character, in a pursuit of improvement and personal and professional development, and a sign of learning from his errors?
Any prospective future employer will not have it easy if they would like to hire Marshall. He can make it easier on them and himself to enter a contract at that time by the breadth and scope of what he decides he is willing to do now.
The quality of his resilience will be determined much more by Marshall’s attitude, emotional intelligence and reconstruction efforts than his sterling won-loss record.
Michael Toebe is a reputation and crisis analyst and practitioner, serving individuals and organizations. He serves as a researcher, analyst, consultant, advisor, coach and communications provider and has provided analysis and advisory for online publications Chief Executive, Corporate Board Member, Corporate Compliance Insights, New York Law Journal and Training Industry and regularly publishes at Red Diamonds Essays and Reputation Specialist Essays (both on the Medium platform) and LinkedIn.