Playing angry the Marshall way

Editor’s note: During the next five weeks, we will reveal the top 50 coaches in college basketball, as decided by our ESPN Forecast panel. Today we unveil No. 8: Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall. On Thursday, we release No. 7.

A Final Four appearance in 2013 didn’t do it. Neither will an undefeated regular season and No. 1 seed in 2014.

Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall will continue to implore his team to “play angry” simply because he’s always coached that way.

“We had this thing before play angry,” Tyson Waterman said. “It was called the Marshall Law.”

Back in 1998, Waterman played point guard on Marshall’s first team at Winthrop. Prior to Marshall’s arrival at the Rock Hill, South Carolina, school, the Eagles had never won a Big South Conference title in its 13 years of existence.

The program was a sure win for just about every league opponent on its schedule. Marshall tapped into that slight on a regular basis.

“His biggest thing was nobody respects you, he made you feel like you’re not respected no matter what,” Waterman said. “We won [12] straight and he was still like 'nobody respects you.' He’ll find a stat that makes you keep from being complacent. He’ll find a reason to make you think that you’re not doing nothing.”

Waterman, who was just hired this month as an assistant coach at Southeastern Louisiana, recalled when he found himself on the wrong side of Marshall sending a message. Waterman had just dropped 22 points against Maryland’s Steve Blake in an overtime loss and was feeling high on himself. So much so that he was late for a practice before Winthrop played at Campbell.

Marshall sat Waterman out of the starting lineup because of it. And when his point guard sulked his way through a poor first-half performance, Marshall sat him the rest of the game.

“That’s when I learned you have to play the right way, the Marshall way, or other than that I wasn’t going to play,” Waterman said. “It was that simple.”

Waterman said Marshall hasn’t changed much since then. He’s still taking a roster largely devoid of blue-chip players. He reminds them that nobody rated them as four- and five-star players. And he’s turned the Shockers into a program that nobody wants to play.

“These are guys that a lot of people wouldn’t take, and that’s who he takes,” Waterman said. “He doesn’t care about height, he doesn’t care about size. He loves length, but at the same time he’ll take you just if you have ability and a hard work ethic. That’s what he likes, guys that are going to come to work.”

And he wants players that work like he works. Waterman said Marshall’s preparation is what sets him apart from others. He’s obsessive over details and treats every opponent the same.

That’s how Wichita State stayed unbeaten even as the pressure to keep its winning streak going kept mounting.

“He’s going to prepare for you just like you’re Kentucky,” Waterman said. “And he’s going to expect you to play with the level of effort just like it’s Kentucky. If not, you’re going to sit. Trust me I know.”

Kentucky is a big reason why Waterman feels like Marshall will have the Shockers motivated and ready from the start next season. Despite finishing the regular season undefeated for the first time since St. Joseph’s in 2004, Wichita State was given a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament in arguably the toughest region.

The Wildcats, who were ranked preseason No. 1 and advanced to the title game, received a No. 8 seed and quickly proved that they were underseeded, ending the Shockers' season in the third round. That won’t soon be forgotten by Marshall.

“I felt like they got dealt a bad hand last year and I feel like it was on purpose,” said Waterman, who believes it just enough of a slight that Marshall will use it to keep his team on edge.

“He’s not going to be content until he gets a national championship with Wichita State.”