Three losses in a row for Kansas State Wildcats basketball means that their 2022 NCAA tournament bubble has popped, and it also means that Bruce Weber is on the hot seat again. Fans are buzzing about a possible K-State basketball coaching search on the horizon. It may be premature to talk about it, but you cannot ignore the buzz. If there isn’t a coaching change made after this season, there will likely be one in the not-so-distant future given Bruce Weber’s age and proximity to retirement.
A buddy of mine that is older and wiser than me is a sports nut like I am. I have known him for almost 25 years. He has some gems when it comes to his sports takes, and one, in particular, is a common theme that he has had over the years that is spot on. If an organization or school hires a new head coach and you hear them make the announcement and you go “who?,” it rarely, if ever, works out in the end.
This is mostly true with K-State coaches hired over the years. Jim Wooldridge and Ron Prince are prime examples of coaches that nobody had ever heard of when the K-State administration decided to hire them. When each announcement was made, I said “who?” both times. Neither one worked out. To a lesser extent, I said the same thing when K-State hired Bruce Weber. I knew of him, but he had just been fired by Illinois when he was snatched up by K-State. I was surprised by the move.
One exception to the “who?” rule might be Bill Snyder. While he probably was not known to Big 8 or K-State fans at the time, Big 10 fans knew about him and wanted him out of that conference because he was a very successful offensive coordinator at Iowa. If the internet was around back then, I’m sure he would have been a much hotter candidate than he was at the time.
Three Potential K-State Basketball Coaching Candidates
There are three coaching candidates out there that are well-known names that most, if not all, K-State basketball fans recognize who would be successful at K-State. Each one, if hired, would avoid the risk of hiring a “who?” candidate as the next basketball coach. They are Gregg Marshall, Chris Mack, and Brad Underwood. I am sure some die-hard K-State fans just threw up in their mouths reading “Gregg Marshall.” I’ll address that here in a minute.
I did a few very unscientific Twitter polls asking K-State fans their opinion of the three coaches I mentioned. The question I asked was “would you hire <coach name> as K-State’s head basketball coach?” I wanted to see if I could get the pulse of the fan base to see who their favorite candidate of the three is. Marshall, Mack, and Underwood have all had issues in the past, and some of those issues are deal-breakers for fans.
Here is the breakdown of the poll results:
Marshall coached Wichita State from 2007 to 2020, making a Final Four in 2013. He resigned in November 2020, after an investigation by the school into verbal and physical abuse of staff and players. Marshall denied any wrongdoing, but he resigned anyway. Some of his ex-players have corroborated the claims, while others have come to his defense.
371 people voted in the Gregg Marshall poll. 76.8% said they would NOT hire Gregg Marshall. The poll results and the comments on the poll shows there is still a lot of vitriol and bad feelings towards Gregg Marshall. I don’t think K-State athletic director Gene Taylor would consider Gregg Marshall, but if he did, he would likely face a lot of backlash from fans. For that reason alone, I don’t think Marshall is an option.
Chris Mack coached Xavier from 2009 to 2018 before taking over at Louisville, where he coached from 2018 to 2022. He made an Elite 8 at Xavier and made the NCAA tournament every year but one. He didn’t have nearly the success at Louisville. He had a slightly above average overall record, but it was the notice of NCAA allegations regarding three violations within the Louisville basketball program that eventually got him fired.
Despite the NCAA violations, K-State fans view Chris Mack much more favorably than they do Gregg Marshall. Only 108 people voted on the Chris Mack poll, but 72.2 percent of people said they would hire him as K-State’s next coach. I’m not sure Gene Taylor will go this route, either, but it would be a hire that would at the very least get the fan base interested in basketball again.
This would probably be the home run hire to unite the K-State fan base. Brad Underwood coached under Bob Huggins and Frank Martin at K-State and has gone on to find a lot of success as head coach at Stephen F Austin, Oklahoma State, and Illinois. The problem with getting Underwood is finding the money to hire him away from Illinois. He bleeds purple, and I’ve heard through the grapevine that K-State is his “dream job.” The problem is that he has a good thing going at Illinois right now, and it would probably take a lot to lure him away from there.
179 people voted on the Brad Underwood poll, and 83.2% of them said they would hire Brad Underwood. He is the clear favorite, but I’m not sure how likely it is that he would come home to Manhattan.
There are other qualified coaches, but are there any that would move the needle with the casual K-State basketball fan? This program needs a shot in the arm, and I would like to see K-State hire a proven and known head coach. In other words, someone that doesn’t make you go “who?”