Yesterday, Gregg Marshall decided to decline Alabama's advances and remain at Wichita State. Reports vary on how much Bama was offering, ranging from "nearly $4 million" to "perhaps as high as $4.9 million". Clearly it wasn't about money, as Marshall is going to be making right around $3 million according to reports. Bill Battle's pursuit of Marshall was so open that he felt the need to issue a statement about the matter, which is highly unusual during coaching searches.
I hope Alabama didn't fire Anthony Grant specifically to make a run at hiring Marshall. He has chosen not to take bigger and better jobs than Alabama's. It'd be like firing a football coach to try to pull Gary Patterson out of TCU, or until recently, Chris Peterson out of Boise State. Peterson did leave, of course, but the program that got him didn't fire its coach to go after him. As I pointed out during the football coaching carousel, the money in college sports has gotten to the point where regular schools are able to pay enough to keep a coach away from a blue blood if factors other than just money are in play. That certainly was the case with Marshall and Wichita State.
And as long as we're drawing analogies to football, it might be worth doing that for the Alabama men's basketball program. The best parallel I can think of right now is UNC football. They're not bad programs, as they own some conference championships and are safely north of .500 all time, but they're not elite either. They're also permanently overshadowed by another sport on campus.
Can you imagine Peterson leaving Boise State or Patterson leaving TCU for North Carolina? I can't, and neither could I really imagine Marshall leaving WSU for Alabama.
Erik at Roll Bama Roll thinks that none of the obvious fallback candidates like Mike White of Louisiana Tech or Richard Pitino from Minnesota are good enough to fully justify firing Grant. You know what, though? Grant wasn't really working out.
David Hobbs got a pink slip from Bama after missing the NCAA Tournament for three straight seasons from 1996-98. Mark Gottfried resigned on the way to his third missed tournament in a row, though there was some drama with Ronald Steele that played into it too. Grant just missed his third consecutive tournament. If that's what the standard is going to be, then Grant didn't live up to it.
With coaching in any sport, you don't fire a guy in order to hire someone else unless that someone else is basically already in the bag. Even lining that up is perilous, as Auburn taught us with JetGate. You might find yourself like Notre Dame did when it fired Ty Willingham too late to get Urban Meyer and ended up with Charlie Weis.
If you're Battle, it doesn't make sense not to swing for the fences initially. Texas fired someone far more successful than Grant and is wooing Shaka Smart, who is entrenched at a mid-major just like Marshall is. UT would end up with more egg on its face if Smart declines than Bama has now. If you want to be big time, there's not a more direct route than hiring someone who is big time. You just have to go into it knowing that you may strike out and therefore must have a good backup plan.
Alabama is in much better shape to retain a great coach than to hire one. It has plenty of money, but it lacks in history, tradition, and passion for basketball. Unless there's a South Carolina-era Steve Spurrier out there, who's won big but specifically wants to build something from almost scratch, Bama was never going to end up with a truly splashy hire.
I know there's probably pressure for Battle to get that splashy hire after Auburn landed Bruce Pearl, but Auburn lucked out that someone like Pearl was in the bargain bin to go grab in the first place. Alabama was pretty lucky in the winter of 2006 that Nick Saban had decided two years prior to experiment with being an NFL head coach. If that experiment came only one year prior, or if he'd never left LSU, then he wouldn't have been an option. Ohio State was lucky that TattooGate happened to come right before a two-time national champ with deep Ohio roots would be available.
Whatever the actual offer for Marshall was, it shows that Alabama is willing to invest in men's basketball now. In that sense, striking out on Marshall at least turns some heads and sends a strong signal to the rest of the college basketball world. Grant didn't live up to the school's aspirations, and so canning him was justified in that sense. There isn't some person who might be out there this time next year for Bama to stick out another year with Grant just to go after. If the move has to be made eventually, just go ahead and make it now.
Somewhere out there, a future star of a coach is at a program that can't keep him away from the likes of Alabama. It's Battle's job to find that guy. That was the job a week ago, and it's still the job today. Nothing about Marshall turning Alabama down changes that fact.