Marshall and a Basketball Family Tree
Wichita State coach's lineage traced to the Original Celtics
|* Entering Final Four on Saturday|
ATLANTA — Most analysts in the country didn’t expect Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall and his team to emerge from the West Regional and into the Final Four in Atlanta. A genealogy search would have suggested it was just a matter of time.
Marshall’s career can be traced to a long lineage of coaches dating back to the Original Celtics and the beginnings of professional basketball a century ago.
Names such as Jim Furey, Joe Lapchick, Lou Carnesecca and John Kresse are part of that basketball family tree.
Beginning from its roots with Furey and the Original Celtics, woven throughout its trunk of history with Lapchick to Carnesecca and among its outreaching branches from Kresse and now to Marshall. Success has helped this family tree continue to thrive and grow throughout the years.
“John Kresse is one of my mentors,” Marshall said. “He’s a big part of the reason that I’m a coach with any degree of success, much less at this point. It was amazing how much I drew on that experience from Coach Kresse. Just learning from him was incredible, a great experience.”
Marshall has used lessons passed down from one coach to another, leading his Shockers in the 2013 Final Four.
“I think Gregg Marshall coaches a little like Joe Lapchick did in the 1950’s, and like Lou Carnesecca did for so many years because that’s where I got my stuff,” Kresse, Marshall’s former boss at the College of Charleston, said here Saturday morning. “I do see a familiar play, signal or call from him when I watch the Wichita State games. So I think it all carries down from generation to generation.”
The connection will be clear when Kresse sits in the Georgia Dome, in the Wichita State section, and watches his former assistant lead a team into a national semifinal game against Louisville. “The last 11 minutes of the Ohio State game were the longest minutes of my life since I left coaching 11 years ago,” he said. “But I am like a proud papa here in Atlanta.
“I am going to be a big Wichita State Shocker fan at Saturday’s game.”
That tree started from a seedling when basketball was just starting to grow its roots in New York playgrounds in the early 20th century.
In 1914, Frank “Tip” McCormack was the coach for the New York Celtics, originally formed from neighborhood players that played in the Irish west side playground called Celtic Park. As they began to outgrow their surroundings and competition, the team would eventually become a professional team.
McCormack joined the Army in 1917 during World War I, turning over the team to Jim Furey and his brother, Thomas, to manage. McCormack returned in 1918, but refused to give up the team’s name to Furey. So Furey decided he would rename his team the Original Celtics.
Furey had a philosophy much different for the time. He signed quality players to exclusive contracts and guaranteed their salaries, vastly different than other professional teams at the time. Because of this business practice, Furey was able to get the best players and thus his team improved rapidly.
By 1923, Furey had signed a lanky 6-foot, 5-inch center named Joe Lapchick. With Lapchick and others, the Original Celtics continued to dominate their opponents. The Celtics joined the American Basketball League in 1926, winning two consecutive titles. But the league insisted the team disband due to their dominance, so they did in 1928. Lapchick and few teammates joined the Cleveland Rosenblums and won two consecutive ABL titles.
Due to the Great Depression, the ABL ended in 1931. Lapchick reformed the Celtics and played together with them for five years.
In 1936, Lapchick landed the coaching job at St. John’s in New York. During 11 seasons, he led the team to an 180-55 record and won back-to-back National Invitation Tournaments in 1943 and '44.
In 1947, Lapchick accepted the coaching job of the New York Knickerbockers and continued his success, with eight consecutive winning seasons and playoff appearances, including three consecutive trips to the NBA Finals from 1951 to 1953.
But stress forced Lapchick to quit at the end of the 1955–56 season, finishing with a record of 326–247 in the NBA. A month later, Lapchick returned to St. John’s, where he would coach for nine more seasons and win two more NIT titles.
But because of the school’s mandatory-retirement rules, he was forced to step down after the 1964–65 season at the age of 65. Appropriately, that season ended with the latter of those titles as St. John’s upset Villanova, 55–51 in the championship game.
In 1965, an assistant to Lapchick named Lou Carnesecca, who served under him for eight seasons, took the head coaching position. Carnesecca would coach at St. John’s for five seasons, leading them to a 104–35 record.
In 1970–73, Carnesecca coached the New York Nets of the American Basketball Association, reaching the ABA Finals in his second season. He coached the Nets for one more season before he decided to return to St. John’s.
At St. John’s, Carnesecca would coach for 19 more seasons, before calling it quits in 1992. He would amass 526 wins and 200 losses during 24 seasons at St. John’s, reaching the postseason in every year he coached the team, including a trip to the Final Four in 1985.
Kresse, who played for Lapchick at St. John’s as a walk-on from 1960–63, became an assistant coach under Carnesecca at St. John’s in 1965. He would continue to serve under Carnesecca at St. John’s and for the ABA New York Nets for 14 seasons from 1965–1979.
He would go on to became a successful head coach at the College of Charleston. Kresse won 560 games, losing only 143 in 23 seasons at the College of Charleston (.797, the fifth highest winning percentage of any NCAA Division 1 college basketball coach). During that tenure, Kresse hired Marshall, who would be under his guidance for eight seasons. Kresse retired from coaching in 2002.
“Gregg was 25 when I hired him as an assistant in 1988 at College of Charleston,” Kresse said. “He was a tremendous teacher of the game, his enthusiasm was infectious. He could motivate players and was a great recruiter.”
Marshall would serve two seasons as an assistant coach at Marshall under Greg White before taking the head coaching position at Winthrop. Of course, he sought advice from his mentor before putting his name in the hat.
“ 'Gregg, I would walk to Rock Hill right now to help you get that job and tell them you’re the perfect candidate,’ ” Marshall said Kresse told him. “So I had his blessing.”
During his nine seasons at Winthrop, Marshall’s teams had seven NCAA tournament appearances, won six Big South regular-season titles and seven conference tournaments. His teams had six 20-win seasons, and Marshall was named Big South Coach of the Year four times.
In 2007, Marshall accepted the Wichita State coaching position and led the Shockers to an NIT championship in his fourth season. Now just two seasons later, his team is two victories away from a national championship.
“I hope I am the same type of mentor for Gregg that Lou Carnesecca was for me,” Kresse said. “I embodied his style of coaching. How we played offensively and defensively, how we approached the game. A lot of what I did in my 23 years at Charleston was copying Carnesecca and how his teams played.”
Marshall suggested that Kresse had helped him analyze tape of Louisville, which is only partly true.
“Gregg has done well with his own strategies, but I saw Louisville play earlier this season against the College of Charleston,” Kresse said. “We talked about some of the things I saw with Louisville and Rick Pitino. Hopefully what I taught to Gregg for eight years will play a part in the game.”
“And if it stays close, hopefully the underdog can survive and advance.”