CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Two days before last year's Final Four, three former Marshall University basketball coaches sat in a downtown New Orleans hotel lobby and reminisced.
Greg White, who coached the Thundering Herd from 1996-2003 between stints at the University of Charleston, chatted and laughed with former assistants Bryan Poore and Gregg Marshall. Poore has been West Virginia State's coach since 1999.
Gregg Marshall's Wichita State Shockers are Final Four-bound after they cut down the West Regional nets Saturday night.
Last Tuesday, after Wichita State had defeated Gonzaga to advance to the Sweet 16, Marshall called White and said four words: Do you believe this?
White, in fact, does.
"This is no fluke," said White, who had the Shockers' sixth-year coach on his Herd coaching staff for two seasons (1996 and '97). "It's not a fluke when you get this far."
White hired Marshall at MU when he took the Herd job in April of 1996. White looked at successful mid-major programs and saw College of Charleston dominating the Atlantic Sun - the same league that produced Florida Gulf Coast this season - and making an annual habit of reaching the NCAA Tournament.
So, White targeted one of Charleston's top assistants: Gregg Marshall.
Marshall flew to West Virginia and interviewed. White was sold and told Marshall that after two seasons on his bench, Marshall would be ready for a head coaching job of his own. Two years later - after he had turned down several Division II opportunities - Marshall took the Winthrop job in his home state of South Carolina.
Since he left Huntington, Marshall has averaged 22 wins per season and reached the NCAA Tournament in nine of 15 seasons. Now his Wichita State program is the fifth team seeded No. 9 or lower to reach the Final Four, joining No. 11 VCU (2011), No. 11 George Mason (2006), No. 11 LSU (1986) and No. 9 Penn (1979).
At 50 years old, Marshall is two wins from a national championship.
Poore watched the Shockers' win over Ohio State in the regional final intently, tweeting along the way. It was hard for White, who is vacationing in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to sneak peeks.
Two other former Herd assistants and White coaching disciples - Dave Dickerson and Jeff Boals - were on the Ohio State bench.
"Coaching is a fraternity unlike any other," Poore said Saturday night hours after Wichita State advanced. "It's a network-driven business and the larger your network, the better off you are."
It's also a network littered with coaches who have Mountain State ties. In Sunday's South Regional final, former Marshall coach Billy Donovan squared off against former West Virginia coach John Beilein. In the Midwest Regional final, White watched another of his former assistants, Kevin Keatts, who is an assistant for Rick Pitino at Louisville.