Photo by Sholten Singer for The Herald-Dispatch
It wasn’t long ago that the Marshall Thundering Herd men’s basketball program was in a bleak state. After a successful three-year period from the 2009-10 season through the 2011-12 season in which the program compiled an overall record of 67-36, things went downhill. The Herd posted records of just 13-19 and 11-22 in former head coach Tom Herrion’s final two seasons with the program and new head coach Dan D’Antoni had a tough task in his first season at the helm of the program during the 2014-15 season where Marshall finished just 11-21 overall. But things began changing and the program started to turn the corner.
The 2015-16 season saw the Herd regroup from an 0-6 start to the season to fight all the way back to become a C-USA contender. Marshall finished 17-16 overall while winning its most regular season C-USA games in program history and made a C-USA Tournament semifinal appearance. D’Antoni’s third year at the helm of the Herd saw even more improvement with Marshall making it all the way to the C-USA Tournament Championship game for just the second time in program history. The Herd wrapped up a successful 2016-17 season at 20-15 overall, its first 20-win season since the 2011-12 season. How has Marshall made such great strides in a relatively short amount of time? It can be described in social media terms as #Danalytics.
D’Antoni’s offensive style, which has seen great success in the NBA with his brother Mike, has been the catalyst for the Herd’s turnaround over the past couple of seasons. This fast-paced, loose and free offensive system has been coined by D’Antoni as “organized chaos” and it has led Marshall to a program resurgence. The Herd’s offensive production has been through the roof the past two seasons, averaging an all-time C-USA-record 86 points-per-game during the 2015-16 season and 85.6 points-per-game during the 2016-17 season. Outside of results on the court, #Danalytics, a social media term that came about following D’Antoni’s memorable postgame press conference following a game at Pittsburgh this season, have rejuvenated a Marshall fanbase as well.
There’s no question that results drive fans to attend games, and the lack of results the program was seeing led to low attendance figures. But the past couple of seasons have seen attendance figures gradually go up as the team sees more success. During the 2013-14 season, which resulted in an 11-22 overall record during Herrion’s last season as head coach, the program’s average home attendance-per-game dropped to 4,713 fans-per-game, the lowest average since the 2006-07 season. But as D’Antoni took over as head coach, those numbers began to increase. The average home attendance-per-game increased in his first season to 5,107 fans-per-game during the 2014-15 season to 5,474 fans-per-game during the 2015-16 season and most recently 5,815 fans-per-game during the 2016-17 season. The Herd’s 2016-17 home attendance average is the second highest for the program over the past 16 seasons.
There’s no denying the Marshall fanbase has bought in to #Danalytics and with the Herd’s run in the C-USA Tournament, it gives fans that much more of a reason to keep buying in. #Danalytics have brought the excitement and energy back to the community and fans as well as the team. The Marshall men’s basketball program is trending in the right direction and fans should expect that to continue in the coming years under the tutelage of one of the most beloved alums in Marshall history. The Herd was one game away from making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1987 this season and with the path the program is on, it won’t be long until that ultimate goal is reached and the drought is over.