After three straight trips to the NIT, Missouri Valley Conference regular season champ Wichita State appears ready to make its first NCAA Tournament appearance since the late 1980s, and 41-year-old coach Mark Turgeon has been responsible for the resurgence of the Shocker program.
The sixth-year WSU coach has compiled a 107-74 mark at the school, including three straight 20-win seasons beginning in 2003-04. After going 9-19 in his first season, his teams have seen their victory total climb each year, going 15-15 in 2002; 18-12 in 2003; 21-11 in 2004; 22-10 in 2005; and 22-7 so far this season. With his team's 60-58 win over Drake Wednesday, the Shockers claimed their first MVC championship in 23 years.
A native of Topeka, Kan., Turgeon was a two-time captain at Kansas where he played for Larry Brown. During his four-year run Kansas' teams went 108-33, made four trips to the NCAA Tournament and earned a spot in the 1986 Final Four. After graduating in 1987 Turgeon remained in Lawrence as a member of the Jayhawk staff and worked under Brown during Kansas' 1988 NCAA Championship run. After Brown departed, Turgeon was retained by Roy Williams, serving as Kansas' junior varsity coach.
After four more seasons at his alma mater, Turgeon got his first full-time assistant coaching position at Oregon, where he was the No. 1 assistant to Jerry Green. During his five seasons at the Pac-10 school Turgeon helped the Ducks to their first NCAA invitation in 34 years while posting winning seasons three times.
When Green departed Oregon to take the head coaching position at Tennessee, Turgeon jumped to the NBA, spending one year as an assistant under Larry Brown with the Philadelphia 76ers. The following season he was named the head coach at Jacksonville State, where he went 25-30 in two seasons. After going 9-19 in his first season, Jacksonville State bounced back with a 17-11 record in Turgeon's second season and Wichita State came calling.
Turgeon's teams have always been known for their unselfish play and balanced scoring. This year's Shocker team has seven players averaging at least 20 minutes/game, with no one averaging more than 28. The year's team has four players averaging double figures, with the leading scorer, Paul Miller, averaging 13.1. Last season, no player on the roster averaged more than 12.1 points/contest or 26.6 minutes/game, but there were eight players that averaged at least 17.8 minutes and six players that averaged at least 7.1 points per outing.
What Makes Him a Viable Candidate: He's a quality mid-major coach whose teams have improved every year during his head coaching career. His opportunity to work under people like Larry Brown and Roy Williams is a big plus, as is the fact he's had eight years of head coaching experience. His coaching opportunities at Kansas and Oregon, meanwhile, have given him a good feel for what recruiting is like at an elite program. He's probably a little bit under the radar at this point because he's yet to get his Wichita State team into the NCAA Tournament, but that will change this season. He was considered a candidate for the Kansas job before Bill Self took over three years ago, so another elite college program thought he was worthy of a serious look three years ago. His resume has only gotten better since.
What Makes Him a Longshot: To most IU fans, the first reaction when they hear the name Mark Turgeon is, who? He obviously doesn't have the name recognition of many of the other possibilities such as Marquette's Tom Crean, Texas' Rick Barnes, Iowa's Steve Alford or Ohio State's Thad Matta. While that doesn't make him a bad choice by any means, it might not generate the initial wave of enthusiasm as some of Greenspan's other options. There are also plenty around the state who are craving for Greenspan to pick someone from the IU "family," and Turgeon is a Kansas Jayhawk through and through. Indiana certainly doesn't want to have a coach who would actually view another job in college basketball as a step up from Indiana, but if Turgeon had success at IU and the KU job ever opened up, it could be a very similar situation to when Roy Williams left Kansas to return to his North Carolina roots.
HoosierNation.com's Take: Turgeon is in a similar situation to that of Northern Iowa Coach Greg McDermott - he's a couple of NCAA Tournament wins away from being an extremely attractive coaching commodity. He's lacking a little bit of the pizzazz that generally goes with someone who's ready to take over a program of the caliber of Indiana, primarily because his team hasn't gotten much national attention due to its failure to earn an NCAA tourney invitation. But he has a team that will be in the tournament field this year, one that's capable of winning a couple of games. In the non-conference the Shockers lost by one point to Illinois (55-54), and they will be able to cause fits for teams with their ability to control the tempo. They'll also likely have a seed in the No. 6-9 range, meaning they'll have a great shot to win at least one game. Don't be surprised if Turgeon gets a long look by Greenspan no matter what his team's fortunes in the NCAA. He's a Midwest guy, he's the product of a big-time program, and he's proven himself in his six years at Wichita State. As far as mid-major coaches go, Turgeon is on the top of my list.
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