The New Man in Town

Tomorrow the Terps will hand the keys to the basketball program over to Mark Turgeon.

Years ago during a long period of scandal and crisis in America, the resignation of the top man and ultimately the words the signaled the end of the drama, “Our long national nightmare has come to an end.”

Of course the scandal of Watergate and the resignation of Nixon dwarfs our little soap opera with the resignation of our top guy but for three days, the Maryland fan base has certainly been in crisis mode. With the jolting shock of losing a fixture and Maryland alumnus as your coach, the romancing of a high rising coach in Sean Miller only to be spurned, the sudden leaving of a seemingly sinking ship by all other big name candidates, the media dissidents who seem justified in calling this job an average one despite the fan base's passionate belief to the contrary to the final naming of a new sheriff in town. Truth be told, the end has justified the means here and Maryland has found in Mark Turgeon a hell of a coach. For those who just want the belle of the ball, they will suffer some initial reservations. Well, for those people, they need to understand what Maryland has latched on to here. Jeff Goodman on the radio labels Mark Turgeon “the most underrated coach in America.”

The numbers and the settings bear out the truth. Building a basketball program or maintaining a basketball program at what is basically a football school is an awesome accomplishment. The only other two shining examples that come to my mind is Billy Donovan at Florida and Rick Barnes as Texas. If you look at the other major football schools like Auburn, Penn State, Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma, USC, Georgia and schools of that ilk, football is king and basketball is just something you do to pass the time waiting for football season to kick back in again. Those schools have had a modicum of success but not three to four years of sustained effort. At Texas A&M, Turgeon won 25 games his first year and 24 games in each of the successive three years, all 4 years appearing in the NCAA tournament. He coached a team without a line-up of superstars and household names. There is no list of five-star players floating up and down the depth chart. Turgeon wins because he a solid coach and intense in what he does. Does that sound like a successor to Gary Williams or what?

Naturally that is where 99% of the fan base reservations probably lie. The fans wanted Sean Miller and Jay Wright for the most part because they were able to land those so-coveted elite players and future NBA draft choices. The fans wanted a coach who could walk in the door and immediately draw interest from all the top players like the magician John Calipari in Kentucky. Most considered Sean Miller a “Svengali” of recruiting who had AAU roots and connections that could pluck the ripest apples off the tallest trees. So naturally anyone else seems pale in comparison. But by all reports, Maryland has landed an intense and aggressive recruiter at the head coach. For all his achievements, Gary Williams has never been that guy in those terms. Mark Turgeon has already been on the phone making calls to AAU coaches and HS coaches alike. Now that has to be good news to the fan base who have long bemoaned the lack of recruiting activity from the head man.

Turgeon and Gary Williams have a lot in common. They are intense and love what they do. They speak their mind, and sometimes that will get them in trouble. Turgeon and Williams both are straight shooters who will tell a recruit what is versus what they may like to hear. Both don't make promises that they will regret later to recruits. Both are excellent strategists. Both have fiery demeanors on the sideline and Will Pretty much let you know how they feel about what is happening on the floor. If Turgeon starts talking to his players as the game is progressing, that could be eerie. The main difference is that Turgeon has a reputation of dealing with AAU coaches, which Williams had an absolute disdain for. So local recruiting should definitely be on the upswing though by all reports, Turgeon will walk the AAU line but not cross it. And we all hope that he will retain Bino Ransom and Rob Eshan and the in-roads they have made in the recruiting circles.

The danger with Mark Turgeon is that as of May 10, 2011, he has no grass roots investment in the University of Maryland and their community. Naturally that will change as he moves here, meets and greets, makes contacts and generally is welcomed by one and all. But if he has success and a job like Kansas (perhaps his “dream” job) opens up, will he be able to say no. And frankly, should he say no? At Maryland, we asked several coaches to walk away from elite jobs and were shocked and angry that they did not. Will we as fans be as understanding if the proverbial shoe gets on the other foot? Of course we won't be because fans are fanatics. And there is only one point of view, ours!

So welcome, Mark Turgeon, to Maryland and a toast to future success. If you are as good as your resume shows, you will be under heavy scrutiny but totally loved in what is a basketball driven college campus. You may have been an after-thought by the Aggie fans but your every movement will be documented by the crazies here at Maryland. The fans are ready for a winner, a monster recruiter and someone who take them to the next level. You sound like just the guy to do it. And ignore that group in the corner with the tar and feathers, they're always there just in case.

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