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COLLEGE PARK – For the first time in 22 years, there will be a new coach at the helm of the Maryland Terrapins men's basketball team.
Mark Turgeon, former head coach of the Texas A&M Aggies, was announced as the Terrapins head coach Wednesday afternoon after a coaching search that spanned just five days since Gary Williams' retirement Thursday.
Maryland Athletic Director Kevin Anderson met with Turgeon Sunday night in Pittsburgh, and the decision was made Monday when Turgeon arrived in Houston.
"The reason I'm here is because it's a great tradition and all of the things this program has accomplished over the years. It was going take a job for me to leave," Turgeon said, and, "it was going to take a special one for me to move my family. Maryland is a special place."
Anderson recognized Turgeon had assembled a remarkable resume over his 13-year coaching career, which includes a 250-159 record and back-to-back Big 12 Coach of the Year honors.
But despite all of his accomplishments, it was his passion for winning that convinced Anderson that Turgeon was the right fit.
"He looked me in the eye and he said, ‘Kevin, I hate to lose.'"
In College Station, Turgeon has amassed a 97-40 record with four consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. Only Mike Krzyzewski has achieved a similar feat in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Turgeon's first head coaching job came at Jacksonville State. He then spent seven seasons at Wichita State, where in 2005 the Shockers persevered to a Missouri Valley Conference title and Sweet Sixteen berth.
"I don't want to sit here and say we're going to this and do that. I think realistically [my expectation] is just building a top program in the country. The one thing that my teams have been over the years is consistent," Turgeon said, alluding to the fact his Aggies teams have never failed to reach 24 wins in each of his seasons as head coach.
Turgeon reached the National Championship four times as a player and team captain for Kansas, and again as an assistant coach under Larry Brown. "That's what I want to do at Maryland. That's what we plan on doing."
Like his predecessor, Turgeon also played point guard in college. He and Williams are both very similar, said Turgeon, in regards to their demeanor both on and off the court.
"Gary Williams was Maryland basketball for the last 22 years. He did it with class, he did with dignity. He did it the right way and I like to think that I have a lot of the same qualities."
Williams, who is serving as assistant AD and a special assistant to Anderson, has already reached out to Turgeon. After the two spoke, Turgeon said Williams had a lot to do with why he is in College Park now, and he left feeling confident and comfortable with the decision.
Before accepting the coaching job at Texas A&M in 2007, Turgeon had to replace a local legend in Billy Gillispie, who helped the Aggies to three straight post-season appearances after the team finished 0-16 in conference play in 2004.
Turgeon called filling Gillispie's shoes more difficult because Maryland fans love basketball and they just want to win.
"Gary is going to be a big ally to me. Gary Williams was Maryland basketball, and I hope 15 years from now you're going to say Mark Turgeon was Maryland basketball."
Turgeon's first chance to make his imprint on the program will be staff selection. Tomorrow he will meet with Anderson to discuss finances and which members of the previous staff he will retain.
What will be considered is coaches who have local recruiting ties. Turgeon will piece together a staff with ties within the region, up and down the East Coast and even in the Mid-West.
"I'm going to recruit like crazy. I'm already losing my voice; it's all I've down since I've landed. I'm going to do everything I can to take advantage of this great area," Turgeon said. "I'm going to use all my credentials around the country."
At A&M, Turgeon recruited Naji Hibbert, a four-star guard from nearby DeMatha Catholic High School, located just minutes from the University of Maryland campus.
"I'm going to recruit character first; you win with character. It doesn't always have to be the best talent but you have to have the best character. If you have that mixed with talent, you're going to go a long way."
Turgeon considers graduation rates very important, which factored into Anderson's decision to hire him. From 2005 to 2007 at Witchita State, Turgeon recorded an APR of over 975. According to the NCAA, the average four-year APR during that time was 940.
In 2007 and 2008, the APR for men's basketball at A&M was 1,000 and 980, respectively.
When persuading recruits to come to Maryland, Turgeon said he approaches them honestly, discussing his career as a coach and a player, as well as his philosophy, which described as "adaptive," meaning his coaching would differ from year to year.
His work with players one on one, though, was his selling point. As an assistant with the Philadelphia 76ers during the 1997 season, he practiced mostly individual drills.
"We will improve our players as tremendous rate. You'll come in at one level and we'll take you to another."
Both Turgeon and the current Maryland staff are in discussions with the three current members of the 2011 recruiting class – Nick Faust, Sterling Gibbs and Martin Breunig. He will meet with them in hopes of retaining them. The plan is to keep them intact, Turgeon said.
The current roster, which will lose Cliff Tucker, Adrian Bowie and Dino Gregory to graduation, and Jordan Williams to the NBA, met with Turgeon twice yesterday. There was a team meeting at 2:30 and a dinner in the evening.
Turgeon watched only one Maryland game from a season ago – the win over ACC foe Florida State, the team Texas A&M fell to in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. He did, however, recruit Sean Mosley, Pe'Shon Howard and Terrell Stoglin lightly out of high school.
Despite unfamiliarity with the team, Turgeon will meet individually with the players today in an effort to build relationships and inspire confidence. One topic to be discussed: role changes.
"I want to judge them the way I want to coach them," Turgeon said, not how the team was coached under Williams.
Turgeon will not officially get to coach the team until August, though he made his coaching style quite simple.
"My style of play is winning. We're going to play defense. We're going to rebound. We're going to play with toughness. We're going to do it the right way.""What I want," he said, "is people to fear the turtle."