New coach, new style, same success

The Aggies have built a reputation for tough, hard-nosed defense, and it doesn't look like that will change under new head coach Mark Turgeon, but Aggie Websider's Dallas Shipp takes a look at some of the new wrinkles you'll see tonight against Emporia State

Billy Gillispie. The name stirs a slew of emotions in College Station these days, but love him or hate him, the basketball program that he was able to build in three short years at Texas A&M is nothing short of miraculous.

Gillispie did it with hard work, holding annual "boot camps" that would be considered torture by Nanci Pelosi and the United Nations. And he wasn't afraid to get in the face of anyone on the team to let them know just how bad of a player they were, including hot shots like Antoine Wright, Acie Law and Joseph Jones.

My personal favorite was when Gillispie told Law that he had, "better enjoy playing this year, because next year, I'm going to bring in some guys with some guts and some heart. You're the softest player in the league!"

Well, we all know how that turned out.

But now there's a new guy in town—Mark Turgeon—who is taking over a program with a lot of momentum.

"The only way I was ever going to leave Wichita was if I could follow someone successful and Billy was very successful," Turgeon said. "I didn't want to rebuild again. I've rebuilt a lot and here we don't have to."

While some Aggie basketball fans may not know a whole lot about the new coach, they'll notice some pretty distinct differences right away.

One of the differences that fans won't see is in practice. Gone is the good cop—bad cop routine that Gillispie used, tearing down a player and letting an assistant coach talk him back up. Instead, Turgeon is a teacher who wants to make sure players know what they did wrong and what they need to do to fix it.

For many of the returners this year, it's a welcomed change.

"Coach G would pound you right in the face and force you to get it right, but I played last year so I think I could deal with it." said sophomore Donald Sloan. "But for a lot of people who didn't get to play, it's a good thing."

Even though Turgeon is seen as more of a teacher, the intensity level at practice has remained as high as it's been in the past three years under Gillispie.

One change that will be visible is the new motion offense that Turgeon has brought with him from Wichita State.

The Aggies ran a "two-game" offense under Gillispie, which consisted of the point guard walking the ball up the court and setting up a half-court offense. But A&M guard Dominique Kirk says the new offense will be much more exciting and fast paced.

Sloan is excited about playing in an offense that he's been part of before.

"I played in an offense like this in high school and AAU so I'm pretty used to it, and I was a scorer in high school, so maybe I'll get back to doing that," Sloan said. "Last year I had one good game when I scored 15 against Oklahoma State and that showed a little bit of what I can do. I like to score—I like to play defense too—but scoring was what I was known for."

The thing the Aggies have been known for during their rise to the top of the Big 12 is defense, and that's the one thing that will not change.

The Aggies have overpowered their opponents in the past few seasons with tough, hard-nosed defense that was effective, but also led to lots of foul trouble. This year, the Aggies say they're still playing hard-nosed defense, but it's more technique man-to-man defense that should still be effective, but could reduce the fouls called against A&M.

"He's stressed in practice that we're known for playing defense and let's not get a away from that," Sloan said. "He tells us every day that if we're not playing defense, we're not going to play, so it's still pretty much the same. He stresses getting in the passing lane, watching for backdoor passes and getting up on your man."

As long as the defense continues to punish opponents, there's one more thing that shouldn't change—winning. And it starts tonight.

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