Late Monday night as the Boston Celtics were watching their season slowly slip away from their old, fragile fingers, the University of Maryland was getting busy with a new head basketball coach.
The Terrapins AD announced Monday night that former Texas A&M head man, Mark Turgeon was to be named Maryland’s next coach.
After the sudden departure of long time coach and leader Gary Williams last week, the Terrapins Athletic Department put on a full court press search for their next head man. The Terps targeted top dogs all around the country and made finding, not just a suitable, but a well deserved replacement for Williams a top priority.
Mike Anderson, Jim Larranaga, Billy Gillispie even Frank Haith (ha, kidding) all would have been at least good fits for the program and could have made an immediate impact with the Terps.
But, now Maryland had to rush around, bouncing from coach to coach in search of the right man for their program and with the right direction to get them back to the promised land in the NCAA’s.
The question is: how do you replace a legend?
Replacing a legend like Gary Williams is nearly impossible to do. I mean the man went 461-252 in 22 seasons in College Park. Th
at’s a .656
winning percentage in one of the most difficult and talented conferences in all of America. Not only did he win in the regular season though, Williams also made his mark in the post-season, taking the Terps to 14 NCAA tournaments, making 7 Sweet 16’s and of course winning the 2002 National Championship (thank you very much, Juan Dixon). He is not only a legend, but has almost become immortal to Maryland fans.
The prestige of the program is there (much in part because of Williams). The history and tradition is also on par with a lot of other big name schools, so recruits will hear the name and at the very least open their ears to listen (again, thanks Gary). And of course the campus/social life is legit, I mean it may not bring the atmosphere of UT on a Saturday in autumn or eventhe hysteria of the Dukies before a matchup with UNC, but College Park has definitely got it’s perks.
So, as it seems Maryland would be a great place to coach and the perfect spot for a good x’s and o’s guy and solid level motivator to rest his hat and make a living.
Sure, Gary Williams is a God in Maryland. He turned a decent program into a National Championship winner and consistent NCAA contender.
But still, even if the guy you’re trying to replace is a legend, you’ve still got to try like hell. So, Maryland and their Athletic Department went on the hunt for any and everyone that might be interested. They contacted all the guys that any good AD would be smart to at least reach out to – hey, Gene DeFillipo, you could take come pointers here.
They at least reached out to Mike Brey (Notre Dame) and Brad Stevens (Butler), at the very least talked to Jay Wright (Villanova) and Jamie Dixon (Pitt) and apparently offered a contract to Sean Miller (Arizona). In essence, they made all the right moves and just didn’t quite have the ammo to lock down that top tier guy, or they just weren’t quite able to persuade such coaches to leave their current cushy situations.
Maryland made the effort, they took the chances and they even rolled the dice a little bit. But, you know what eventually they made the right decision. It may not be the sexy pick everyone in College Park was hoping for but Turgeon is a strong coach and has the ability to take an already historic program to even greater heights.
Mark Turgeon certainly has a basketball pedigree. We are talking about a guy, who played four years under Larry Brown at Kansasembraced the Jayhawk passion for basketball, played in four straight NCAA tournaments, made it to a Final Four and became an Assistant on Brown’s staff the year after graduating. So, let’s just say the man knows basketball.
After years as an assistant, Turgeon burst through the ranks of College ball and ended up leading his hometown Wichita State Shockers back to conference and even national prominence. The Shockers went from worst to first in the Missour-Valley Conference (MVC) in a matter of three years and Turg led them to the NCAA tourney in 2006 for the first time since 1988 (shoot before I was even born), even advancing to the Sweet 16.
Since, Turgeon has only taken over the reigns of a Texas A&M team spurned by Billie Gillespie, convincing the star studded recruiting class to remain in the program and finding immediate success with the program. The success continued too as Turgeon had Texas A&M ranked and in the tournament all four years he spent in College Station.
Now, from College Station to College Park, the Larry Brown disciple seems like the perfect fit at Maryland and like a coach, who could very well keep the upstanding tradition, honor and legacy of coach Williams in tact for years to come.
Good hire for Maryland and good job for Kevin Anderson (Maryland AD) and his staff to find the right man for the job.
Now, let’s see how this ends up.