Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Mark Turgeon leaves A&M for Maryland
By Eamonn Brennan
Given the high-profile names floated throughout this remarkably quick coaching search -- a four-day master class in hiring efficiency by Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson -- you might be willing to forgive Maryland fans if they react to tonight's news with a collective "Who?"
They shouldn't. In the end, Anderson didn't just move quickly. He didn't just shoot for the splashy name. In landing Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon, Anderson did something vastly more important: He made a high-quality hire.
Mark Turgeon may not be the sexy hire Maryland was looking for, but he has proved to be a winner.
Of course, it's not as though Turgeon has been toiling in obscurity. The A&M coach has won everywhere he's been, a run that began at Wichita State, where Turgeon took a program that had only two winning seasons in its previous 11 and turned it into one that still consistently competes for Missouri Valley titles. In 2007, Turgeon parlayed the Shockers' success into a position at A&M, where he has guided a quietly solid program -- in the middle of football-obsessed Aggieland -- to four straight NCAA tournament appearances.
Still, there's no other way to put it: Turgeon does not qualify as a sexy hire.
He is not the young, charismatic coach coming off a brilliant mid-major run. He isn't the energetic, proven winner lured away from another top program. He isn't Brad Stevens or Shaka Smart or Jamie Dixon or Sean Miller, all of whose names were eagerly bandied about by Maryland fans on message boards and comment sections in the wake of beloved coach Gary Williams' retirement Thursday.
It's fair to say those excited Terrapins fans, who spent the past week hearing their program described as a sleeping giant by every anonymous source in the country -- not to mention followed as their AD met with Miller in Las Vegas on Saturday -- might have hoped for something a bit more, well, exciting.
By all the barometers we usually associate with that word, Turgeon doesn't qualify. To date, he hasn't regularly recruited blue-chip prospects; more often, his players are unheralded workers who develop throughout their multiyear careers. Texas A&M plays a slow, deliberate style. Turgeon's news-conference demeanor can be rather like his teams: quiet, sparse and even downright boring.
To be clear, those aren't bugs or features. That's just who Turgeon is.
The important thing here, the one that really matters, is this: At the bottom of it all, Maryland fans are like any others. They want to win basketball games. Mark Turgeon wins basketball games, and he's done so at places with far fewer institutional advantages than Maryland. It's really that simple.
So a new era begins in College Park -- not with a bang, necessarily, but certainly not with a whimper. Maryland fans can be forgiven if they need a moment to get to know Turgeon, but the more they see of him, the more they'll grow to appreciate the coach's clinical solidity and drama-free approach. They'll appreciate Anderson's efforts in making this hire.
More than anything else, though, they'll appreciate the wins. The rest is only so much noise.