UNC-Maryland marks a 'family' reunion

February, 3, 2012
2/03/12
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Roy Williams/Mark TurgeonUS PresswireRoy Williams and Mark Turgeon, friends and former coworkers, will face off Saturday.
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Win or lose at Maryland on Saturday, North Carolina coach Roy Williams said he can't help but have some negative feelings about the match-up.

Fall to the Terrapins, and his sixth-ranked team will have lost its second ACC game.

Beat them, and he’ll have had a role in handing his former assistant coach, Mark Turgeon, his ninth defeat at Maryland.

“He's part family,’’ Williams said Friday. “I really am going to have some bad thoughts about competing against him, there's no question.”

Turgeon (who is in his first season as head coach of the Terps) served as Williams’ assistant on Williams’ first staffs at Kansas. He said Williams “saved my career” when he offered him the job in 1988 — mostly because that career was so new.

A former point guard for the Jayhawks under Larry Brown, Turgeon had only served as an assistant there for a year before Brown left for the NBA, and Williams was hired to replace him.

“I met Coach after the [introductory] press conference, and drove him to the hotel that night in my 1972 Mustang, and he offered me the job sitting out in front of the Holiday Inn," Turgeon remembered in a phone interview. “So it was a great day.”

Williams, who was starting his first college head coaching job after serving as an assistant under Tar Heels coach Dean Smith, said he was drawn to Turgeon because of the young coach’s commitment to his alma mater.

“It was neat because he said, ‘Coach, for a couple of days I've heard you talk about your feelings for North Carolina and what you want to do here.’ He said, 'The feelings you have for North Carolina is exactly the way I feel about the University of Kansas,’” Williams remembered.

“It just hit me, the love and the passion that I had for this place, that's what he had there and I needed that on my staff. … I'm telling you, it was one of the luckiest and best decisions that I had ever made in my life.”

Turgeon spent four seasons with Williams at Kansas — helping the Jayhawks to the 1991 title game — before Turgeon left to become Jerry Green’s top assistant at Oregon.

But the two have remained close, talking about once a month, Turgeon said. Williams, who was a reference for Turgeon when he applied for the Terps job, even called earlier this week; he wanted to check on his friend after Turgeon was ejected from Maryland’s loss at Miami.

“I learned so much from him,’’ said Turgeon, who was head coach at Jacksonville State, Wichita State and Texas A&M before joining the ACC. “One, treat people the way you want to be treated. And if you want something bad enough, you better be willing to work for it. Those are two things he lives by.”

Turgeon said it will be strange to see his friend and former boss on the opposite bench; they’ve never faced each other before. But no matter what happens, they will remain friends — and family — afterward.

“It’ll be odd, but it’ll be OK once the game starts, because you never look down to see what the other coach is doing, and he’s not going to look at what I’m doing,’’ Turgeon said. “We’ll both just be trying to win the game."

Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.

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