He's not the sexy choice, but maybe the best choice

No one is excited now, but let's give the guy a chance

May 10, 2011|Kevin Cowherd

Let's acknowledge the obvious right away: The hiring of Mark Turgeon won't have Maryland basketball fans dancing in the streets.

This one won't have the students pouring out of their dorms and setting fires to trash cans and blocking traffic on Route 1.

It won't have the well-heeled alumni in their red sweater vests high-fiving and clinking cocktail glasses in celebration.

It's a solid choice, sure.

Turgeon, 46, has done a terrific job in his four seasons at Texas A&M. His record there was 97-40, and the Aggies went to the NCAA tournament every year. And the guy was named the Big 12 Coach of the Year the past two seasons.

Turgeon did a nice job at Wichita State before that, too, compiling a 128-89 record in his seven seasons there.

All in all, he's considered an up-and-comer in the business, with an innate feel for in-game strategy and exploiting player matchups.

But he sure isn't the sexy pick Terps fans were hoping for.

He isn't boy-wonder Sean Miller from Arizona, who decided to stay in Tucson, or Brad Stevens from Butler.

He isn't Mike Brey from Notre Dame, who decided to stay in South Bend. And he isn't the newest whiz kid in big-time college coaching, Shaka Smart from Virginia Commonwealth, who just signed a huge contract extension to stay with the Rams.

Turgeon won't be enough of a marquee name for many Maryland supporters, that's for sure.

But two or three or five years down the road, when we look back at this hire, he might be the perfect choice to move the Terps beyond the Gary Williams era.

He might be the perfect guy to get the Terps back to the NCAA tournament every year, the way Williams did for so many seasons.

There's no way to tell right now, of course.

What athletic director Kevin Anderson and the Maryland search committee have done is basically roll the dice with Turgeon's hiring.

And coming so soon after the hiring of Randy Edsall as football coach — another move that underwhelmed Terrapin Nation — Anderson will probably get plenty of backlash from fans and alumni on this one.

That's the way it goes these days when you run a big-time college athletics program.

It's the way it goes when you're at a high-profile school that plays in the prestigious Atlantic Coast Conference and you lose an iconic coach who single-handedly resurrected a program that was in disarray 22 years ago.

Again, Turgeon is no slouch as a coach and the Big 12 is no doormat of a conference.

The problem is that Turgeon might as well be in the witness protection program for all the name recognition he has with basketball fans on the East Coast.

The first few times the guy's name was mentioned on talk radio Monday night, the callers were referring to him as "Mark Sturgeon."

Which doesn't mean he won't show up in College Park and wow everyone and start building a winner right away.

It won't be easy, of course. With sophomore Jordan Williams moving on to the NBA, Maryland loses a ton of inside scoring and rebounding next season.

The Terps should have a solid backcourt with rising freshmen Terrell Stoglin and Pe'Shon Howard.

But who knows how incoming Gary Williams recruits such as Nick Faust and Sterling Gibbs and Martin Breunig are going to handle the hiring of Turgeon.

How jittery are they after all that's happened to shake their world the past few days? Will they be banging on Kevin Anderson's door this morning and demanding a release from their commitment?

What you have to like about the hiring of Turgeon is that he's still a relatively young man — guys my age get to say that — who's hungry enough to bring instant energy to the program. Especially to the recruiting process.

Gary Williams made no secret of the fact that jumping on planes to woo today's high-maintenance high school phenoms was the part of the job he hated.

And it showed in some of the weak recruiting classes he had in recent years.

But if Turgeon has any fire in his belly and any kind of touch with that part of the business, he'll be working in a fertile area, between Baltimore and Washington (and not far from Philadelphia) for top-notch high school talent.

So the Mark Turgeon era begins, just three days after Maryland said farewell to a sure Hall of Fame coach whose shoes will be hard, if not impossible, to fill.

No, they're not popping champagne and throwing confetti in College Park today.

But that doesn't mean Kevin Anderson was out of his mind when he made this hire, either.

He went for the solid, if unspectacular, choice.

Now he has to live with it.

So does Terrapin nation.

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

Listen to Kevin Cowherd from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays with Jerry Coleman on Fox 1370 AM Sports.

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