Kevin Cowherd: No shortage of concerns for Terps coach Turgeon

October 12, 2011|Kevin Cowherd

COLLEGE PARK — Mark Turgeon faced a room full of sweaty, rumpled media types Wednesday and hit a 3-pointer with his opening remarks.

"It's been five months since I stood here being introduced, and a lot's happened," Maryland's new men's basketball coach said. "I missed you guys."

He waited a beat. The sweaty, rumpled masses waited for the kicker. We know nobody misses us. Coaches miss us the way they miss typhoid fever.

"No, not really," Turgeon added with a soft smile. "Not really."

You couldn't blame the guy for starting off Media Day with a joke. Because with the new season just around the corner, there might not be a lot of laughs coming up for the man who takes over a depleted Maryland team after the successful 22-year reign of Gary Williams.

Here's what Turgeon, 46, has been hearing since he took the job in May: Your team is too short.

Your team has no go-to guy on offense. Your team has no experience with only two scholarship seniors. Bottom line, your team is going to stink.

"I've heard it a lot," Turgeon said, shaking his head. "And then you pick up the [preseason college basketball] magazines and they seem to agree with everyone."

But Turgeon was ready for the gloom and doom when he left Texas A&M to come to College Park and replace Williams, who left abruptly after guiding the Terps to a national championship, two Final Fours and 14 NCAA tournament appearances.

Let's look at the cold, hard facts: Turgeon has almost as many walk-ons (six) as he does scholarship players (eight). The prize big man whom Williams recruited, 7-foot-1 Alex Len from Ukraine, might not even play this year if his academic status isn't straightened out. And even if Len can play, he's a raw talent, a massive project who will most likely play in a four-guard offense that could get killed on the boards when the Atlantic Coast Conference season rolls around.

So, yeah, there are plenty of days when Turgeon leaves the office with a monster headache.

How about the day he called Nick Faust, the Baltimore hot shot from City and another of Williams' prized recruits?

This was back in May, and Faust, a high-scoring, 6-foot-6 guard, was still reeling from the news that Williams was stepping down. Neither Faust nor his family was in a terrific mood when Turgeon called to make sure the kid was still coming to Maryland.

It sure wasn't the best time for chit-chat.

"I think he just wanted to be recruited," Turgeon recalled of that phone call. "And [his family] wanted to get to know me a little bit. My first conversation with the mom wasn't very good. She was very upset. I get her on the phone, and she's screaming and yelling and says she wants a release.

"I'm trying to keep her calm … and she goes: 'We just don't trust any coaches right now. Coach Williams said he's going to be here two or three more years.' I said: 'If Nick doesn't come here, I won't be here two or three years. She laughed at that and loosened up."

And Faust came to Maryland. And now he's projected as a starter, along with returning senior Sean Mosley (St. Frances) and fellow guards Terrell Stoglin and Pe'Shon Howard. And Len, if the big man can play even a little bit and this mess with his grades gets straightened out.

So what kind of a coach will Turgeon be?

He claims to be every bit as intense as Williams, who was a walking nervous breakdown during Terps games.

Williams famously sweated through his suits, cursed his players when they messed up, rode the refs relentlessly and profanely — and was the single best sideline show in college basketball, if you liked that sort of entertainment. (I did. Very much. I miss the big lug already.)

But Turgeon said he's not willing to scream and berate his players if they make a mistake. And like Williams, Turgeon relishes his role as a teacher on the court, albeit a demanding one.

"If you mess up, he'll stop the play and teach you," Mosley said. "And he expects you to know it from there."

Said Stoglin: "Coach Turgeon, he stresses footwork and defense more than Coach Williams did last year. So that's probably the biggest difference between the two."

Stoglin paused for a moment, then smiled.

"He's more soft-spoken than Coach Williams, too."

Right, big upset there. But for now, in the limited workouts they've had, the Terps like what they've seen from their new coach.

And as Maryland gets ready for Maryland Madness on Friday night, Turgeon says he's enjoying life with his new team, too.

And why shouldn't he?

"I'm in a honeymoon with the media," he said, grinning. "And I haven't lost a game yet."

Enjoy it while you can, Coach.

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

Listen to Kevin Cowherd at 7:20 a.m. Tuesdays on 105.7 The Fan's "Norris and Davis Show."

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