Mark Turgeon had to pause and collect himself while proudly recounting how his bench players rallied in Maryland's double-overtime loss to Miami – a game in which the coach was ejected and spent the extra periods in the locker room receiving texts and trying vainly to follow what was unfolding on the court.
Turgeon – who faces a mentor in North Carolina coach Roy Williamsat Comcast Center on Saturday – spent Friday's media session looking back to the bizarre Miami game and looking ahead to going against Williams for the first time.
Before hiring Turgeon in May, Maryland spoke to Williams, who provided his former staff member a glowing reference. Turgeon was one of Williams' assistants at Kansas.
"It's going to be weird coaching against him," Williams said. "I've always wanted him to win every single game he's been involved with. When you look at scores at SportsCenter, whether it's Jacksonville State, Wichita State, Maryland, Texas A&M, I'm always checking those scores to see how he did."
Williams' fifth-ranked Tar Heels (19-3, 6-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) have won 13 of their last 14 games. Maryland has lost four of its past five games.
Turgeon said coaching against the Tar Heels won't be as wrenching as facing Kansas earlier in his coaching career. Turgeon, a former Kansas point guard, grew up following the Jayhawks and said it was difficult to face them for the first time when he was Texas A&M's coach.
He also said Saturday's game won't be as difficult for him as coaching earlier in the season against Colorado coach Tad Boyle, a close friend and former Kansas teammate who worked under Turgeon at Wichita State and Jacksonville State. Maryland defeated Colorado in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
Turgeon said teacher-student meetings typically result in more strain for the teacher. "I think it's harder for the mentor, personally I do. Because your whole life you're trying to help these guys get where they need to be," he said.
Said Williams: "He's one of the bright, bright, bright young -- not quite as young as he used to be – but one of the bright young coaches in the game."
Turgeon has talked all season about how his team (13-8, 3-4) needs more "gumption" at the end of the games, and he couldn't help but be pleased that his team erased a 16-point deficit in the second half against the Hurricanes on Wednesday night.
"I'm sitting back there (in the locker room) thinking … we're giving all this effort. We have to win. But I could tell my guys were proud of what they did," Turgeon said.
Said senior Sean Mosley: "I think we came together as a team." Mosley had been ill before the game but said Friday that he is feeling better.
There was no television in the locker room, and Turgeon said he was trying to piece together game developments from texts and by talking with his wife on the phone. But he said the television broadcast that his wife and friends were watching was perhaps 20 seconds behind the live action, so he would hear roars from the crowd and not know why they were cheering.
Turgeon, who also has been fighting a cold and not sleeping much, became emotional talking about his bench players, who spent portions of the comeback standing and encouraging the Maryland fans at BankUnited Center.
"It just meant a lot to me," the coach said.