By Jeff Barker, The Baltimore Sun
12:19 AM EDT, October 15, 2011
For his inaugural Maryland Madness, new men's basketball coach Mark Turgeon assembled a blend of old and new Friday night.
He acquired the "old" by inviting former Terps such as Greivis Vasquez, Steve Francis, Steve Blake and Byron Mouton to the event, which had the feel of a late-night preseason pep rally at Comcast Center.
The latter two were members of the 2002 team that will celebrate the 10th anniversary of its national championship in 2012.
And the new? Well, that would be Turgeon himself.
Turgeon was hired from Texas A&M after Gary Williams retired in May.
Williams had famously put his imprint on the event. He entered one year's Madness in a 17,000-pound Lenco BearCat armored vehicle with an Under Armour insignia on the side. The crowd would typically begin chanting, "Gary, Gary," before the coach walked in and pumped his fist to the fans.
"It got harder every year. [It was] 'Can you top this?'" Williams said Friday night. He attended the event so he could visit with many of his former players.
Williams told reporters he would make certain not to upstage Turgeon. He said he planned to see his players from the 2002 team, then "I'm out of here."
Williams and Vasquez, who plays for the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies, got huge ovations when introduced to the fans by longtime Terps broadcaster Johnny Holliday. Williams gave the crowd a fist pump.
"I love my fans, man," said Vasquez, who did his trademark shoulder shimmy for the fans during the alumni game. "That's why I'm always going to come back."
Vasquez, who flew in from his native Venezuela, told reporters: "I may sign with a team back home [during the NBA lockout]. That's my best market."
Williams was a hard act for Turgeon to follow.
Turgeon and the current players were introduced and appeared on a stage bathed in laser lights. Turgeon took a microphone and spoke about Maryland's "great tradition and great history." He then handed the microphone to senior guard Sean Mosley, who said the Terps, 19-14 last season, were expecting a turnaround.
"[Turgeon] is a different person than Coach Williams," Mosley told reporters.
"Not a flashy guy. He just wants to get wins."
A precursor to Maryland Madness was started 40 years ago by then-coach Lefty Driesell. It became known as Midnight Madness.
Driesell said the NCAA "has screwed it up" by requiring member schools to start the festivities much earlier in the evening to prevent students and fans from being in their cars -- and in the bars -- too late.
But the event lives on. Friday's Maryland Madness featured introductions of the men's and women's teams, an alumni game and music.
For fans, it marked the first appearances for freshman guard Nick Faust (City) and 7-foot-1 center Alex Len. Len is awaiting approval from an NCAA clearinghouse before he can play in games.
Madness kicks off formal practices, though Maryland began holding workouts with individual players -- and then groups of players -- in August.
"Tomorrow, it's no more fun for us," Mosley said. "It's just about getting work done."
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