COLLEGE PARK — Maryland fans no longer get to shout out Rob Ehsan's name in pregame introductions as they once did, extending the first syllable so it came out "EEEEE-SAHN."
The 29-year-old was a popular assistant coach and important recruiter for three seasons under Gary Williams, and a graduate assistant and recruiting aide here before that. Now a Virginia Tech assistant, the boyish-looking Ehsan returns to Comcast Center Saturday for his first Hokies-Terps game since Williams retired in May.
"I hope Comcast lets him have it," joked Maryland point guard Pe'Shon Howard, who said he planned to engage Ehsan in "talking trash."
"Rob's a great guy," Howard was quick to add. "So it's going to be fun having him back.'
Maryland (12-7, 2-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) tries to end a three-game losing streak against the young Hokies (12-8, 1-4), who start two freshmen and a sophomore one season after losing top players Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen.
Terps coach Mark Turgeon said Friday that assistant coach Dalonte Hill will be back on the bench Saturday after a forced two-game absence following his arrest on suspicion of driving under the influence. Hill has been involved in scouting this week. He was not permitted to be with the Terps during losses to Temple last Saturday and Duke on Wednesday night.
Turgeon also said 7-foot-1 center Alex Len may not start against Virginia Tech, even though the freshman's sore ankle seems to have improved.
"We brought him off the bench [against Duke]. I'm pretty sure I'm going to do that again [Saturday] and just see if that helps him relax," Turgeon said.
Saturday's game is the only meeting of the regular season between the Terps and Hokies, who have lost five of their last six games.
Might the "EEEEE-SAHN" chant ring out again? Or will Ehsan face the harsher verbal treatment usually accorded to opposing coaches by the student section?
Ehsan said he knows he is on the enemy bench now, and expects to be treated like any other rival.
"The [Hokies-Terps] rivalry, I feel like, has been pretty strong, so I wouldn't be surprised [if it's harsh treatment]," he said. "It's going to be a little weird to be sitting on the other bench and see lots of familiar faces."
Like most assistants, Ehsan — a former UC-Davis player — hopes to be a head coach one day. His early training came under Williams during seasons in which the Terps were successful (2009-10) and not (last season).
"I've told people this, Coach Williams has an uncanny ability to never let off the gas pedal, to never stop fighting," Ehsan said. "After a big win, after a bad loss, it's human nature sometimes to relax. His level of intensity in good times and bad times carries over to the coaches and players."
Williams, who coached at Maryland for 22 years, told Ehsan of his retirement plans during a meeting in the Comcast Center basketball offices.
"People close to the program knew (it would happen) at some point fairly soon," Ehsan said. "You knew it would happen, but you kind of thought Gary was going to coach forever. It didn't really hit you until the press conference."
After Turgeon was hired, Ehsan joined Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg on a team that had to replace key starters Delaney, Allen and Terrell Bell.
"It's kind of been a little similar to Maryland when we lost Greivis [Vasquez], Landon [Milbourne] and Eric [Hayes]," Ehsan said.
Former Williams assistant Keith Booth landed with the Loyola women's basketball staff. The third Williams assistant, Bino Ranson, was retained by Turgeon.
With the Hokies playing Wednesday night, Ehsan couldn't be here when Maryland dedicated the court at Comcast Center for Williams, but he did catch the highlights.
"I missed it," Ehsan said. "Watching some of the footage of him on TV giving the fist pump — it definitely brought back some great memories."