By Jeff Barker, The Baltimore Sun
12:16 AM EDT, May 10, 2011
Maryland on Monday night hired Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon -- a Larry Brown disciple at Kansas who has been likened to Gary Williams -- to replace Williams as men's basketball coach.
Turgeon, 46, was hired after being interviewed by athletic director Kevin Anderson in Pittsburgh. Turgeon then flew home to Texas, and Maryland delayed an announcement until he could talk to his team.
Turgeon made his name at Wichita State, then went 97-40 in four seasons in College Station with four NCAA tournament trips.
"Maryland's got a great basketball tradition," Turgeon said in a statement. "[These programs are] real similar. It's a gut feeling. Both programs are great. I'm a blessed person to have the choice that I had to make today."
Maryland hired Turgeon after first approaching Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon, a friend of Anderson's. "He was always one of the top people on our list," Anderson said of Turgeon. Maryland also courted Arizona's Sean Miller, who agreed to a contract extension to remain with the Wildcats.
Maryland had said it wanted a candidate similar to Williams, the driven, animated coach who has long been the face of Maryland's program.
Turgeon has been likened in basketball circles to Williams. Both are intense and known for their skill with X's and O's.
In fact, Williams suggested to Anderson that he look into hiring Turgeon. After Anderson indicated interest, Turgeon called back and said he was interested.
"He's very, very competitive," Anderson said. "One of the attributes he had is he's not going to back down with anybody. Two of his biggest supporters are Roy Williams and Larry Brown."
Turgeon comes from a school that is less basketball-oriented than Maryland, and he showed frustration on at least one occasion that home attendance was not higher. He worked for an athletic director, Bill Byrne, who came from Nebraska and has been aggressive about keeping his coaches.
Byrne said in a prepared statement: "I'm really sorry to see Mark go. He did a tremendous job for us."
Turgeon had rejected overtures from Oregon last year.
Byrne's son, Greg Byrne, is the Arizona athletic director who signed Miller to a contract extension this past weekend after Maryland courted Miller.
Turgeon played under Brown at Kansas and coached under Brown with the Jayhawks and the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers. Brown and Gary Williams are friends. Turgeon was also an assistant to Roy Williams at Kansas.
Brown, who coached Turgeon at Kansas and hired him to work as a graduate assistant there and later with the Philadelphia 76ers, said in a telephone interview Monday night that he told his former point guard to wait for a place where he could win a national championship before making his next move.
"He could have gone to Tennessee; he probably could have gone to N.C. State. I told him, 'If you're going to leave A&M, make sure you go to a place where you can compete for a national championship,' " Brown said from his home in Philadelphia. "I think he realizes that. "I think Maryland is one of the best jobs in the country. It's got great tradition, it's in a great conference, phenomenal facilities, a terrific school. You're in an area where you can recruit some of the best players in the country, and you don't have to go that far"
Brown said Turgeon, one of his first recruits, "is right up there" with some of his other former assistants, including John Calipari, Bill Self and Gregg Popovich, in terms of his basketball IQ. "Five minutes after the first practice, kids at Maryland will know he can coach," Brown said.
Turgeon would have had three starters back if he had returned to Texas A&M.
Turgeon took Wichita State to the Sweet 16 in 2006 before the Shockers fell to George Mason at Verizon Center.
Turgeon is married with three children, and family issues factored into his decision to accept the post. "He didn't want this to get out until he met with his kids and coaching staff," Anderson said.
Baltimore Sun reporter Don Markus contributed to this article.
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