"You just look back to his belief that he could play for Kansas at his physical stature and his ability to follow through on that," Boyle says in explaining his friend.

Turgeon really had no business suiting up for Kansas, a program that has churned out dozens of NBA players and where Brown, one of the most respected basketball minds in history, was head coach in 1983.

He grew up in Topeka as a fervent fan of the Jayhawks, the kind of kid who couldn't remember when he fell in love with the game because he had a ball in his hands before his memory began. His dad, who played on the freshman team at Creighton, took him to local high school games, where Turgeon loved to watch coaches from his perch a few rows behind the bench.

His eventual high school coach, Ben Meseke, first glimpsed Turgeon as a third-grader in a newspaper photograph, which captured the youngster craning his neck so he could hear the inner workings of a sideline huddle. Later, as a freshman built like a pipe cleaner, Turgeon assured the coach that he'd be the one to bring Hayden High its first state championship.

In YouTube clips of his Hayden games, Turgeon looks like a beagle navigating a pack of Great Danes.

But he made good on his promise as a junior and led the Wildcats to another state title as a senior. Turgeon didn't score a ton of points but he was the one who kept all the other players on the same page, who refused to let them sag even when a late shot put them in a tough spot.

"We'd have been lost without him," Meseke says. "I've coached for a million years now, and I've not seen a better leader."

But no one other than Turgeon envisioned anything more than a college career in the lower divisions. No one grasped his absolute determination to forge the life he wanted. Well, maybe Brown did. The famous coach had also been a short, skinny point guard. He made it all the way to the pros on brains and moxie, and he saw much of the same stuff in the Topeka kid demanding a spot on his Kansas team.

Meseke remembers taking Turgeon to meet Brown at Baskin-Robbins. When the Kansas coach asked the kid why he deserved a shot, Turgeon said, "Because I'm better than any guard you've got right now."

Meseke just about spit out his ice cream. Brown loved it.

Boyle remembers the incredulity of older Kansas players when they realized the little guy with braces was their newest teammate. But in an early-season game against Missouri, Turgeon got out on a fast break, faked a pass that froze his defender in place and whizzed by for a lay-up.

"The field house went crazy," Boyle says. "Coach Brown turned around like, 'Did he really just do that?' That was the moment when we all realized this kid was for real."

Turgeon ended up as team captain for two years, playing in the Final Four as a junior.

Eventually, Brown sat Turgeon down and asked about his post-college plans. "I want to play in the NBA," Turgeon said. Brown laughed. No matter how fierce and clever the kid was, he just didn't have the body to play ball beyond Kansas. "I think you'd make a good coach," Brown said.

Just like that, a new path opened.

After graduation, he served as an assistant to Brown for the 1988 Kansas team that won an unlikely national title on the shoulders of Turgeon's buddy, Danny Manning. He continued his apprenticeship under another fabulously successful Kansas coach, Roy Williams, who will now be a chief ACC rival as the head coach at North Carolina.

From Brown, he learned that, "you never stop teaching. Even if a kid is just one step out of place, you tell him, even if it's going to make him upset."

From Williams, he learned to compete at every aspect of running a program, from recruiting to organizing the office.

He also met a student manager named Ann Fowler who, crazy as it seemed, loved the game nearly as much as he did. She hadn't grown up in Kansas, so she didn't know he was a beloved former player. She just liked the way he made her laugh with his sarcastic sense of humor, the way he always seemed to say the right thing, no matter the setting.

When they started dating, she really had no idea she was signing a lifetime contract with the game.