"I think it was just the feeling that he's a secure coach," the freshman says. "He tells you not what you want to hear but what you need to hear."

Since then, Turgeon has secured commitments for next year from two top-60 recruits, Jake Layman from Massachusetts and Shaquille Cleare from Houston. The Terps have also appeared on the final lists of several top-20 prospects.

Aaron Harrison, who coached Cleare on a Houston summer team and whose twin sons are elite players and top Maryland targets for the class of 2013, says Turgeon impressed him with his compassion after Texas A&M recruit Tobi Oyedeji was killed in a 2010 car accident.

"That meant something to me," Harrison says. "I feel really comfortable with him. I feel like I could leave my kids with him, and he would take care of them as if they were his own."

Fans are pumped about Turgeon's early signings.

"Everyone is excited by the effort we've seen in recruiting," Jaklitsch says. "He has created quite a honeymoon period for himself."

What you probably won't see is Turgeon sweating through his jacket and stomping up and down the sideline in classic Gary fashion. He gave fans a glimpse of his lower-key exterior at the program's annual Midnight Madness kickoff. Over the years, Williams had showed up at the event in everything from a race car to a tank. But Turgeon simply strode onto the court at an unhurried clip with no hint of a fist pump.

"I'll sit down most of the game," he says. "I'm calm outside. I think the players perform better when they see you that way. But I might be rolling pretty good inside."

The cool facade extends beyond the sideline, according to his wife. "If you got in his car, you wouldn't even know that someone owned it," she says. "He's that meticulous about the way he keeps it. His closet is the same way, and so is his office."

But she adds that his exterior belies an internal fury to win, not just on the court but at everything. "He turns getting pajamas on at night into a competition," Ann says. "That's just his nature."

ESPN analyst Jay Bilas recalls appearing at a recent event with Turgeon. The conversation turned to a 1986 Final Four game in which Bilas' Duke team beat Turgeon's Kansas squad by 4 points. Suddenly, Bilas glanced up and saw tears rimming Turgeon's eyes. Twenty-five years later, the loss bothered him that much.

The best time of the year

It's five days before the team's opener, and Turgeon is doing the part of the job he says he likes best. Practice is his unvarnished chance to teach basketball and, in a sense, the games just get in the way.

His white Under Armour T-shirt is tucked neatly into his black Under Armour shorts, and it stays that way, even when he pops into a drill to dribble the ball or demonstrate proper defensive position (butt square to the baseline, hands up, eyes scanning.)

He's right in the middle of the court throughout practice, his eyes boring in on key players as they try to learn his ways. Today, he's growing exasperated with his team's loose grasp of the basics, the way players fail to fight through screens or to sprint back on defense after missing lay-ups.

"We turn to [expletive] when we're tired," he barks at his undermanned team. "We turn into five individuals that I don't know. We've got to stick together, or we have no [expletive] chance."

"Wow," he says a moment later, shaking his head despondently.

Profanity creeps into his lessons, but it never dominates, and he never seems to target curses at individual players. He looks nearly as composed when angry as he is chatting amiably with bystanders.

Midway through practice, he trills his whistle three times and calls the players together for a glimpse inside his being.

"The way I live my life," he tells them, "the way I try to have my kids, and I hope my team, live their lives is by working as hard as I can every day."