Looking at Juan Dixon's impact, Dustin Clark, and football's ACC finale

Baltimore Sun reporters Don Markus and Jeff Barker and producer-editor Jonas Shaffer weigh in on three of the biggest topics of the past week in Maryland sports.

What impact will the Maryland coaching moves involving Juan Dixon and Dustin Clark have on the team’s on-court success?

Don Markus: It’s an unusual time to make changes on a coaching staff, but Mark Turgeon had no choice after Dalonte Hill was charged with drunk driving last month for the second time in less than two years.

Turgeon said during a teleconference Wednesday that Hill’s resignation wasn’t a distraction, largely because the team had been operating without him around since the incident happened on Oct. 22.

The promotion of Clark is an upgrade in terms of on-floor coaching, and it shows the trust Turgeon has in him to have an even larger voice than he did before. Just as Larry Brown encouraged Turgeon to offer his opinions years ago, the same will likely hold true with Turgeon and Clark.

Getting the kind of players that Hill was able to help Turgeon land from D.C. Assault might be an issue, but it’s still too early to tell what kind of effect last summer’s arrest of the AAU program’s founder, Curtis Malone, will have on its future and the financial support it receives from Under Armour.

Clark might not have the pedigree that Hill had an assistant; he also doesn’t have the baggage that Hill took with him to College Park from Kansas State (a previous DUI and the less-than-savory recruiting of Michael Beasley).

Trying to gauge Dixon’s immediate impact on Turgeon’s program is a little tougher since his duties are still being determined.

Turgeon said that Dixon will help break down video in terms of advance scouting, but I don’t know if he will be solely responsible for the scouting reports. Turgeon said he hopes Dixon will be a positive role model for the players. I’m sure he had the same feelings about Hill.

I think where Dixon can help the Terps on a more immediate basis is by exuding a certain type of attitude, the same that helped him go from being a scrawny redshirt out of Calvert Hall to the school’s all-time leading scorerand Final Four Most Outstanding Player after leading the Terps to the 2002 national championship.

Right now, only one current Terp player exudes the same kind of toughness that Dixon had as a player, junior guard Varun Ram. Turgeon needs some of his more talented players such as Dez Wells and Jake Layman to watch old tapes of how Dixon took over games. (I would love to see Wells slap the logo at Cameron Indoor Stadium and then be able to back it up as Dixon once did.)

Just being around the team will certainly be great for Dixon, who has struggled to figure out what he was going to do with his life since retiring three years ago, Not being able to do on-floor coaching in practice or games could also be difficult for someone like Dixon.

Turgeon and athletic director Kevin Andersoon created this position for the 35-year old Dixon, giving them an opportunity to see whether he has the personality to be a coach. In any case, Turgeon’s staff is a lot stronger than it was a few days ago.

That could translate well for the Terps on the court.    

What does the loss of men's basketball assistant coach Dalonte Hill mean for Maryland's recruiting?

Jonas Shaffer: Since we know who's replacing Hill, who resigned as assistant coach Wednesday not long after his third DUI arrest since 2008, we don't have to wait to speculate.

Dustin Clark, Turgeon's trusted head of basketball operations, was elevated to fill Hill's spot on the bench, giving him more recruiting responsibilities and, under NCAA bylaws, recruiting freedoms. This is Clark's first full-time coaching job at the college level, which means it's also his first time recruiting full time at the college level.

It's not like he's some novice: Clark helped get a verbal commitment last spring from four-star shooting guard Dion Wiley, who recently signed a national letter of intent. And Turgeon raved Wednesday about Clark's passion for scouting and evaluating prospects, which, as Maryland fans who grew tired of Gary Williams' laissez-faire approach can attest, certainly will not go unappreciated in College Park.

But will he be able to replace Hill? For all his indiscretions, the now-ex-assistant did land Melo Trimble, arguably the Terps' top recruit in years. And, lest we forget, he also convinced Michael Beasley to go to Kansas State, which would be like convincing LeBron James to sign with Toronto next season.

The thing is, Clark could be just the substitute for Hill, and it might not be apparent for two, even three years. You don't go up to a blue-chip high school junior or senior and sweep them off their feet with one recruiting pitch. The best, and most successful, recruiters start a dialogue much earlier in high school, then let the relationships grow from there.

One interesting wrinkle: If fellow assistant coach Scott Spinelli, widely considered a head-coach-in-waiting for the team that likes him enough to pluck him from Maryland, leaves after this season, Turgeon's next hire could be telling. Would he look for help in Washington and Prince George's County, Hill's old stomping grounds? Or would he feel comfortable enough with Clark to go for someone else, a more national name with ties to, say, Wisconsin or Georgia? It's worth monitoring.

What is Maryland’s mood about playing its last ACC football game on Saturday at North Carolina State?

Jeff Barker: It’s understated.

Maryland and the ACC have been partners since 1953. But the relationship has obviously been strained since Maryland began negotiating with the Big Ten before agreeing to join the traditionally Midwestern conference a year ago.

It was a time when Maryland felt it couldn’t return the ACC’s calls because the negotiations were private. Before entering into talks with the Big Ten, Maryland president Wallace D. Loh signed a non-disclosure agreement pledging to keep details out of public view. 

The dispute over the conference’s $52 exit fee has put further distance between the school and the conference. Maryland has argued that exit fee is random and punitive, and that the school has sovereign immunity that should have shielded it from lawsuits such as the ACC’s.

So school and the conference officials have hardly been exchanging farewell embraces as the football season has been winding down.

I’d been curious how Maryland would acknowledge its last football games as an ACC member.

This season, the Terps have been wearing “ACC Farewell Season” decals on the backs of their helmets.

At last week’s final ACC home game, Maryland released a commemorative poster marking its 61 years in the league.

But the game notes the school released for this Saturday’s game began simply: “The Maryland football team closes its regular season on the road as the Terps visit Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh to take on NC State.”

Mostly, Maryland is looking forward to next season. And trying to get a win on Saturday to enhance its bowl position.

What does the loss of men's basketball assistant coach Dalonte Hill mean for Maryland's recruiting?
Jonas Shaffer:
Since we know who's replacing Hill, who resigned as assistant coach Wednesday not long after his third DUI arrest since 2008, we don't have to wait to speculate.
Dustin Clark, Turgeon's trusted head of basketball operations, was elevated to fill Hill's spot on the bench, giving him more recruiting responsibilities and, under NCAA bylaws, recruiting freedoms. This is Clark's first full-time coaching job at the college level, which means it's also his first time recruiting full time at the college level.
It's not like he's some novice: Clark helped get a verbal commitment last spring from four-star shooting guard Dion Wiley, who recently signed a national letter of intent. And Turgeon raved Wednesday about Clark's passion for scouting and evaluating prospects, which, as Maryland fans who grew tired of Gary Williams' laissez-faire approach can attest, certainly will not go unappreciated in College Park.
But will he be able to replace Hill? For all his indiscretions, the now-ex-assistant did land Melo Trimble, arguably the Terps' top recruit in years. And, lest we forget, he also convinced Michael Beasley to go to Kansas State, which would be like convincing LeBron James to sign with Toronto next season.
The thing is, Clark could be just the substitute for Hill, and it might not be apparent for two, even three years. You don't go up to a blue-chip high school junior or senior and sweep them off their feet with one recruiting pitch. The best, and most successful, recruiters start a dialogue much earlier in high school, then let the relationships grow from there.
One interesting wrinkle: If fellow assistant coach Scott Spinelli, widely considered a head-coach-in-waiting for the team that likes him enough to pluck him from Maryland, leaves after this season, Turgeon's next hire could be telling. Would he look for help in Washington and Prince George's County, Hill's old stomping grounds? Or would he feel comfortable enough with Clark to go for someone else, a more national name with ties to, say, Wisconsin or Georgia? It's worth monitoring.

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