Maryland's hiring of Cliff Warren as director of basketball operations last month probably raised eyebrows among Warren's friends and associates in the coaching community.
Why would the 46-year-old former Jacksonville head coach essentially start his career arc from scratch by taking a job that typically goes to a twenty-something trying to move up, not down, the ladder?
It became apparent Tuesday when Mark Turgeon announced Warren as his newest full-time assistant.
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Nima Omidvar, a 2008 Maryland grad who had been working the past three seasons as the video coordinator at N.C. State, was named as director of basketball ops.
In the case of Warren, who played for and coached under the legendary Jim Phelan at Mount St. Mary's, the three-week audition went quite well.
Warren probably would not have taken the initial job offer had he not seen opportunity for advancement. Knowing that Turgeon could use him as a recruiter until he found another assistant to replace Scott Spinelli, Warren obviously did enough to warrant a promotion.
In a tumultuous offseason that saw a third of the roster turned over by transfers and Turgeon’s longtime assistant leave for Boston College, Warren’s arrival should give the Terps a first step toward the stability that has proved fleeting during the three seasons since Gary Williams retired.
Coming off a disappointing 17-15 season and headed into the Big Ten in a few months, someone with Warren’s experience and temperament could be just what Turgeon needs to get off the hot seat and put a program that hasn’t been to the NCAA tournament in four seasons back on track.
While getting a recruiter with the reputation of Indiana’s Kenny Johnson would have certainly been a splashier hire nationally, Warren’s resume has a lot more substance than Johnson's. He helped Paul Hewitt take Siena to the NCAA tournament and Georgia Tech to the Final Four.
It might be only a coincidence that Hewitt’s teams became a lot more inconsistent – and borderline lousy – after Warren left to take his first head coaching job at Jacksonville.
Though Warren was fired this year after the Dolphins followed back-to-back 20 wins seasons with three straight losing seasons, history tells us that it is much more difficult to sustain success at the mid-major level.
Those who know Warren say that he is well-respected and well-liked in the college basketball community – even by referees – and that he could help Turgeon as Spinelli did in terms of recruiting, game preparation and player development.
A lack of player development certainly was part of Maryland’s on-court regression last season, but a lack of chemistry and maturity might have been a larger issue that was pretty well camouflaged until the defections began in College Park last month.
Even without Dalonte Hill, who resigned following his second DUI since coming in with Turgeon, the Terps have continued to recruit well in the area.
Given the number of four-star prospects that seem to have Maryland on their radar, a second straight Top 10 recruiting class is certainly within reason.
Hiring Johnson, who has been a college coach for less than four seasons and ultimately chose Louisville over his alma mater, would have been created a buzz.
Hiring Warren, who has coached for 20 years and saw opportunity when some questioned the move, could ultimately help turn Turgeon’s program in the right direction.