The Twittosphere is abuzz with word that Mark Turgeon could be Maryland's next basketball coach. Terp Nation is certainly not atwitter, and maybe more aghast.
I have two opinions. It's not a great hire, but after giving it some thought, it's probably not a bad one.
Turgeon is a proven Division I basketball coach with solid credentials over a seven-year career and an impeccable pedigree that runs back to Phog Allen Field House, where he played for Larry Brown and later coached under Brown and Roy Williams.
Turgeon is not exactly going to fire up a fan base in College Park that is already lukewarm -- if that -- to the hiring of Randy Edsall. Turgeon's profile east of Lawrence, Kan. makes Edsall seem like Urban Meyer.
It's a great hire if Gary Williams left the Terps loaded, or even more balanced between remaining backcourt and frontcourt talent. Jordan Williams leaving Maryland was certainly not Williams' fault, but the program Turgeon took over at Texas A&M was in much better shape for his first season there than the one he is apparently ready to inherit at Maryland. It would also be a better hire if Kevin Anderson had made a splashier pick than Edsall, say Mike Leach or even Gus Malzahn. In essence, Edsall and Turgeon have similar profiles, similar personalities and would be great gets if this was a place like Storrs or College Station, where they're coaching the only game in town.
Stuck between Baltimore and Washington, between the Ravens and Redskins (if there's an NFL season) and between the Orioles and Nationals (if their respective fan bases are still interested in late summer), Maryland coaches are constantly fighting for sound bytes on the local sports shows, and stories and blogs in two major newspapers and their respective websites.
Long before sports became as accessible as turning on your telephone, Maryland hired Lefty Driesell, a big name from a small school, Davidson, who became a larger-than-life caricature by promising that the Terps would become "the UCLA of the East". They certainly didn't
achieve that, but Lefty put Maryland on the map.
After the death of Len Bias and the disaster of Bob Wade, Williams arrived. He was one of the game's up-and-comers who had built his reputation at American, Boston College and Ohio State. He was a Maryland alum who could talk about watching the historic NCAA 1966 championship game between Kentucky and Texas El Paso by sneaking in the back door at Cole Field House. He's now in the discussion for the Hall of Fame, having won a national championship and helped to build one of college basketball's best homecourt venues.
So to go from Lefty to Gary to a guy who is well-respected in the Big 12 but is a virtual unknown in the ACC and along the recruiting trails of the Baltimore and Washington beltways is a reach, but that's what happens when your top one or two or five choices turn you down, as happened when Sean Miller said no and when everyone else on Kevin Anderson's initial wish list tweeted their pledge of allegiance to their current employer.
I remember what Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese said to me after Williams, one of his closest friends, decided to retire last week. It's not about winning the press conference. If it were, then maybe Anderson would have reached out to John Lucas, who told The Sun's Jeff Barker that he was interested in the job.
I think Turgeon is a solid hire whose credentials in the Big 12, where he has taken the Aggies to four straight NCAA tournaments, are even more impressive than Edsall's were in the Big East, given the respective levels of competition. I don't think it's a bad hire and it probably does Turgeon a disservice by saying it's a safe hire. I just don't think it's the right hire if you want to get the fan base fired up by the time Maryland Madness begins.
But it's probably the best Anderson could have done under difficult circumstances, after Williams retired suddenly and Miller returned to Tucson. In a conference that featured a bunch of iconic coaches and characters nearly since its inception, the ACC, with the exception of Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski, is now filled with a bunch of blue-collar, character actors.
Respected college basketball analyst Jay Bilas, who has known Turgeon since they played against each other in the 1986 Final Four, thinks it's a good move for Maryland and a good time for Turgeon.
"I think it's a really good time to come into the league," Bilas told me this afternoon. "I haven't done the math on this, but if you took Coach K out and took the other 11 coaches, they wouldn't have as many years as Coach K himself. You're looking at a number of teams in that league that have either one year or none of experience [in the ACC] coming in. It's good time to come in and you have the opportunity to build."
The man Maryland might be close to hiring will fit right in, but without many players who could, in Anderson's words, turn the Terps from good (or a little about mediocre last season) to great, it's going to take him awhile to stand out.