During John Tillman's five-year tenure, Maryland has gone to three NCAA tournament finals and walked away empty-handed each time.
After losing 9-7 to Virginia in 2011 and 9-3 to Loyola Maryland in 2012, the Terps fell 10-5 to Denver last spring in Philadelphia. The latest setback marked the eighth consecutive loss in the title game since the 1975 squad captured the crown.
Among coaches who have guided their programs to three or more appearances in the NCAA championship final, Tillman and former Maryland coach Dick Edell (1995, 1997, 1998) are the only ones who went winless. That may be a frustrating scenario, but Tillman doesn't need any consoling or pity.
"When you get that far, you have to be careful because you obviously didn't achieve all of your goals," said Tillman, who ranks fifth in school history with 63 wins. "But you also have to reflect back and say, 'We got a lot farther than maybe some other teams,' and you can't take that for granted because it's so hard to get there. So you're walking a very fine line. If you get yourself in position to be there for that Final Four weekend, you have a chance."
Tillman wouldn't say whether the most recent setback hurt more than the losses in 2011 and 2012. He did say that the recruiting schedule in the summer didn't allow him to sit back and dwell on his feelings.
"Whether it's a semifinal, final or quarterfinal, once that journey is over, there's kind of a pause and you kind of reflect back on what happened," he said. "But what you realize is, you've got to get over it pretty fast and pick yourself up and start thinking about, 'Where did we fall short? What could we do better? How can we make our program better? How do we make our players better?' In my opinion, you look at every aspect of your program and just try to figure it out. Even if you won the last game, I think you still have to continue to try to figure out, 'OK, we were good here, but maybe we were subpar here.'"
Tillman is pragmatic about last season, weighing the positives with the negatives.
"The fact that we didn't win the last game, I think everybody will tell you, 'We didn't do well enough,'" he said. "But you've got to step back and say, 'Hey, we did some things well to get there. So let's build on it, let's grow from it and let's get going.' No one likes to finish on a loss, but there were some things we can certainly build upon and hopefully make the necessary corrections."