LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLA. — Spread around the court at Xfinity Center during a recent practice, Mark Turgeon’s three assistants seemed to be in perfect sync with the Maryland men’s basketball coach. Though Turgeon was clearly in charge of the tightly run 2-hour session, each assistant was playing a key role
Matt Brady, a former head coach at James Madison and Marist, was in the middle of the floor, installing a “run-and-jump” fullcourt press that has since become a regular part of the team’s defensive plan. Brady tried to simplify the process, sounding more like a professor than a coach.
Bino Ranson, the only member of Turgeon’s original staff when he was hired from Texas A&M in 2011, was typically energetic, encouraging the nation’s No. 5-ranked team with fist pumps and a few instructive words to its group of young big men.
And DeAndre Haynes, the newest and youngest member of what Turgeon has called “the best coaching staff I’ve had,” was working the edges, pulling players close enough that only they could hear what he was saying. If Brady started three years ago as a self-proclaimed "coach whisperer,” Haynes is the player whisperer.
Together, the three assistants along with director of operations Mark Bialkoski and video coordinator Greg Manning Jr., have become an essential part of the team’s brain.
After a pair of seven-point wins over Temple and Harvard sent the Terps into Sunday’s championship game of the Orlando Invitational, Turgeon and his staff had to figure out a way to get the team to start faster. Once Marquette beat Southern Cal, they had to figure out how to derail the nation’s leading scorer, Golden Eagles guard Markus Howard.
Turgeon hasn’t watched what Howard, who followed a 40-point performance against Davidson with a 51-point outburst against USC, did in this tournament. Instead he looked at what Purdue and Wisconsin, two Big Ten teams, did in each holding the 5-foot-11 guard to 18 points last month.
“Every team has been a little bit different, you have to prepare a little bit different,” Turgeon said after his team worked out Saturday. “I watched [tape of] Marquette before breakfast, I put clips of our two games together and we watched clips this morning. I’ll watch more Marquette this afternoon. We’re ready. The scout team will have eight of their sets to walk through tonight.”
A well-rounded group
Just as the chemistry among players is usually a prerequisite for success, the same is usually true for the coaching staff. And just as players often find themselves being needed in different roles, assistants can be valuable if they take on responsibilities that could otherwise stretch the head coach too thin.
“Our chemistry’s really good with this staff,” Turgeon said. “Everybody likes each other. There’s no jealousies, we’re all on the same page. We’re all doing what’s best for Maryland basketball. They all get me, which during the season is not easy sometimes.”
Said Brady, who came on as Turgeon’s director of player development in 2016-17, “I do think this is a group that works well together. We talk as assistants about what we can do to help Coach. I do think this group is really eager to cut things off, things that might not get to Coach’s desk or his office.”
Their diverse set of skills — from Brady’s ability to explain concepts and draw up plays to Ranson’s infectious personality to Haynes getting on the court and demonstrating moves —– is not lost on the Maryland players.
“Everybody brings something different to the team,” sophomore guard Eric Ayala said. “Bino brings energy every day, and we count on him for his energy. Brady’s intelligence, him being able to think the game helps me slow the game down. Coach 'Dre, his basketball instincts, he played.”
More importantly, in different ways, all three seem to relate to players. In the case of the 35-year-old Haynes, who joined the staff in May after spending the past two seasons at Michigan, “He’s a coach, but he’s also like a big brother to us,” junior guard Darryl Morsell said.
“I feel with Coach Haynes, he’s a younger guy that the players can relate to. He just got finished not too long ago. He kind of knows where we come from. Coach Turgeon, Coach Bino, Coach Brady, they have kind of an older perspective. Coach Haynes has a younger mindset, and he can relate to us on and off the court.”
Said Haynes, “That’s always been more my niche. Basically I say my thing is that I’m a players’ coach. I tell the players that I love them every day, they become family to me. I even tell that to coach. I’m not a big rah-rah coach. I like bringing guys to the side and talking to them and letting them know what they’re doing wrong.”
Throughout the recent practice, Haynes made his way around the court, talking quietly to players. After Hakim Hart couldn’t execute a quick pass in tight quarters on a 2-on-1 fastbreak, Haynes told the freshman wing that his idea was sound but he was moving too fast.
“You try to bring ‘em to the side and grab ‘em,” Haynes said later. “Just little things like that, instead of just you yelling at ‘em on the floor. …. I could say something in the middle of the floor in front of everybody, but sometimes bringing them to the side and calming him down a little bit it helps them out.”
It wasn’t just the younger team members that Haynes, a former Mid-American Conference player of the year at Kent State who later played in Europe, was trying to teach. Haynes spent time during the practice with all of Maryland’s deep roster of guards.
Senior guard Anthony Cowan Jr. said Friday that Haynes has been instrumental in his improvement, playing more under control and trusting his teammates in key situations.
“He’s been the coach I really needed this year,” Cowan said. “Just to be able to pull me to the side, calm me down, see different things. I’m definitely thankful for him to come on the coaching staff. He’s huge.”
Said Turgeon, “I do think that DeAndre’s biggest strength — and that’s why I hired him — is relating to players. He’s young. He thinks he old, he’s 35. ... It’s like yesterday he was still playing. Because of his story — Detroit, inner city, getting out and making it — he can be there for them.
“But he also cares. He spends the time with them. So first of all, he builds relationships with players and then therefore they’ll listen to him and he’s not just trying to win games, he’s trying to make them better. “
Haynes found himself looking for work when longtime Michigan coach John Beilein left in May for the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers and his replacement, former Wolverines star Juwan Howard, retained just one of Beilein’s assistants. Several Michigan players, in particular Zavier Simpson and Jordan Poole, credited Haynes.
Having the pedigree of working with one of the best coaches in the country certainly didn’t hurt Haynes in being hired by Turgeon, who in the past typically worked with those he had previous relationships with, such as Scott Spinelli and Dustin Clark, who followed him from Texas A&M.
Most of those who Turgeon had hired from the outside, such as Dalonte Hill and Kevin Broadus, were widely considered like Ranson to be top recruiters though Broadus, now the head coach at Morgan State, had been a head coach at Binghamton. Getting a recommendation from Beilein certainly helped Haynes.
“The thing here, Coach brought me here and said, ‘I want to learn some of the things you did at Michigan’ or offer some ideas that you have that you can incorporate,” Haynes recalled. “He’s embracing what I brought to the table. I put in a few offensive things that he liked.”
If there is anyone who understands what Turgeon goes through, it’s Brady. Because they’re the same age (54) and Brady has been a head coach before, Turgeon has probably listened to Brady more than any of his previous assistants.
“I’ve always empowered Matt since he’s been here, because I think he’s an excellent basketball coach,” Turgeon said. “He’s a good teacher, whether it’s our zone defense or different things he really can see things.”
Said Brady, “I recognize as a head coach, you can’t do everything that everybody says. If there is something of particular value that I feel strongly about, Coach is really good about letting me text him or call him at night or close the door [of Turgeon’s office.] He’s been great.”
Ranson’s strength is not only as a recruiter — he was instrumental in building the relationship that brought two of this year’s starters, Morsell and his former Mount Saint Joseph teammate, sophomore forward Jalen Smith, from Baltimore — but as Turgeon’s alter ego.
As outgoing as Turgeon is introverted, Ranson could be the glue of Turgeon’s staff.
“My thing with Bino, when Bino’s not at practice, our energy level is not nearly as good,” Turgeon said. “And Bino knows exactly what I want. Bino lets me be me, which is very important. And I know there’s not a more loyal person in the world than Bino. And as a coach, that’s really up there.”
Said Ranson, “I want to bring energy every day and I want it to rub off on our players. The game of basketball, that’s a big part of it, playing with energy, playing with passion, just always being ready. That’s something I try to bring to our guys and even our staff members. If I see their down, I want to pull them up.”
If there’s one question mark remaining with this year’s staff, it’s recruiting. Broadus alone brought in four members of last year’s freshman group — everyone but Smith — and four this year in Donta Scott, the Mitchell twins and 7-2 center Chol Marial.
Currently, the Terps have signed just one player for 2020, point guard Marcus Dockery, but have only one available scholarship until anyone transfers or, in the case of Smith, leaves early for the NBA.
Still that seems to put a lot of the burden on Ranson, who was instrumental in the signing of the first five-star to sign under Turgeon in Diamond Stone. Ranson doesn’t see it that way.
“I believe in our guys, besides being great coaches, they’re helluva recruiters also,” Ranson said. “When you have a school like Maryland, it sells itself to a certain degree. There’s no pressure. I wholeheartedly believe in those guys as I did with Dustin and Broadus. You can get a guy to campus, but a lot of times the recruiting begins when they’re on campus. Everyone pitches in because that’s what you’re selling — family.”