After Dustin Clark graduated from Texas A&M in 2007, it took him three years to get a chance to be part of a college basketball team. With the help of a rising Aggies assistant named Buzz Williams, Clark got a graduate manager’s job on Billy Gillispie’s staff, then was hired for the same position there by Mark Turgeon.
It took a lot less time for Clark, a member of Turgeon’s Maryland staff since they came to College Park together in 2011, to get out of the coaching business. Five months after being approached by his stepfather about going into a family business back in his native Texas, Clark announced Monday that he would be leaving the Terps.
Clark, 35, said this is the first time he had ever considered a career change.
“It’s never an easy decision to leave a university, city and a career that you love. For the past 12 years, coaching has been my life,” he said in a recent interview. “I have proudly given absolutely everything that I have to my coaching career, but there are two things that made this the right time for me to leave coaching.
“First, I have a desire to be more available and present for my family, all of whom are in Dallas/Fort Worth. And secondly, I have been presented with a unique and rare opportunity to join a family business. Joining the private sector will allow me the flexibility to do what I need and want to do.”
Clark, whose parents and three younger sisters live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, added that he is “very much at peace with my decision and am looking forward to this new direction."
Clark is leaving with mixed emotions. Since being promoted to a full-time assistant three years ago after serving as director of basketball operations, Clark has been a tireless recruiter both in the United States and overseas, and he had a major hand in putting together next season’s Maryland team.
Clark was the lead recruiter on former Terp Kevin Huerter and rising junior guard Anthony Cowan Jr., rising sophomore center Bruno Fernando and incoming freshman wing Aaron Wiggins. Clark also helped bring rising redshirt senior forward Ivan Bender from Croatia and rising redshirt sophomore forward Joshua Tomaic from the Canary Islands.
“I’m going to miss being around our players, other coaches and support staff on a daily basis,” he said. ”The best part of coaching are the special relationships that are developed as a result of battling together and going through the rigors of a season. I’ll especially miss the guys, but the relationships will last, and I’m looking forward to continuing to help them, albeit in different ways.”
Clark said he now has to practice what he has often preached to the players: that playing (or coaching) basketball sets a person up to be successful outside of the sport.
“The things that I tried to excel at in coaching is having great relationships, outworking everyone, being a servant leader and being a great problem solver,” Clark said. “I expect that those things will make me successful in my next chapter.”
Clark will be replaced by Matt Brady, a former head coach at James Madison and Marist who served on Turgeon’s staff last season as the director of player development. As an assistant under Phil Martelli at Saint Joseph’s, Brady was widely credited with helping develop guards Jameer Nelson and Delonte West for a team that reached the Elite Eight after an unbeaten regular season.
Clark, who according to the state’s salary database is being paid $270,000 a year, made it clear he was not being forced out, or bailing on Turgeon, after a disappointing 19-13 season that ended with the Terps’ not being invited to a postseason tournament.
“The result of our season had nothing to do with my decision,” he said. “It was about having a very unique business opportunity presented, coupled with my desire to have more flexibility to spend time with family. Unfortunately, you can’t control timing of certain things in life.
“What did make it more difficult is that I am really excited about our returning team and incoming recruiting class. I think next year will be great and I will miss getting to be an active part of that team. But I am looking forward to following them closely, and I definitely plan on being back to visit as much as I can.”
If anything, Clark believes he is leaving Maryland in good hands and well stocked for what is viewed as a crucial season for Turgeon.
“The Maryland basketball program is in great shape,” Clark said. "The guys we have on our roster and what we have been able to do in recruiting should provide for a bright future for Coach Turgeon and our program.”