Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Maryland hires Mark Turgeon

I'll certainly have more thoughts on the hire of Mark Turgeon to replace Gary Williams as the head basketball coach at the University of Maryland. My initial reaction is this is a very good hire. Calling him a "solid" hire has a whiff of condescension to it as he is almost certainly the best hire by any ACC program this off season. The only coaches in the league that have more NCAA tournament appearances than Turgeon's five are Coach K, Roy Williams, Leonard Hamilton and Mark Gottfried. Hamilton has been coaching 10 years longer than Turgeon and has one more appearance while Gottfried has been out of college basketball since 2009. The other two on the list are coaching royalty. Turgeon has done very well at a program where it isn't easy to win. Since 1980 Texas A&M had been to the NCAA tournament three times before Turgeon took over from Billy Gillispie in 2007 and they have since been to four tournaments in a row. In the last four seasons Turgeon's team had 11 wins against ranked opponents while Maryland had six. His teams win, play hard, and are well coached.

I'll have more about the details of what Maryland fans can expect from Turgeon's teams in the coming days but suffice to say I think Maryland did very well in this hire.

My thoughts on the coaching search:
It was probably easy to get caught up in the hysteria over the weekend regarding Sean Miller but I don't think Miller was serious about leaving Arizona for Maryland. Contrary to what his camp is leaking out regarding his meeting with Maryland AD Kevin Anderson I think his main goal was to leverage the meeting into a better financial commitment from Arizona. Reportedly upset over funding and support he was promised by the prior athletic director Miller used Maryland interest to not only get a sizable raise but also make a power play. It is now clear who runs the show in Tuscon. Wildcat fans now will be nervous every time a high profile job opens up because Miller is clearly more of a mercenary than a coach.

For all the Maryland fans who are upset that Miller or Jay Wright or Jamie Dixon isn't the new coach at Maryland: get over it. When Arizona's job opened after Lute Olson went over the cuckoo's nest it was such a disaster that they had to resort to interim coaches twice. Sean Miller's hire wasn't some brilliant move by Arizona it was more akin to a Hail Mary. Arizona is certainly on par with Maryland if not slightly better and they offered their head coaching job to every coach with a pulse. Jamie Dixon, John Calipari, Tom Izzo, Rick Pitino, Mark Few, Jeff Capel and even cheater Tim Floyd were mentioned in connection with the search. The Wildcats gone none of them. Sean Miller waffled on Arizona until they made a higher salary offer (sound familiar, Wildcat fans?) as the six or seventh coach they were interested in. When Kentucky finally moved on from Tubby Smith they had to hire the then coach at Texas A&M who turned into a disaster on and off the court. They failed to convince Billy Donovan to take one of the best jobs in the nation even though he coaches at a football school for a basketball program that has little history worth mentioning. No school just picks who they want from another successful program with great resources. North Carolina had to ask Roy Williams, an alum, twice before he took the job. It would be nice for everyone to assume that coaches would scramble to take the Maryland job but it isn't true. You can count on one hand the programs that have the prestige to get their dream hire and even then it is no guarantee. Everyone else is in the same boat including programs like UConn, Syracuse, Arizona, Florida, Michigan State, Michigan and Indiana that have won national titles. You better have some connection (alum, coaching tree, local native, etc.) if you hope to pull a successful coach from a comparable program. Compare the talent on the rosters that Dixon, Wright and Miller have coming back next season (plus their recruiting classes) with what Maryland has and then ask yourself why they would give that up to rebuild at Maryland. Mark Turgeon has left a preseason top 25 squad that could make a run at a Big 12 title to start over at Maryland. Terrapin fans should be happy he was willing to do that.

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