Washington

Turgeon never won over Maryland fans, will his successor?

Washington

The best moment of the Mark Turgeon era at Maryland was only celebrated for a mere three days. After winning a share of the Big Ten title, the coronavirus pandemic shut down the entire country just three days later.

No Big Ten Tournament run, no NCAA Tournament run - where the Terps were projected to be a No. 3 seed and positioned for a coveted Sweet Sixteen push.

That was far out of anyone's control. If that tournament plays out, Turgeon probably doesn't resign this December. But in many ways, the letdown and lack of fully being able to take advantage of a great opportunity was representative of his whole tenure. 

From failing to consistently sign top-tier local recruits, to only making one Sweet Sixteen in nine possible tournaments, to the disconnect of some players at times with the coaching staff, to comparisons to the raging fire and intensity of former coach Gary Williams, there was always something that seemed to undercut progress and prevent a true connection. 

The dichotomy between those that supported Turgeon and those that didn't was always a stark one. Those in favor just point to his results - at least those that weren't in March.

Turgeon was the second-best Maryland coach in program history in regards to winning percentage at .661 (behind only Basketball Hall-of-Famer Lefty Driesell) and the best conference record (.574) by a Maryland coach since 1950. And even though he gave the Terps a high floor - his first three difficult seasons notwithstanding - there was barely anything to show for it in Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments. 

 

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The problem, though, is college basketball judges everyone based on their March performances. It's something Turgeon acknowledged before the 2021 Big Ten Tournament on asked if that judgment is fair.

"Yes and no because I judge myself in March," Turgeon said. "Everybody wants to do well in March, I do think the journey is what you ultimately should be judged on but, we're not dumb, we understand that there's more to it. And I'm sitting here today because I had success in March at Wichita State, that got me somewhere else. I had success there so that got me to Maryland so yeah it was weighted a little too heavily, yeah absolutely."

Two or three more wins in that month could have completely changed the narrative surrounding his coaching tenure.

The naysayers always had more than just the March results to point to, though. Maryland's pace under him was not one to draw a crowd. The best Turgeon teams relied on their defenses, not always the best viewing experience if they aren't confidently winning games.

Additionally, there were some results and early season trip-ups that were always confusing (George Mason just this year as an example). Local recruiting always left more to be desired. A coach can't recruit every top player in the DMV, but there are enough examples at Villanova and North Carolina -- all recent title teams with local contributors - that questions were raised about evaluations.

It's one thing to lose out to Kansas (Devin Dotson) or Kentucky (Andrew and Aaron Harrison and later Keldon Johnson) in major recruiting battles. But it's another not to find Kris Jenkins (Gonzaga High) or Josh Hart (Sidwell Friends), two locals from the 2013 class who were four-year players and national champs at Villanova. Those are the level of recruits Williams excelled at developing and won his own 2002 championship with.     

At a high-major program, if your results don't meet expectations, you have to win the fan base over in other ways. For Maryland fans, those other ways simply weren't met. Many understood that recruiting, rifts, and pace were not characteristics that would change overnight with Turgeon.

Who knows which new head coach will be brought in several months from now to fill one of college basketball's highest-profile openings for this upcoming cycle. But postseason success will surely be a factor in Maryland's selection and if there isn't a history from that new coach in other areas that Terps fans are passionate about, then skeptics will remain