Mark Turgeon’s rare absence gave him much-needed chance to step back

October 17, 2013

(Associated Press)

CHARLOTTE — In more than 25 years of coaching, Maryland Coach Mark Turgeon claims he can count his missed practices on one hand. Last week, strep throat sidelined him for three, but he said it was actually for the best.

“I’ll be honest, it was a great break,” Turgeon said Wednesday at ACC media day. “A great break for my players, great break for me. I was able to watch the film from a different viewpoint. I was able to come back Monday strong. I think it was really good for everybody.”

Feeling like “I was going to die,” Turgeon texted with assistant coach Scott Spinelli on Friday afternoon and passed off the next practice to his staff. So Spinelli ran the 20-minute session, Bino Ranson coached one side during the team’s open scrimmage on Saturday morning and Dalonte Hill handled the other team.

Sophomore Jake Layman scored 20 points on four three-pointers during the scrimmage, energizing a small crowd of roughly 100 and leading his team to a narrow victory. The scrimmage was videotaped, so Turgeon could watch later at home while convalescing. The performance might have made him sicker.

“We were horrible in the scrimmage,” he said. “Yeah, we were horrible. Whether I would have been there or not, didn’t matter. We were bad. We learned a lot from the film.”

Decision-making was a problem, something that plagued the Terrapins last season. So were turnovers, a category in which Maryland ranked 345th nationally. But Turgeon concerned himself most with execution. On any given possession, he said, only half his players were doing their job.

Once he returned to work, Turgeon reviewed the video and pointed out every mental error. “Ah, look at you,” he would say, pausing the tape. “Want me to keep going?”

He rarely did. The Terps realized the problem. Maybe the scrimmage atmosphere made them lackadaisical. Perhaps Turgeon’s absence – he later discovered his 8-year-old son had strep throat, too, but called him “tougher than I am” – contributed. Nevertheless, the season opener lies just more than three weeks away, and Turgeon turned the scrimmage into a tough-love lesson.

“Okay guys, we’ve got a long way to go,” Turgeon told them. “This time of year, we’re preaching just do your job. We have three or four guys, sometimes five guys on a free throw box-out not doing their job. We got a lot out of the film.”

Making this an annual thing might be too much for Turgeon’s body to handle. But the one-time break, in hindsight, gave him a needed respite and helped him step back to diagnose some minor preseason problems.

“I don’t want to get sick every year,” he said, “but under the circumstances it was really good.”

MORE FROM ACC MEDIA DAY

Terps picked to finish seventh in ACC.

Turgeon hopes for annual game at Cole Field House.

Swofford says Terps’ schedule isn’t all that unusual.

Move to Big Ten is hot topic.

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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Alex Prewitt · October 16, 2013

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