Terps basketball notes: New coaching staff works through first game

November 30, 2013

Here is Juan Dixon during an introductory press conference with the Washington Wizards. Now he works for the Terps. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

As Dustin Clark passed through the tunnel and into the underbelly of Comcast Center, a spreadsheet hanging from his back pocket in the moments before he debuted in a new job, an usher saw him walking by and said, “Good luck, Coach.”

Former assistant Dalonte Hill’s resignation on Wednesday morning meant Clark received a promotion into a position he had already been filling while Hill was on a leave of absence. Friday night’s 89-62 win over Morgan State represented nothing more than a formality for Clark, who had been handling recruiting trips, bench duties and advance scouting without Hill around.

“He’s doing a good job,” Evan Smotrycz said. “I think guys are listening to what he says, which is a good start.”

Legendary Maryland guard Juan Dixon also began his new career as the program’s special assistant to the head coach, sitting behind the bench during the game alongside the team’s graduate assistants and joining the huddle during timeouts.

Turgeon initially offered little on Dixon’s debut when asked about it early into his postgame news conference.

“You’re talking about Juan Dixon?” Turgeon asked rhetorically. “Shoot I don’t know. He’s the least … I’m not worried about Juan. I’m worried about my team. He didn’t do much.”

Later, on the final question and apropos of nothing, Turgeon went back to Dixon and apologized for answering so tersely.

“I know Juan’s an important person here,” Turgeon said. “It’s just good to have him around. It’s good to have Juan around. I know he’s excited. I found out he’s not very good at tying a tie before the game, so if you want to rip him a little bit, you can. They were trying to get that all fixed up before the game. I think he was excited and really enjoyed it.”

Dixon still sported that tie and a crisp gray suit when he walked out of Comcast Center. He had been lingering around the program for the past several years, showing up at practice and lending his input whenever asked, but until now nothing had been official.

“He’s been in and out throughout the season, the offseason,” Smotrycz said. “I love talking to Juan, picking his brain. He always has some insightful things to say. The more he’s around, the better. Just trying to soak up whatever he says.”

>> Freshman Damonte Dodd played 13 minutes and scored his first college basket, a layup, after receiving two DNP-CDs during the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands. He provided a different look against Morgan State center Ian Chiles, using his length to defend the 7-footer.

“I think Damonte, he’s tough,” Smotrycz said. “He always alters shots in practice and today he had a couple blocks, did a good job getting a hand in that guy’s face. If he can focus, really get ready to play and stay locked in during practice, it definitely gives us a different type of center.”

Dodd blocked one shot and grabbed one rebound, playing nine minutes after halftime with both Shaquille Cleare and Charles Mitchell in foul trouble.

>> Maryland’s free throw woes got even worse. The Terps topped 60 percent from the field and on three-pointers, but mustered a 45.5 percent rate from the line, making 10 of 22 attempts. Post players Mitchell (2 for 7), Cleare (0 for 2) and Dodd (0 for 2) were the main culprits, but Smotrycz (1 for 3) didn’t help matters either.

As a team, the Terps are shooting 60.4 percent from the stripe this season, with another bad performance in danger of dropping below the 60-percent mark and lower down the national rankings list towards the country’s cellar.

“Honestly I don’t know,” Smotrycz said. “I guess we’ve just to shoot more in practice.”

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 | November 29, 2013