As three transfers and an assistant coach’s exit ushered in a new offseason for the Maryland men’s basketball teams – and, in some ways, a new chapter under Coach Mark Turgeon – a short list of tasks remains for the Terrapins, no matter how badly they would hope to shake off a disappointing 17-15 season and plow forward into the future.
1. Hire an assistant coach
Scott Spinelli’s departure hinged on two concepts: family and money. Recently, Boston College and first-year coach Jim Christian unexpectedly approached Spinelli with an offer. It turned him into one of the ACC’s highest-paid assistant coaches and brought both Spinelli and his wife back to their native New England.
Much was made about the internal implications of Turgeon and his longtime assistant separating, but everything points to an amicable parting buoyed by an opportunity too good to pass up, especially since, according to contracts obtained via an open records request, Spinelli was entering his fourth season at Maryland without a raise, and now he gets a significant bump from the $202,000 he made during the 2012-13 season.
The search for Spinelli’s replacement began while both sides were engaged in “serious talks” – which Turgeon conference-called two Maryland beat writers to explain, something that suggests he was supportive of the move – and though nothing concrete has emerged from inside the program, several individuals with knowledge of the situation have linked Indiana assistant Kenny Johnson as a person of interest, though it’s unknown how much that interest is mutual, how far along talks might be and whether anything is imminent or mere flirtation. Johnson graduated from Maryland in 1999, assisted under Pat Skerry at Towson, spent six years with local AAU powerhouse Team Takeover and guided Paul VI for four seasons as well.
Clearly, the Terps are not alone.
Indiana assistant Kenny Johnson has become a hot commodity. No shortage of other high major programs have expressed interest in him.
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) April 16, 2014
The ideal profile of Spinelli’s replacement has also been discussed at length. Should Turgeon hire a dogged recruiter to a staff that already contains Baltimore guru Bino Ranson and Dustin Clark, who in several short months has helped secure commitments from Dion Wiley and Michal Cekovsky? Would Turgeon look toward a former head coach who, though not mutually exclusive from a top recruiter, would provide a better measure of, as it were, “X’s and O’s”?
Chances are the answer lies only with Turgeon and his concept of who makes the best candidate, though whoever emerges will reveal plenty about Turgeon’s view of the current state of Maryland basketball and what he thinks the program needs to reach its first NCAA tournament since 2009-10.
2. Hire a director of basketball operations
When Dalonte Hill announced his resignation last October, Turgeon promoted Clark to assistant coach, a move of confidence in his longtime confidant that has already paid off with Cekovsky. That decision vacated Clark’s director of basketball operations position, a logistics job ultimately pieced together by a phalanx of other staff members this past season, like trainer Matt Charvat, video coordinator Jon Trock, director of basketball performance Kyle Tarp and graduate assistant Steve Asher.
Each of those – and Clark too – assumed extra responsibilities that normally fell under the umbrella of the director of basketball operations, tasks like booking flights, reserving hotels and scheduling recruiting visits. Hiring a new full-time director became a priority for Turgeon once the season rolled around, and presumably at least some of his time in Dallas at the Final Four was spent scrounging for candidates.
That said, no concrete names have emerged from inside the program, only rumors of possible targets. Turgeon could also look at special assistant to the head coach Juan Dixon, whose hiring coincided with – albeit unconnected to — Hill’s departure.
3. Welcome the freshmen
This June, a five-man recruiting class ranked eighth nationally by ESPN.com will arrive on campus. Melo Trimble, a McDonalds all-American from O’Connell, could slide into the lineup right away, bumping Seth Allen to his native shooting guard spot. Wiley and Jared Nickens are dead-eye sharpshooters needing defensive work to crack a wing rotation already featuring Trimble, Allen, Dez Wells and Jake Layman. Cekovsky and Trayvon Reed are two 7-footers adding some much-needed length.
The immediate pressure will be on Trimble and Cekovsky, the two players considered most ready for the rigors of college basketball, but even in losing three transfers, the Terps return all four players who scored in double figures last season, their top four leading rebounders and top three outside shooters. The five freshmen, none of whom are graded lower than a four-star by 247sports.com, will have the hype machine churning at their heels, making for an exciting summer of integration.
4. Finish up the 2014-15 schedule
Here is what we know so far:
Nov. 24: vs. Alabama/Iowa State/Arizona State at CBE Classic in Kansas City.
Nov. 25: vs. Alabama/Iowa State/Arizona State at CBE Classic in Kansas City.
Dec. 9: vs. Villanova in New York City at Jimmy V Classic.
ACC/Big Ten Challenge
Big Ten home: Indiana, Michigan State, Nebraska, Penn State, Rutgers, Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern, Wisconsin.
Big Ten away: Indiana, Michigan State, Nebraska, Penn State, Rutgers, Illinois, Iowa, Ohio State, Purdue.
The rest of the non-conference schedule has not been announced, though the Terps are not expected to have anymore road or neutral games. This includes anything at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, the contract for which has been delayed, and the BB&T Classic, in which the Terps are no longer playing. Don’t expect anymore marquee opponents either; the schedule should be filled out with mid-major teams clutching RPIs somewhere between 100 to 175, the kind that won’t damage Maryland at season’s end.
5. Add another piece?
Posed as more of a question than a necessity, the transfers of Nick Faust, Shaquille Cleare and Roddy Peters turned a muddled scholarship situation into a clear-cut one. Counting the five freshmen, the Terps have 17 players on their roster for next season, 11 of whom have scholarships. (Jonathan Graham is not counted in this baseline look, because he transferred from Penn State under the pretenses that his scholarship would last for one year, then be reevaluated contingent on future rosters.)
More than 350 Division I men’s basketball players have announced their intentions to transfer, according to Goodman’s list at ESPN.com, so Maryland has no shortage of potential options. The top target would be a veteran guard, preferably someone who can ease Trimble’s burden and handle Faust’s former role as the go-to wing defender. Of course, anyone who fits that mold will be in high demand.
For mental refreshment, here is where the current scholarship situation stands. That’s two seniors, both of whom transferred into the program, and only one sophomore. No player from Turgeon’s first season at Maryland is still around.