The Maryland men’s basketball team appears on the cusp of a bidding war.
Over the past several weeks, Terrapins alumnus and current Indiana assistant Kenny Johnson has turned into a hot commodity, with at least three schools vying for his services. Johnson quickly emerged as Maryland’s clear top choice to replace Scott Spinelli, sources said Wednesday, while Louisville wants Johnson to succeed Kevin Keatts. Virginia Tech tried and got rebuffed. Now comes word that the Hoosiers aren’t prepared to lose their ace recruiter and will fight to ensure he stays, a rather obvious development that underscores the competition Maryland faces.
According to the Indianapolis Star, citing an unnamed source close to the program, Indiana “would commit extra resources to matching a rival offer,” which should mean a raise to his reportedly $200,000 per year salary. That current figure almost certainly would be exceeded by Maryland and Louisville, should the programs offer Johnson their respective jobs, which has not yet been disclosed. According to the Star, “The source did not indicate whether there was any limit to the added financial commitment Indiana would make to keep Johnson.”
With strong local ties to the region, including six seasons with the AAU program Team Takeover, Johnson would add another coach with a national recruiting reputation to Coach Mark Turgeon’s bench. When Turgeon first came to Maryland from Texas A&M, he assembled a lineup of assistants with strong ties to various regions, a formidable group signifying the new regime’s aggressiveness on the trail. Spinelli is a New England native, Bino Ranson had Baltimore and Dalonte Hill manned Washington D.C.
In the years since, the Terps have signed 12 players over three recruiting classes. Five form the class of 2014, which ESPN.com ranked eighth nationally. Two more — Shaquille Cleare and Roddy Peters — decided to transfer this offseason, while Sam Cassell Jr. was deemed a non-qualifier in the summer 2012. The remaining four are rising sophomore Damonte Dodd and rising juniors Jake Layman, Seth Allen and Charles Mitchell. Three of them were Spinelli’s recruits, the fourth Ranson’s. Before the 2013-14 season began, Hill resigned after receiving a second DUI offense while at Maryland and was replaced by Dustin Clark, the former director of basketball operations.
Of course, Maryland and Louisville would have known that Indiana would fight to keep Johnson, should both sides extend formal job offers, but the decision ultimately rests with him under that scenario. The Terps offer a chance to return to his alma mater and work closer to his roots. Cardinals Coach Rick Pitino has a massive coaching tree, Keatts (UNC-Wilmington) the latest branch to grow, and their athletic department has deep pockets capable of throwing money at Johnson. Choosing the Hoosiers would mean staying put, albeit with a raise.
Some with knowledge of the situation indicated that Johnson, who has already spoken with Turgeon while in town last weekend, planned to visit another program this weekend, though it was undisclosed whether that program was Louisville or some other unnamed suitor. Either way, the Terps are clearly interested in plucking Johnson and the Hoosiers are clearly interested in retaining him. Add the Cardinals into the mix, and that makes for a three-way recruiting war, similar to the type through which Johnson has built his name.