Allen’s decision to leave begs a question: What is Coach Mark Turgeon doing wrong?
Allen, the first player to sign with Maryland after Turgeon replaced Gary Williams in 2011, became the fourth scholarship player recruited under Turgeon to be granted his release in the past month.
He follows center Shaquille Cleare, guard Nick Faust and point guard Roddy Peters in leaving. The number could soon grow to five if forward Charles Mitchell maintains his interest in finding another school.
After a disappointing season in which Turgeon again failed to lead Maryland to the NCAA tournament or the National Invitation Tournament, the program appears to be in disarray as the school prepares for its inaugural year in the Big Ten.
Either Turgeon has made major errors in recruiting or he has mismanaged players once they’ve arrived on campus. What’s clear is that Athletic Director Kevin Anderson and his superiors at the university should be concerned about the troubling situation. For Maryland officials, Allen’s decision has made it worse.
If the Terrapins’ incoming recruits are as good as advertised, Cleare, Faust and Peters may not have had significant roles for the remainder of their careers, Turgeon supporters are quick to say. Turgeon hadn’t planned to rely on them — but he was counting on Allen.
The team’s second-leading scorer last season, Allen was expected to move to shooting guard, his best position, at least on a part-time basis with the arrival of O’Connell High guard Melo Trimble, the Terrapins’ highest-rated recruit in years. Turgeon would have instructed Allen to help mentor Trimble. Whether Allen or Trimble, who’s also better suited to play shooting guard, handled playmaking duties, the Terrapins would be improved at the position, Turgeon believed.
Allen’s departure means that the Terrapins’ offense again will be directed by an inexperienced player.
No matter how effective Trimble may become during his time at Maryland, he’ll only be getting started next season. His growing pains will be reflected in the team’s win-loss record. At Maryland, Turgeon’s mark isn’t impressive.
In his three seasons, Maryland never finished above .500 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Terrapins made only one appearance in the NIT. And after the team went 17-15 during its final season in the ACC, players Turgeon recruited to rebuild the program are running for the exits. That’s not a good look.
Turgeon’s coaching staff also has received an unexpected makeover. Former Maryland assistant Dalonte Hill, considered a standout recruiter, resigned in November shortly after his third arrest for driving under the influence since 2008. Earlier this month, assistant Scott Spinelli left Maryland for the same position with Boston College. There’s a whole lot going on with the program. Little of it seems to be positive.
After 102 games with Turgeon at the helm, it’s hard to find tangible proof the Terrapins are improving. Even Turgeon and Anderson would have to acknowledge this isn’t what they envisioned when Anderson persuaded Turgeon to leave Texas A&M. For Anderson, the last thing he needs is upheaval in the school’s most important program on the eve of joining the Big Ten. This should be an upbeat time. Instead, the spotlight is on the basketball program for the wrong reason.
Transferring is as much a part of big-time college sports as dunks and touchdowns. In today’s hoops culture, kids are anointed as stars while they still sleep with nightlights. They switch AAU teams on a whim.
Turgeon isn’t the first coach to deal with defections following a rough season. However, potentially losing five scholarship players in less than a month isn’t merely a problem. From the outside, it looks like a crisis.
Although Turgeon inherited a program that needed work, he can’t blame former management for the current mess. All of the players who have bolted are guys Turgeon evaluated, pursued and signed.
If there’s any good news in all of this for Terrapins fans, it’s that Turgeon will get plenty of time to make things right. Thanks to an eight-year contract, Turgeon has the type of job security coaches need to weather storms. The expectation within the program is that Maryland will be better off without players who weren’t committed.
And despite his inability to get the Terrapins rolling yet, Turgeon turned around programs in previous stops. He has led two schools to the NCAA tournament. Turgeon can draw on that experience. But he has to get going.
Many Terrapins fans are justifiably concerned. They want answers about where the program is headed. After a spate of transfers, they only have more questions.
For more by Jason Reid, visit washingtonpost.com/reid.