“I’m excited just sitting in here right now,” said Mark Turgeon, the Terrapins coach, cupping his chin from a courtside seat Thursday morning.
Turgeon ensured Maryland Madness, the first NCAA-sanctioned practice of the season, would take place in Cole for the first time since 2001
, and it will include many of the school’s all-time greats during a ceremony about an heirloom of a facility as much as a storied program.
Rims. Stanchions. Oak floor. Decals. They’ve all been imported with the memorable players and coaches as Cole, home now to intramural soccer practices, gets gussied up once more for old ACC time’s sake.
“Kevin [Anderson] and I have talked about doing it since I took the job here,” Turgeon said of the school’s athletic director. “Logistically we just couldn’t get it done earlier, but this year just felt right. It’s not cheap to do, but it just felt like this has meant so much to the history of men’s basketball that to bring it back was the right thing.”
No other on-campus arena ever hosted multiple NCAA Final Fours, just as no other was the site of seven upsets of top-ranked teams.
Inside the main entrance are old black-and-white photos, some showing the ground dug out during the first weeks of construction, others commemorating special games and legendary players.
Along with the nostalgia, of course, comes a tinge of Midnight Sadness.
Maryland begins its final season in the ACC before moving to the Big Ten next year, a fact that brings even more finality to the proceedings. Turgeon is acutely aware.
Having coached under Roy Williams at Kansas, he probably took the Maryland job in 2011 with the notion he would be coaching against Tobacco Road royalty as long as he remained in College Park.
“Well, my whole thing is this: I love being in the ACC,” he said. “I love coaching in the ACC. I love being a part of the ACC. I love coaching against Coach K and Duke and Roy Williams and North Carolina. And we’re going to try to make this last year as special as we can. It’s been 60 years.
“That’s said, it is what it is. When this season ends, we’re moving on. Then it becomes Tom Izzo, Thad Matta and Tom Crean and Bo Ryan.”
Turgeon’s players were peppered with Big Ten questions at ACC Media Day.
It was almost as if no one knew a program went from 17 to 25 wins in a year and now has a chance to be tournament-worthy for the first time in the post-Gary Williams era.
Given Turgeon’s ties to KU and the ACC, he is asked, would this have been a dream job if he knew he was headed to the Big Ten in 2011?