The introductory news conference in College Station, Tex., had just ended when Dustin Clark found Mark Turgeon and said hello. Turgeon was the new guy, a Sweet 16 appearance at Wichita State under his belt, glad-handing colleagues and talking about his happiness over becoming the new head men’s basketball coach at Texas A&M. Clark, then 25, was wondering whether he would still be working for the Aggies at week’s end.
“I was lobbying for the job,” Clark said of his introduction in 2007.
Long before he became Turgeon’s confidant, and even longer before he was elevated at Maryland to his first assistant coaching gig, which will begin Friday against Morgan State, Clark was a recently graduated student assistant with dreams of working — anything would do — in college basketball.
Soon after the news conference finished and Clark had introduced himself, he met with Turgeon in the basketball office and guided him through life in College Station. During his dizzying first few days, Turgeon felt overwhelmed by the size of his inherited staff, and was searching for comfort in his new hires. So he offered Clark the position of athletic assistant, unofficially the assistant director of operations, and Clark accepted.
In 2010, Clark was promoted to team administrator, then when Turgeon left for Maryland the following year, Clark came too, becoming director of basketball operations. A former high school basketball and baseball player who realized that coaching was his best way to stay in sports, Clark was always hopeful Turgeon would bring him to the East Coast, and Turgeon allowed little time for speculation. After addressing the players during a team meeting, Turgeon brought Clark into his office and offered a spot on his staff with the Terrapins.
“I told him, without hesitation, that I was in, and I would be glad to come,” Clark said. “We didn’t talk position, we didn’t talk title, we didn’t talk anything like that.”
As former assistant Dalonte Hill’s role within the program fluctuated — he missed time in April and May for undisclosed reasons, then took a leave of absence in October after his second DUI arrest in Maryland before formally resigning on Wednesday — Turgeon asked Clark to fill the void. At Texas A&M, his father’s alma mater, Clark helped coordinate the recruitment of two top 75 players, and Turgeon said Clark “really helped close the door” this year on Potomac High sharpshooter Dion Wiley.
Clark, who made $112,000 last season according to documents obtained through an open records request, will sign a new contract that formally makes him Maryland’s third assistant alongside Scott Spinelli and Bino Ranson.
Clark also has been a vocal bench presence, issuing defensive assignments after timeouts and instructions during play. He began taking recruiting trips to local high schools and his native Texas this year, and helped Ranson and Spinelli scout future opponents during the Paradise Jam tournament in the U.S. Virgin Islands this week, which Maryland won.
“Dustin is, besides my wife and kids and brothers and family, the most loyal guy in the world to me,” Turgeon said. “I know he’s got my back, and that’s really, in the business, as tough as it is to have a guy on your staff it’s really important.”
Inside the University of the Virgin Islands arena this week, the pregame announcements always counted Clark among the team’s assistant coaches. He never noticed until someone told him later, but it was an early indication of what, on Wednesday, became official.
“When I first got in the business, I always hoped that I would have this kind of opportunity,” Clark said. “I didn’t know timing. Now that it’s here, I’m excited for the opportunity and appreciative to prove that coach’s trust in me is justified.”