Maryland Coach Mark Turgeon said Wednesday that assistant Dalonte Hill’s DUI arrest in October — his third over the last five years — was a distraction for the Terrapins, but that Hill’s resignation now allows the team to move forward.
“It’s not going to be a distraction,” Turgeon said on a teleconference with reporters, 30 minutes after the program announced that Hill had resigned, Dustin Clark had been elevated to assistant coach and Juan Dixon was hired as a special assistant. “When it all happened, that’s when the distraction happened.”
Hill’s resignation allowed Turgeon to promote Clark, who has served as the team’s third assistant coach while Hill was on a leave of absence following his most recent arrest. Hiring Dixon, Turgeon said, had been decided upon “five or six weeks” ago, but said extenuating circumstances, which he declined to specify, forced the news to break simultaneously with the other unrelated moves.
“It was forced to happen today,” Turgeon said. “I don’t think it’s going to be a distraction at all. Obviously sad about not having Coach Hill around, but happy for Coach Clark.”
Maryland’s all-time leading scorer, Dixon will oversee academics, scout future opponents and mentor players based on his nine seasons of NBA experience. He was hired under one condition: That he complete his undergraduate degree in family sciences. He is on track to do so.
“I think Juan has an unbelievable knowledge about the game of basketball,” Turgeon said. “Just his passion for Maryland basketball, I know how I felt about the University of Kansas when I graduated, Juan has that same passion I had. He just wants Maryland basketball to be successful.”
Turgeon said Dixon has “been working me for probably five or six months” under the belief that Dixon’s NBA career was over and he was ready to leap into coaching. He will sit behind the Maryland bench alongside graduate assistant Eric Hayes, another former Maryland guard, and Turgeon anticipates him traveling with the team.
“Obviously within his responsibilities he’s not allowed to coach on the floor,” Turgeon said. “If you know Juan, that’ll be the hardest part for him because he’s very passionate about what he does.”
Dixon has expressed a desire to become a college head coach one day, and Turgeon believed starting “on the low end” and working his way up was the best route, much like former Kansas guard Danny Manning did with the Jayhawks, working for four years in athlete development under Bill Self. Now, he’s the head coach at Tulsa.
“He’s go to learn how to do all phases of it,” Turgeon said. “That’s what we plan on doing. He’s going to be checking classes, doing a lot of things that you need to do at that level to understand how that all works. He’s passionate about wanting to be a coach and wanting to be an assistant coach at Maryland. He’s pretty convincing. We’re excited.”
As for Hill, who leaves behind a yearly salary of more than $300,000, Turgeon anticipated that he will get a chance at another school. In April and May, Hill took a previously unreported leave of absence from the program, and though Turgeon declined to address specifics, he implied a connection to Hill’s current issues. At that point, Clark began recruiting for the program.
“I think he can, I think he will [coach again],” Turgeon said of Hill. “It’s a sad day for me. I really, really like Dalonte. I think he’s a tremendous person. That’s a thing that hurts the most. I really tried to help. I think he’s got a lot of qualities that are tremendous, and he’s just got one thing that he’s got to get corrected. Once he gets corrected, I think it’s a forgiving world, and I think he’ll get his chance and he’ll do well. I hate that it’s come to this, but I do think he’ll get another chance. We’re going to miss him. He’ll always be a part of my family, but not a part of the coaching family anymore.”