Since he was named the men’s basketball coach at Maryland Monday night, Mark Turgeon has spent nearly every waking moment in between meetings and media obligations on the phone.
At least two of those calls were made to Curtis Malone of D.C. Assault and Keith Stevens of Team Takeover, two of the area’s most prominent summer-league coaches whose programs consistently produce talented prospects. That Turgeon reached out to both men in the frenzied hours after his hiring underscores the importance of relationships with summer-league coaches, particularly in one of the nation’s most fertile recruiting areas.
“This area is a hotbed,” Malone said. “Every team [in this area] should be great. There is really no excuse. You are really just sitting on your [rear] if you are not getting players from our area.”
Those who know Turgeon best paint him as a sterling game tactician. They say he is a skilled motivator who runs efficient practices and who excels in player development. Administrators and conference officials say he works well with his respective university and conference offices on a wide range of issues.
The biggest question is whether the Kansas native who has spent the majority of his 46 years in the Midwest can recruit this area and keep his fair share of the area’s top prospects close to home. Turgeon began addressing that challenge almost immediately after he informed his Texas A&M players on Monday night that he would be leaving them.
Stevens said Turgeon called that night to say he wanted to sit down for lunch or dinner at some point this week.
Malone said he and Turgeon also had a good five- to 10-minute conversation, during which Turgeon said he looked forward to building a relationship. Malone said he is open to sitting down with Turgeon for a lengthier discussion.
“I always give people the scenario,” Stevens said of the potential in the area, “if Georgetown got Ty Lawson and Maryland got Nolan Smith and then Georgetown got Mike Beasley and then Maryland got Kevin Durant, you know what I mean? If they are splitting that half and half, they are top 10 teams in the country. Your job at Maryland and Georgetown is to control your home base.”
Malone does not know Turgeon well, but he is familiar with his reputation as a strong coach. Stevens has built a relationship with Turgeon through the years even though none of the players in his program has played for Turgeon.
Both summer-league coaches are familiar with Scott Spinelli, the Texas A&M associate head coach who could land on Maryland’s staff if he is not Turegon’s replacement with the Aggies. Malone said Spinelli has recruited some of the players in Malone’s program in the past. Spinelli was also the associate head coach for two years at American University in the late 1990s.
“I have recruited this area before,” Turgeon said. “I actually have really good relationships with the people in the area. I felt comfortable. If I didn’t, I would not have taken the job.”
Turgeon’s reputation in recruiting circles is of someone who will not cut corners or operate in the so-called gray areas that involve exploiting loopholes in NCAA rules. Dave Telep, ESPN’s national recruiting analyst, said Turgeon achieved recruiting success at Texas A&M by developing relationships early and making strong evaluations. Turgeon is nothing if not aggressive, as evidenced by what he told the Kansas City Star five years ago.
“You just have to fight in recruiting,” Turgeon said. “You have to force yourself to hate the other school. It’s crazy. I always tell myself not to let recruiting get personal. But once a year, there’s a player that you want badly, and it does get personal with him and his family. I start to love that player. And if I lose that player, I never get over it.”
Turgeon has faced recruiting challenges before. He coached for seven seasons at Wichita State, which is not located in a hoops Mecca. He coached for four seasons at Texas A&M, located in the heart of a football-crazed state. And in College Station, he replaced Billy Gillispie, a coach who knew the state intimately from border to border.
Billy Liucci, who has been close to the Texas A&M program for more than 15 years and who operates the Maroon & White Report, said Turgeon’s move from Wichita State to Texas A&M represented a “tough transition” on the recruiting front.
“This is a real territorial state, and high school coaches here believe in taking care of your own,” Liucci said. “But they did a great job on the East Coast.”
Turgeon landed Khris Middleton, who led the team in scoring this past season, from North Charleston, S.C. David Loubeau, the team’s second-leading scorer, is from Miami. Another Texas A&M player, Naji Hibbert, is a Baltimore native who graduated from DeMatha.
Texas A&M was also a finalist for coveted New Jersey point guard Kyrie Irving, who played one injury-plagued season at Duke before entering June’s NBA draft. Spinelli was a former teammate of Irving’s father, Drederick, at Boston University in the late 1980s.
Turgeon said he needs to assemble a coaching staff with ties to the Washington, D.C., area. There could be benefits to keeping Robert Ehsan or Orlando “Bino” Ranson, two assistants under retired Coach Gary Williams, on staff. Ehsan is considered one of the East Coast’s more promising young assistants. Ranson is also a good recruiter who once founded a Baltimore summer-league team. Malone said he has good relationships with both.
Time will tell whether Turgeon can secure commitments from some of this area’s top prospects. But summer-league coaches are optimistic about the potential.
“I would love to go and see a game at Maryland and not having to fly to another school to see kids play,” Malone said. He later added: “The potential for Maryland is through the roof.”
Staff writer Steve Yanda contributed to this report.