Mark Turgeon didn’t chart a timetable for winning an ACC championship or delivering a second NCAA title for Maryland during his introduction Wednesday as the school’s new men’s basketball coach.
But he promised to compete with integrity, emphasize academics and to “recruit like crazy,” his voice hoarse from near round-the-clock conversations he has had with returning and incoming Terrapins since being named Gary Williams’s successor late Monday night.
As for his style of play, the two-time Big 12 coach of the year distilled it to one word.
“My style of play is winning,” said Turgeon, 46, a former Kansas point guard who honed his coaching skills under Larry Brown and Roy Williams before head coaching stints at Jacksonville State, Wichita State and Texas A&M, the last of which he led to NCAA appearances in each of his four seasons.
Asked what he felt would constitute success for the Terrapins under his watch, Turgeon said: “I’ve played in Final Fours and coached in national championships [on Brown’s 1987-88 Kansas staff and Roy Williams’s 1990-91 staff]. That’s what I want to do as the head coach at Maryland. I’m not going to say that’s what’s going to make us successful or not. But that’s what we plan on doing.”
Turgeon, 46, left Texas A&M to become Maryland’s eighth men’s basketball coach, drawn by the program’s great tradition.
Given the wrenching process of uprooting family and leaving the players he had recruited to College Station, Tex., Turgeon added that he hoped it would be his last job.
In deciding to accept Maryland’s offer, which was extended by Athletic Director Kevin Anderson after an interview in a Pittsburgh hotel Sunday afternoon, Turgeon used Gary Williams as a sounding board. Turgeon said the outgoing coach was frank about the challenges ahead — chief among them: rebuilding a front court that will be without the team’s leading scorer and rebounder from last season, center Jordan Williams, who departed for the NBA after two seasons at Maryland — but gave him confidence that he could succeed in College Park.
But the most emphatic champion of Maryland’s coaching job, it turned out, was Roy Williams, now coaching at North Carolina.
“He said, ‘I’m on your side no matter what you do,’ ” Turgeon said, recounting a telephone conversation with his new ACC rival on Sunday. “But 25 times he said: ‘It’s one of the top 10 jobs in the country, Mark, and you deserve one of these jobs. You’d be foolish not to take it.’ ”
An undersize point guard 25 years ago, Turgeon (pronounced “TURGE-in”) is hardly an imposing figure, coming across Wednesday as genial and heartfelt. But he can’t stand losing, he said, and doesn’t bow to any basketball conference or coach, regardless of pedigree — whether it’s Eddie Sutton, Lefty Driesell (his league rival when he coached at Jacksonville State), Mike Krzyzewski or Roy Williams.
“The only place I fear Coach [Roy] Williams is on the golf course,” Turgeon said.
That competitive fire is among the qualities that impressed Anderson, who introduced Turgeon as “a man who is not intimidated by anybody in college basketball, who will be able to look down at that sideline to the opponents and say, ‘I’m going to kick their ass.’ ”
The process started with a phone call last Thursday, Turgeon explained, from someone asking if he’d be interested in the Maryland job if Gary Williams retired. Unlike several other overtures Turgeon had rebuffed in recent years, this sparked his interest, and he asked his wife, Ann, to consider about it.
The Turgeons then went on a camping trip to Pennsylvania, and he lost cellphone reception Friday at 1 p.m. That spared him much of the frenzied media reporting that followed — including two reports Saturday that said Arizona Coach Sean Miller would be named the Terrapins’ new coach.
Maryland players weren’t as lucky.
“It was a mess, basically,” junior center Berend Weijs said Wednesday, describing the stress of dealing with final exams, classmates’ endless questions about who was going to be the next coach and the false report about Miller, who instead extended his contract at Arizona.
Turgeon’s cellphone reception kicked in again at about 1 p.m. Sunday. Within 90 minutes, Anderson phoned.
Turgeon told him he was on a camping trip near Pittsburgh, with no suitable clothes for an interview and an unshaven face, to boot. Anderson said he was hopping in the car to meet him anyway and would dress in jeans and a sweatshirt to make him feel comfortable.
The interview took place in a Pittsburgh hotel room Turgeon rented for the occasion. It ended with a job offer.
Turgeon flew back to Texas that night. He also talked about the opportunity with both Gary and Roy Williams.
After informing his Texas A&M staff and players Monday night that he was leaving, Turgeon flew to Washington on Tuesday. He introduced himself to Maryland’s players in their Comcast Center locker room and joined them for dinner later. And in between a flurry of on-campus meetings, he worked the phones, introducing himself to key Terrapins supporters, alumni and players’ parents.
Point guard Pe’Shon Howard, a Los Angeles native who also was recruited by Turgeon’s Texas A&M staff, said his teammates reacted well to their first meeting with their new coach.
“No, no, no!” Howard said, asked if he had considered transferring amid the tumult since Gary Williams’s retirement. “We’re still kind of carrying his legacy. We’ll be the last team that he’s remembered for, so we want to go out on a good note. We don’t want to break the team up or anything like that. We all want to be here.”