Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mark Turgeon Leaves A&M For Maryland

You have to give Maryland Athletic Director Kevin Anderson credit. After Gary Williams retired he wasted no time going after big time, big money coaches, and he nabbed one: Texas A&M's Mark Turgeon. And while Mark Turgeon might not be at the level of Gary Williams, he is a really good coach and he's only 46 years old (so he can build for the long term - something that the 66 year old Gary Williams clearly wasn't prepared to do).

Turgeon first became a national name in the middle of the last decade at Wichita State, when he took them to the Sweet 16 of the 2006 NCAA Tournament, and actually had the team ranked as high as 8th in the AP poll early in the 2006-07 season after thrilling road victories at #6 LSU, #14 Syracuse and George Mason (remember, both LSU and George Mason were coming off Final Four appearances). That team eventually faded, but he jumped at the end of the season to take the Texas A&M job that had been vacated by Billy Gillispie. Turgeon took that team to four straight NCAA Tournaments, and has them primed for a good 2011-12 season (I picked them to finish third in the Big 12, and to earn a 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament).

ESPN's Eammon Brennon makes a point that's worth talking about, which is that Mark Turgeon likes playing at a snail's pace while Gary Williams liked to run, and this can be an issue. I talked about pace when disagreeing with Wake Forest's hiring of Jeff Bzdelik a year ago. But my point wasn't that fans don't like teams that play at a slow pace. Slow pace is simply something that grates on fans when their team is losing. Notre Dame's Mike Brey, Wisconsin's Bo Ryan, Pittsburgh's Jamie Dixon and Utah State's Stew Morrill all coach teams that play at a very slow pace every single year, and all four of those coaches are beloved by the fans of their program because every single year they win. If Mark Turgeon wins, Maryland fans won't care what pace he plays at. And I think he will win. Maryland is a rebuilding job (I picked them to finish 9th in the ACC), but I think Mark Turgeon can have the team back in the NCAA Tournament by the 2012-13 season.

What about Texas A&M? Well, the good news is that Turgeon waited until the day after the final NBA Early Entry deadline to announce the move, and both David Loubeau and Khris Middleton will be back for next season. I can't be the only one who is wondering if one or both of them would have gone into the Draft if they knew that Turgeon would leave. But with them back, as I said, I picked them last month to finish third in the Big 12. If A&M can get a high quality coach then, with all of the NBA defections Texas has had and the fact that Kansas won't be as good as they were this past season, it's not inconceivable that the Aggies could win the Big 12. But right now nobody has any idea who they're going to hire. The first popular name to come out was Marquette's Buzz Williams, but he'd be a very expensive hire because of the contract he already has, and I wouldn't be too high on that hire anyway. Buzz is a very good recruiter, but I haven't been impressed with his ability to develop players or coach in-game, so he wouldn't be the type of coach that would get the most out of the team already in place for the 2011-12 season.

I will revisit Texas A&M as soon as they hire their new coach.

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