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Throughout the 2012-2013 college basketball season, many Maryland Terrapins fans have begun to criticize head coach Mark Turgeon for what people are calling a “disappointing” season. But is that criticism valid, or just frustrated fans taking out their anger on the head coach? Are there reasons to doubt the eccentric coach, or does he just need more time? This controversial topic will be covered here, providing valid points from both sides.
When Gary Williams made his decision to retire as head basketball coach at the University of Maryland, he had reached elite status as a head coach. He was among the leaders in all-time wins as a head coach in college basketball, and was treated like a god in College Park. But towards the end of his career at Maryland, criticism of his coaching had reached an all-time high. Fans were calling for him to be fired after a few years of subpar results. They said he was a great coach and a terrible recruiter. They wanted new blood.
To be fair, Gary Williams may not have been the best recruiter. But he recruited players to fit his system. He didn’t want any of his recruits to leave early for the NBA Draft. He wanted players who would stay in his system for 4-5 years. A Gary Williams recruit had to have a big heart, play for the team, and play good defense. Scoring ability came last in Gary’s mind. He wanted players who he could coach up to his system. But that frustrated many fans, and it may not have been the best recruiting philosophy to compete in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Enter Mark Turgeon; a young, energetic coach with a stellar track record both as a player and as a coach. Coming off of very good seasons at Texas A&M, Turgeon came to College Park as a coach whom fans were calling the “savior” to the Maryland basketball program. He was the guy who was going to bring the Terrapins back into the national spotlight. In his first season at the helm of the program, Turgeon made the best of a bad situation. He had very little depth on the team, and talent was lacking. The team leant heavily on the stellar scoring ability of shooting guard Terrell Stoglin, but not much else.
The team entered 2012 with extremely high expectations, only made higher after going 13-1 in their non-conference schedule. But as they trudged through their ACC schedule, the team hit a lot of roadblocks. They struggled against teams they should have beaten, and didn’t seem to have the confidence that they gained through their non-conference schedule. The turning point of the season came in College Park when the Terrapins beat #4 Duke, leading many fans to have a renewed sense of hope. But the team continued to struggle after the upset win, and finished the season having to reach the ACC Tournament Championship Game to have a chance to make the NCAA Tournament.
The Terps really came to play in the ACC Tournament, beating Wake Forest and Duke fairly handily. Those wins put them squarely on the bubble. But a heartbreaking loss to North Carolina in the semifinals was the breaking point for the Terps’ NCAA Tournament hopes. They became a #2 seed in the National Invitational Tournament, and have fairly good odds to win the tournament.
So how much blame for the 2012-2013 season’s disappointing result can be placed on Mark Turgeon? We know a few things about Coach Turgeon. He is a great recruiter, an average coach, and has a ton of energy. Recruiting is definitely Turgeon’s strongest asset, much as it was Gary Williams’ weakest. Turgeon’s first two recruiting classes are among the best in the country, and provide the Terps with huge amounts of talent going forward. Recruits seem to really like Turgeon, and if the Terps continue to steadily improve on the court (and players like Alex Len go in the 1st round of the NBA Draft as a sophomore) more and more recruits will want to join the party in College Park.
Coaching is not Mark Turgeon’s strongest talent. There are legitimate questions about his coaching ability, especially on the offensive end of the floor. The Terps were great defensive teams under Gary Williams, and that has continued under Mark Turgeon. In fact, rebounding has improved under Turgeon on both ends of the court. But offensively, the team seems to constantly struggle despite huge amounts of offensive talent on the roster. Timeouts also pose problems for the Terps, who can never seem to execute plays out of timeouts. How much of that is inexperience on the court and how much is on the coach is yet to be seen.
So can Mark Turgeon succeed as a coach at Maryland? I think the simple answer is yes, he can. Turgeon inherited a bit of a mess when he took the coaching job at Maryland. He came in with limited time to prepare for the 2011 season, and had only 6 players on the roster by his 2nd day on the job. The team has come a long way from that point. There is no doubt that there is a ton of room for growth on the current Terps team, with only 2 players graduating in 2012. The team will also gain 2 very good point guards in the 2013 and 2014 recruiting classes, which should help solidify a constantly-rotating point guard position.
Maryland fans have legitimate questions regarding Mark Turgeon’s coaching abilities, but his success elsewhere around college basketball shouldn’t be disregarded. Some simple changes on the offensive end of the court would be a good idea going into the 2013-2014 season, and hopefully either senior Pe’Shon Howard or incoming freshman Roddy Peters can lock down the point guard position and cut down the huge turnover numbers that plagued the Terps this season. Mark Turgeon is the man for this job, fans simply need to realize how much potential his team has for the future. He is an above-average college basketball coach, and can definitely develop a cult-like following similar to Gary Williams at College Park (the Turgeon-ites have already started it). He is a great man with a ton of energy for the Maryland basketball program, and deserves the support of the passionate Maryland fan-base.