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Should Maryland Part Ways With Turgeon?

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Should Maryland Part Ways With Turgeon?

Jack Corcoran, Staff

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Upon Gary Williams’ retirement in 2011, then-Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson decided to hire the then-Texas A&M men’s basketball coach Mark Turgeon. Turgeon had guided A&M to four NCAA tournaments in four seasons and was seen as a highly successful recruiter that could help rebuild a Maryland program that had slipped in the final years of Williams’ highly successful tenure.

For the first three years, Maryland was largely in the lower half of the ACC, only making one NIT appearance. With these mediocre results, combined with the fact that he had a No. 5 pick in the NBA draft in Alex Len, led to Turgeon being placed on the hot seat. However, due to a strong recruiting class that included local prospect Melo Trimble, he was allowed to stay.

Due to the contributions of Trimble and senior Dez Wells, Maryland went 26-7 in its inaugural season in the Big Ten, including a 14-4 conference record, and Turgeon led the Terps to the first NCAA tournament appearance in his tenure, ending in the round of 32.

With Wells and several other players graduating or entering the NBA Draft, Turgeon pulled several coups: He pulled five-star recruit Diamond Stone away from his hometown program of Wisconsin, and also recruited two high-profile graduate transfers in Duke’s Rasheed Sulaimon and Georgia Tech’s Robert Carter Jr. These high profile additions led Maryland to a No. 3 ranking, its highest preseason ranking since the height of the Gary Williams era.

The Terps climbed as high as No. 2 in the AP poll before falling in four of their last six games, including a road loss to 8-23 Minnesota, as well as losing in the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament. In the NCAA tournament, they were seeded fifth and beat 12 and 13 seeded South Dakota State and Hawaii respectively before falling to number one seeded Kansas in the Sweet Sixteen.

While the season was not able to satisfy Maryland fans’ expectations for a potential Final Four berth, it was still Turgeon’s most successful season of his tenure, and as a result, he received a four-year contract extension until the 2022-23 season. This new contract extension also did not include a buyout clause, meaning if he is fired without cause he will be owed his full salary.

The next season, minus Stone, Carter, and Sulaimon, but adding three talented freshman in Anthony Cowan, Kevin Huerter and Justin Jackson, Maryland got off to a strong 20-2 start, highlighted by an exciting comeback win over Georgetown. However, even with Trimble back in the lineup, the Terps faltered down the stretch, losing seven of their last 11 games, including both first round losses in the Big 10 and NCAA tournaments.

Now to last season. Trimble had graduated, so Jackson, Cowan and Huerter were all expected to step up into starring roles. However, the team was dealt with an injury to Jackson early on, which derailed the season. The team’s inability to win close games led to Turgeon’s most disappointing year. The Terps finished 19-13, and just 8-10 in Big Ten play, despite the addition of highly regarded freshmen like Bruno Fernando and Darryl Morsell.

After last year’s disappointing turn of events, many fans started to call for Turgeon’s head. But the combination of a strong recruiting class and his large buyout led to Turgeon coming back for another season.

Say that Maryland underperforms again with this roster, led by Anthony Cowan, Bruno Fernando, and five star recruit Jalen Smith, by missing the NCAA tournament. That would mean only three NCAA tournament appearances in eight seasons, with no Elite Eight appearances.

For the fans of a program like Maryland that tends to think of Maryland as a successful and upstanding program, the lack of consistency on the basketball court, the declining attendance and the looming FBI investigation would all be negative marks against Turgeon. However, with another talented recruiting class lined up in 2019 and his multi-million dollar buyout, will new Maryland AD Damon Evans really want to fire a coach for a program that has only had two in 30 years? Only time will tell.

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Should Maryland Part Ways With Turgeon?