Mark Turgeon once quipped during his introductory press conference at Maryland that his style of play is simply “winning.”
If only he brought that philosophy with him to his newest school.
After guiding Texas A&M to the Big Dance in all four of his seasons there, the second-year Terrapins head coach is on the brink of back-to-back tournament rejections to open his Maryland tenure. Not quite the auspicious start the well-traveled hoops honcho had in mind.
Maryland sealed, stamped and submitted its NIT application late Wednesday night, victims of a North Carolina pasting for the second time this season and casualties of a crowded bubble field replete with more accomplished applicants.
It’s better to be a couch than a basketball player in College Park these days. Unused furniture is less likely to get burned than Maryland’s tournament résumé on the Selection Committee’s counter.
The Terps don’t have much to write home about in chapter two of life without Gary. They own a two-point home win, 26 giveaways in all, over fleeting rival Duke – MD’s quasi championship game – and a second-rate home win over N.C. State on an Alex Len tip-in to beat the buzzer. That’s it for the flattering fraction of the equation, which isn’t nearly enough to overcome the sub-.500 conference record, dearth of quality wins (especially away from home), egregious non-conference schedule and losses to Georgia Tech and Boston College.
Under Turgeon, Maryland basketball has endured more blights (the Terrell Stoglin fiasco) than triumphs and dropped more traces of retrogression than progression. The soft-spoken coach did more with less in College Station than he’s done thus far in fertile College Park, where first-class talent is returning in the aftermath of the Williams regime.
Turgeon’s talent repository this year was better than NIT quality. At his disposal: a lottery pick, coveted transfer, veteran glue guy and a host of young talent underscored by a heralded freshman class. At least two dozen coaches in the field of 68 would swap rosters for that assortment of players.
A trove of desirable, promising assets receded into wasted, untapped potential in the span of four months. All this talent, yet the best Turgeon could muster was an overused bench, underused diamond zone press and a dysfunctional half-court offense equal parts selfish and error-prone.