Mark Turgeon has been the head coach of the Maryland basketball team since 2011 when he left Texas A&M to take over for Terrapin legend Gary Williams.
Turgeon has had a lot of success at Maryland, but as the program improves, is simply making the NCAA Tournament enough?
The state of the program when Turgeon took over left a lot to be desired. The Terps failed to make the NCAA Tournament in 2010 after making 14 of the previous 16.
Williams left the program after 22 seasons leaving fans and players feeling hesitant of the future.
Turgeon came in and led the team to a 17-15 record (6-10 ACC) in his first season as head coach. The season went as expected considering Turgeon inherited the team and was not able to recruit aside from keeping four-star guard Nick Faust in the fold.
Turgeon put together a recruiting class that ranked 13th in the nation in his first season. Williams did not have a class ranked higher than No. 31 in the prior five seasons.
That 2012 class included the likes of Seth Allen Shaquille Cleare, Jake Layman, and Charles Mitchell. As much as the talent was there, the team was not cohesive and was unable to make it to the NCAA Tournament during that first campaign together.
The 2013 recruiting class was small, bringing in just Damonte Dodd and Roddy Peters. The additions made didn’t help the team much as they failed to make the NCAA tournament again.
After another lackluster season, Allen, Cleare, Mitchell, and Peters all transferred from the program.
The departure of these four players, who were a part of recruiting classes that were supposed to get the program back on track, had a lot of people looking at Turgeon for answers. Fans began to wonder how good of a recruiter Turgeon was if he was unable to retain his players.
In 2014, despite the loss of four key players, Turgeon brought in what would ultimately be the best recruiting class of his tenure at Maryland so far. The class included Ivan Bender, Michal Cekovsky, Jared Nickens, Melo Trimble, and Dion Wiley.
The 2014-15 season was a success as Maryland made it to the Round of 32 in the NCAA tournament. This was the Terps first appearance in the tournament since 2009.
The 2015 recruiting class the following year shows why Turgeon was brought in to be the coach at Maryland. Turgeon is known as a highly touted recruiter and was able to land Diamond Stone, the sixth-highest ranked recruit in the nation.
The most impressive part of the process was not just landing Stone, but stealing him away from Big Ten rival Wisconsin.
Almost everybody predicted Stone, a native of Wisconsin, would stay at home and play for his hometown school. Instead, he came to Maryland where he had an incredibly productive freshman year.
He went on to get drafted in the second round of the 2016 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Clippers.
Maryland made it back to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2002 with the duo of Stone and Trimble leading the way.
In 2016, Turgeon was able to secure three highly touted recruits in Anthony Cowan, Justin Jackson, and Kevin Huerter. Each had productive freshman seasons and look to lead the Terps going forward as Trimble moves on to the NBA.
Finally, the 2017 class of Darryl Morsell and Bruno Fernando look to add to an already young team. Both of these players will be able to come in and should contribute immediately.
Looking back at the past five to six recruiting classes, it is easy to look at rankings and infer that Turgeon did a great job bringing in top talent. The issue comes when you look at how the players performed while at Maryland.
Turgeon had four key players transfer from the program after only one to two seasons. He brought in the 13th best recruiting class in the country to replace them, but only a few of these players have lived up to their potential.
Although Trimble was incredible, the likes of Bender, Nickens, and Wiley have all greatly under performed. Wiley, a four-star recruit, has never found his rhythm at Maryland while Nickens has become solely a three point ‘specialist’.
The return on investment on some of these recruits is lacking. Stone, Trimble, and Layman have been the lone stars while guys like Dodd, Cekovsky, and Nickens have been good, but were not able to play to their potential up to this point.
In addition, Turgeon has also been criticized for his in-game coaching. There have been many instances in his tenure as coach where he leaves fans scratching their heads.
Whether it be an out of bounds play call or how he uses his timeouts, there have been several questionable decisions made.
One example from the 2016-2107 season is from Maryland’s game at Wisconsin. This was a huge game as both the Terps and the Badgers were atop the Big Ten standings.
Trimble was carrying the team, but the Terps still found themselves down eight points with 4:32 left.
While most would say that the game was far from over, Turgeon felt differently. He benched Trimble for the remainder of a game that the Terps ultimately lost 71-60.
The Baltimore Sun quoted Turgeon as saying “He was tired, he was carrying us, he missed two free throws he never misses. If we had made a little run, I would have put him back in. We got four games in 10 days [coming up]. Wisconsin was dominating the game.”
Even if Trimble was tired, do you bench your best player and just move on the next game? It is decisions like this, decisions to give up on games that were in reach, that make Maryland fans weary.
Turgeon does have a way of firing up his players though. He has a knack of getting the players back into a game that they felt was over.
There is never a game where Turgeon is not halfway onto the court getting a word in to the referee.
Turgeon signed a four-year extension before the 2016 season, theoretically keeping him with the Terps until 2023. Despite five straight top 50 recruiting classes and a contract extension, there are still questions when it comes to Turgeon’s future.
Turgeon, for the first time since 2012, is without a leader.
He is starting this season with a team with very little experience and very high expectations. Turgeon has great recruiting prowess, but can he turn that into success coaching on the court, a spot where he has been mediocre? Can he get guys to play to the potential that he saw in them as recruits?
After so much success in the past few seasons, one down year can cause a lot of distress both in the fan base and in the front office. Not only does a lack of success on the court hurt the current team, but it also hurts future teams.
Future recruits may begin to stray away if they see the team beginning to decline in performance.
Although Turgeon has done an incredible job bringing in local DMV guys and convincing them to stay home, is it enough if the Terps continue to fall early in the NCAA tournament?
Will players continue to want to come play for Turgeon if Maryland has a down year?
There is no doubt that Turgeon has the passion and desire to take this team to great heights. If the ceiling is the first round of the NCAA Tournament, is that high enough?
Nothing about the future is certain, but Turgeon will be here this season trying to get this team back into the NCAA Tournament for a fourth straight season.
Will Turgeon make it through his contract and be with the Terps until 2023? Who knows.
For the sake of the Turgeonites, hopefully he stays and gives them something to cheer for.