New coach Turgeon calls Maryland 'a special place'
Before he accepted the offer to become Maryland basketball coach, Mark Turgeon needed to get the lowdown on the job from Gary Williams.
Williams held the post for 22 years before retiring, and Turgeon was poised to become his successor. Working at a school with a great basketball tradition was very appealing to Turgeon, who had spurned several other opportunities to move during his four years at Texas A&M.
After speaking at length with Williams on Sunday night, Turgeon knew it was time to leave College Station for College Park - even if it meant replacing an iconic coach.
''If I was apprehensive, I wouldn't be standing here,'' Turgeon said at his formal introduction Wednesday. ''I had a great conversation with Gary, and he made me feel comfortable. I know Gary's not going to try to sabotage Maryland basketball.''
The comment drew a roar of laughter in a room filled with Maryland alumni, former players and booster club members.
Last month, former Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow said Williams ''tried to sabotage'' her search for a new basketball coach at North Carolina State.
Current Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson was beaming about the results of his quick and efficient quest to replace Williams, who announced his retirement late last week.
''It's a great day to be a Terp,'' Anderson declared.
Turgeon, 46, compiled a 97-40 record at Texas A&M and took the team to the NCAA tournament in each of his four seasons at the school. He learned last Thursday that he might be a candidate for the Maryland job, but that didn't stop him from leaving on a camping trip Friday.
Turgeon couldn't get cell reception until Sunday, and that's when Anderson called to set up a meeting in a Pittsburgh hotel. With Anderson in jeans and a scruffy Turgeon wearing a Kansas City Chiefs shirt over his Texas A&M shirt, the two talked about the future of the basketball program.
''When he left the meeting, I knew it was my job to take or leave,'' Turgeon said.
It was too good to turn down. Less than 24 hours, Turgeon became part of a group that includes such names as Lefty Driesell, Len Elmore, Tom McMillen, John Lucas, Walt Williams, and, of course, Gary Williams.
''I've followed Maryland basketball. The reason I'm here is because of its great tradition and all the things this basketball program accomplished over the years,'' Turgeon said. ''It was going to take a great job for me to move. I've turned down a lot of jobs over the last four years. It was going to take a special one for me to move my family, and Maryland is a special place. That's why I'm here.''
Turgeon has been associated with successful programs since his playing days at Kansas. He won as an assistant at Kansas under Larry Brown and Roy Williams, then experienced success at Jacksonville State, Wichita State and Texas A&M.
He expects more of the same at Maryland.
''My style of play is winning,'' Turgeon said.
After turning down so many other jobs, why Maryland?
''This is a basketball school. That's first and foremost,'' his wife, Ann Turgeon said, said. ''We've been in great areas, we have a great group of kids we left behind at Texas A&M, and a phenomenal university. But he was really attracted to the idea of being at a basketball-minded school.''
''This is a school that loves basketball. They value their basketball,'' Mark Turgeon said. ''I was lucky enough to play at the University of Kansas, and they were the same way. I'm glad to be a part of something like that. We're going to do some great things here.''
Anderson had a few other coaches on his search list, but it was evident Wednesday that he had absolutely no doubt he ended up with the perfect replacement for Williams.
''He's a great man, a great leader, and he wants everything that we stand for,'' Anderson said of Turgeon. ''He wants our young people to be successful in the classroom, he wants them to be good leaders in the community, and they're going to be good basketball players. We're going to compete at the highest level for championships, there is no question about that.''
Turgeon made it clear that he would welcome, rather than shun, any comparison to his predecessor.
''Gary Williams was Maryland basketball for the last 22 years,'' Turgeon said. ''He did it with class, he did it with dignity, he did it the right way. I'd like to think I have a lot of the same qualities that Gary has. So it should be an easy transition for the fans and the players as we go forward.''