David Elfin On Sports: Turgeon Wants People Fearing The Turtle
New Maryland men’s basketball coach Mark Turgeon called it “a crazy last 48 hours” in being hired by the Terps, bidding farewell to his former Texas A&M players and being welcomed to College Park today.
But in truth, it has been a crazy 18 days for local college basketball. Three weeks ago, Gary Williams was heading into his 23rd season at Maryland, Jim Larranaga was preparing for his 14th season at George Mason, Karl Hobbs was getting ready for his 11th at George Washington and Billy Lange for his eighth at Navy.
On April 23, Larranaga, who stunningly coached Mason to the Final Four in 2006, left for the University of Miami, and was soon replaced by Paul Hewitt, who led Georgia Tech to the Final Four two years earlier.
Two days after Larranaga left, incoming GW athletic director Patrick Nero fired Hobbs and brought in Vermont’s Mike Lonergan, a Bowie native who won the Division III national title at Catholic in 2001.
And before Lange resigned on Monday to return to his former job as a Villanova assistant, came the biggest shock when Williams, who guided the Terps to the 2001 Final Four and the 2002 national championship, retired last Friday.
After flirtations with Notre Dame’s Mike Brey and Arizona’s Sean Miller, Maryland hired Turgeon, who won at Jacksonville State, Wichita State and in College Station after getting his start as an assistant for Kansas’ 1988 national champions.
Today at Comcast Center, the 46-year-old Turgeon, who led A&M to the past four NCAA tournaments, hit all the right notes as he became just the fourth Terps’ coach in 42 years.
“If I was apprehensive (about replacing Williams) I wouldn’t be standing here,” said Turgeon, who talked extensively with his predecessor before accepting the job and publicly thanked him today. “The reason I’m here is (the) great tradition. Maryland is a special place. … I’m going to recruit like crazy. You win with character and if you have that mixed with talent, you’re going to go a long way. I want people fearing the turtle. If you have tickets, keep ’em. If you don’t have ’em, buy ’em, because we’re going to do some great things.”
While Maryland’s cupboard is relatively bare after Jordan Williams’ surprising departure for the NBA, the legacy of success established from 1993-2007 hasn’t disappeared. So don’t expect Turgeon to need the five years it took Gary Williams to start doing great things in College Park. And neither Terps fans nor AD Kevin Anderson will wait that long for results.
David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the former President of the Pro Football Writers of America. A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan during the 2010 Redskins season, he returned to the station as its blogger in March.