Can a guy with no local ties fill the shoes of one of the state's biggest sporting icons? Can he recruit? Can the coach whose biggest moment was at Wichita State translate his success to the ACC? Can he recruit? Can he wipe the whiteboard clean and devise game plans that best serve his new charges, instead of the other way around?
And then, of course, there is the recruiting question.
All indications are that Turgeon is already hard at work, applying the full-court charm offensive and even signing a new player. But given that three players have already asked out of their letters of intent, there is evidence he may not be winning every single heart right out of the gate.
His ultimate success, or lack thereof, is, of course, still anybody's guess.
And that's where I come in. Do you like it when people tell you their guesses about things? Well, that's great, because you're in luck. So here are the 10 boldest possible guesses I felt I could make without seeming stupid or crazy. Please enjoy.
It is THE question for Maryland basketball.
No native of D.C. or Baltimore needs to be reminded of the insane hoops talent that courses through the veins of these cities. Likewise, no one should require a refresher course on Gary Williams’ reluctance to hit the recruiting trail, which resulted in the Terps missing out on local stars like Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Michael Beasley and an Alamodome's worth of others.
Turgeon isn’t known as an ace recruiter, nor does he have any significant connections to the area. But he does seem pretty serious about surrounding himself with people who check off both those boxes.
Already, he is reportedly retaining Williams' assistant and recruiting wiz Bino Ranson and wooing Kansas State assistant Dalonte Hill, who has strong ties to segments of the D.C. talent pipeline that Williams wouldn’t personally touch with a 10-foot pole. (Though there is evidence Ranson and co. were starting to turn it around.)
At a minimum, it's a signal Turgeon is willing to reset Maryland’s relationships with the opinion leaders and agenda setters in the local hoops community. Assuming he keeps his nose clean, that can’t help but help.
And credit where it's due: the man works fast. He has already landed his first commitment, Northern Virginia’s Seth Allen. Allen may not be the next Durant, but it’s a start. And with more than one Williams recruit potentially departing, it looks like he’ll need to pound the pavement for talent, both for 2011-2012 and beyond. My prediction is he'll secure another one in relatively short order.
The 2011-2012 schedule isn’t out yet, but if NSDT isn’t on there (which is entirely possible, given that I made them up), feel free to fill in the low-major cupcake of your choice.
In case you forgot, the team lost its best player when center Jordan “Italian League” Williams entered the NBA draft. And when Gary left, forward/center Martin Bruenig took his LOI and hit the road, too. That leaves the Terps pretty depleted up front.
At this relatively late stage, it appears Maryland will go to war next season with 7'0", 200-pound Berend Weijs. Combined with presumed starting power forward James Padgett, Maryland's incumbent bigs averaged 6.95 minutes and 1.5 rebounds per game last season. I'm not Bob Wooden, but that's...well, it's not very good.
Weijs is not a bad player, mind you. Until, of course, the inevitable stiff breeze whips by and blows him over the scorer’s table. He’s apparently looking to bulk up, though, with a downright Phelpsian 5,000-calorie-a-day diet. Maybe he’ll surprise some people.
Either way, if you’re into placing prop bets on college basketball and you see a Maryland rebounding wager on the board (I’m typing in your direction, Mom), just take the under.
Especially when considering that...
The university recently released Williams’ (or, more accurately, Ranson’s) big 2011 recruit and hope for the program Nick Faust from his letter of intent.
Maybe I’m naïve, but Faust always felt to me like a Maryland guy, physically, mentally and psychologically. And I have a gut feeling that, after a little soul searching, he'll wind up back with the Terps.
To be certain, Turgeon has the charm meter cranked to 11 on this one, and the fact that he kept Ranson on staff (while reportedly getting rid of Rob Ehsan and Keith Booth) may partially be a nod to this deadly shooting guard from Baltimore.
No one is going to ever fully replace Gary Williams. I’m not suggesting that. No one is suggesting that. Are you suggesting that? I hope you're not suggesting that. And even if such a suggestion were possible to fulfull, I'm not even sure I'd want to.
But having said that, here’s guessing Turgeon has the talent and personality to lift Maryland's veil of tears sooner rather than later. So hang in there, Terps fans. I think we'll be in the acceptance stage before we know it.
During interviews (of which there have been plenty), Turgeon plays it a little close to the vest, but he is engaging and has an easy charisma. He has that roguish, loosen-the-tie sort of way about him that plays well in the DC-Baltimore region.
Some are upset the Terps didn’t land Sean Miller or Jamie Dixon. And I understand that; those guys would have been great. But Williams was not exactly a huge name when Maryland signed him out of Ohio State—another school where, like Texas A&M, hoops is a T-shirt-cannon-like diversion between football seasons.
Turgeon knows he has some hearts and minds to impress and hasn’t wasted any time attempting to do so. He’s winning the interviews. He’s pressing the flesh. He’s throwing around phrases like “fear the turtle” and “embrace the tradition” and all that stuff fans love to hear.
Turgeon has some big shoes to fill, but he’s saying all the right things and Maryland fans (and, hopefully, players) will warm to him more quickly than they think.
Turgeon is known as a great X's and O's guy. And apparently his specialty is on the defensive end, which I believe is the X's.
Anyone who follows ACC basketball will tell you Maryland has a reputation as a strong defensive club. Defense was the foundation and catalyst of every Gary Williams team. Despite a pretty "off" year in 2010-2011, the Terps managed to finish third in the conference in field goal percentage defense.
That shouldn’t take a major hit under Turgeon. His Aggies were second in the Big 12 last year in scoring defense, fifth in field goal percentage defense (third in defending the three—not a small deal down on Tobacco Road) and first in rebounding defense. They held opponents to 41.7 percent shooting, which is pretty doggone good considering they played Texas three times and Kansas and Kansas State once each, among other high scorers.
Turgeon also prefers the kind of gritty man-on-man style that Gary did. The only question is whether he'll be able to update his style to take advantage of the rangy and athletic players Maryland has on its roster (and has historically tended to recruit). My gut says he will.
The Terps are firing on all cylinders when they use their full-court pressure and their half-court athleticism to turn opponents over and create transition baskets. If they can open things up with accurate deep shooting, so much the better, but Williams’ signature flex cut usually created plenty of looks from closer ranges, regardless of what was happening beyond the arc.
Maryland, even in its 2010-2011 down year, finished second in the ACC in scoring with 76.8 points per contest. Turgeon's Aggies, by contrast, finished with 68 points a game on a pretty pedestrian 44 percent shooting.
A former guard himself (at Kansas under some guy named Larry Brown), Turgeon seems to favor an offensive attack that leans heavily on the backcourt. But at the same time, he does not exactly relish the running or the gunning. He's not so much a Ferrari as he is a crusty crossing guard with hip problems. In fact, according to this rather informative article, only 20 D-1 schools played at a slower pace last year than Texas A&M.
As with defense, time will tell whether he is willing or able to adjust his coaching style to the players on the floor. But something tells me the offensive end of the court will be where Maryland fans will most need to adjust their expectations, particularly at the outset.
With Kyrie Irving, Nolan Smith, Malcolm Delaney, Reggie Jackson, Chris Singleton and other elite talents leaving school, there may be a dearth of star power in the 2011-2012 ACC.
Though he likely won’t vault Harrison Barnes and maybe one or two others, the sharp-and-not-exactly-shy-shooting Stoglin could step in to the talent vacuum that will likely both in College Park and across the ACC.
Stoglin's oasis of talent on what is currently a fairly deserted roster, combined with Turgeon’s aforementioned propensity for running his offense through his guards, point to Terrell being The Man next year for Maryland. He can't do it all himself, to be certain. But he can, and likely will, try.
I’m all for the cockeyed optimism and everything. Bring it on! The power of positive thinking, and blah blah blah.
But as evidenced by the Terps failing to make the NIT last season, you can’t build a good team with hopes and wishes alone.
And at this point, projecting the Terps for anything besides the ACC toilet would be madness. Sheer, unadulterated madness, I tells ya.
Let's assume for giggles that Faust comes back and Turgeon can land a big recruit for next season (2012 is far more likely, but stick with me for a second). You will still be kissing point guard Sterling Gibbs, Jordan Williams and Breunig bye-bye. (Just last night, Gibbs announced he will go to Texas.)
Now, if Faust does leave, that gives the Terps eight scholarship players for next season.That includes the seldom-used Weijs and Padgett, as well as the never-really-used Pankey and Mychal Parker. And that's to say nothing of rising senior Sean Mosley, who last year led the ACC in falldowns. Now that's according to my own count.
Turgeon may put on his brave face and try to shore up the ship with some JuCo mojo. But let's face it. They're gonna suck next year. The sooner you make your peace with that, the sooner you can move on to...
I know it’s not a 2011-2012 prediction. But it’s bold, so it has that going for it.
Thankfully, 2012 5-star small forward Justin Anderson (who went to the same high school as Mr. Greivis Vasquez) appears to be fairly solid in his commitment to the program. If Anderson comes to College Park, adding him to Stoglin, Howard, hopefully Faust and maybe others suddenly gives Turgeon a pretty high-octane group.
If they can land a serious big or two and some extra depth between now and then, which seems likely, then you've got a pretty good roster on your hands.
Between now and September, we'll see what Turgeon can do on the recruiting trail. Between September and March, we'll see what he can do with the hand he's been dealt. That will say a lot about 2012-2013, and beyond.