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UMD looks for better men's basketball fit

Christopher Blunck
Dino Gregory (33) shoots over Jan van der Jooij (33) during Maryland's 106-55 win over Longwood at the Comcast Center on the campus of the University of Maryland at College Park on January 19, 2010. Christopher Blunck/Inside Maryland Sports

Eighteen months ago, the pandemic forced many of us to work from home. The bonus for many was that we were able to perform our labors in casual apparel.

Flash forward to today when many of us are returning to the office and discovering that the clothes that fit us perfectly before don’t quite make the cut now.

That’s the thought that occurred the other day when news broke that Maryland men’s basketball coach Mark Turgeon was stepping down from his post.

Once upon a time, Turgeon, who spent 10 years in College Park, seemed a perfectly appropriate choice to run the highest profile collegiate sports program in the state.

A player on the 1988 Kansas team that won the national championship, Turgeon had been successful in his three previous stops before Maryland.

His arrival seemed the perfect marriage of a youngish coach on the rise at a program in need of a fresh start, as his predecessor, Gary Williams, seemed to have run out of the fire needed to keep a college program on top.

As you know, Williams won the school’s only men’s national championship in 2002. Turgeon, who had gone to four straight NCAA tournaments at Texas A&M where he was just before Maryland, seemed eminently qualified to lead the Terps back to competing regularly for national titles.

And Turgeon excelled in the area that Williams came to abhor: recruiting, the lifeblood of college athletics. Turgeon’s recruiting classes were annually among the best in the game.

But where Williams was a master of exhorting his players to achieve at levels beyond expectations, Turgeon seemed unable to get the most of his talent.

Indeed, though Maryland reached the NCAA tournament in five of his last seven seasons, the Terps never were able to win more than three games in any postseason.

In fairness, Turgeon’s best team, the 2019-20 squad, finished 24-7 and shared first place in the Big Ten regular season race.

The Terps would almost certainly have been a favorite to make a deep run in that spring’s NCAA tournament, but the postseason was cancelled because of COVID.

Last year’s team squeaked into the NCAA field and was torched in the second round by Alabama.

Even with that disappointment, Turgeon, to the surprise of many, was rewarded by athletic director Damon Evans in April with a three-year, $17 million contract extension into the 2025-26 season.

Maryland started this season ranked in the top 25, but a 5-3 start pockmarked by home losses to George Mason and Virginia Tech fired up unrest among the Terrapin faithful, a misnomer if ever there was one.

After the most recent loss, Turgeon and Evans reportedly met and agreed that they weren’t each other’s everything anymore. And so, Turgeon walks away with a $5 million settlement. Assistant coach Danny Manning, who led Turgeon’s Kansas team to that 1988 title, takes over as interim coach for this year, with a national search to follow. And Evans is tasked with the biggest challenge of his three-year career at Maryland: finding the perfect fit to run the most important sport in his program.

Evans has to get this right or someone else will get the next choice to add to the Maryland wardrobe.

And that’s how I see it for this week. You can reach us via email with your questions and comments at Sports at Large at gmail.com.

And that’s how I see it for this week.

Twitter: @SportsAtLarge

Email: [email protected]

Milton Kent hosted the weekly commentary Sports at Large from its creation in 2002 to its finale in July 2013. He has written about sports locally and nationally since 1988, covering the Baltimore Orioles, University of Maryland men's basketball, women's basketball and football, the Washington Wizards, the NBA, men's and women's college basketball and sports media for the Baltimore Sun and AOL Fanhouse. He has covered the World Series, the American and National League Championship Series, the NFL playoffs, the NBA Finals and 17 NCAA men's and women's Final Fours. He currently teaches journalism at Morgan State University.