Maryland lost a heartbreaker to Boston University. We know this. We were all nauseated by it and crushed by it. It is easy to come out of a game like that feeling depressed about the prospects of what was a once promising basketball season.
It's also easy to blame the coach, as Maryland fans are wont to do, as the team yet again gets down double digits early in the game. This might be fair. The Terps played sloppy ball, turning the ball over 17 times while shooting 60% from the FT line. Offensively, they looked like a mess much of the time and they let BU get almost anything they wanted defensively.
The tide of public opinion has turned dramatically for Mark Turgeon among Terrapin fans in the last few months. The man hailed by many as the next great Maryland basketball coach, in the line of Lefty and Gary, has become the focus of blame. A growing number of fans are even calling for his head if this season does not turn around immediately. While there is absolutely reason to be concerned about the way this season has started, let's take a step back and look at why this sentiment is premature.
1. The point guard situation
This team misses Seth Allen in the worst way. Dez Wells and Roddy Peters have been effective at times, but Wells is much more effective off the ball and Peters is just not ready to take full control of a team. Allen's not only the best at running the offense, but is probably the second best player on the roster at getting his own shot and driving to the basket. When Jake Layman and Evan Smotrycz are not hitting their outside shots, Maryland has no one that can create shots outside of Wells, and thus the offense stagnates.
Fans are blaming Turgeon for this stagnation, which is unfair. With the options he has to run the offense, it would be like blaming a football coach for a lack of offensive production when, say, four quarterbacks go down to injury and he has to start a freshman scout team linebacker under center, which is obviously a crazy thing to even say because that could never happen, no way.
2. Recruiting is a big deal
In the last decade of the Gary Williams era, Maryland fans bemoaned the lack of recruiting success. "If only he had the kind of talent those Elite schools have," they said, "we would be amazing! Just keep the best players in the DMV at home and create a powerhouse."
Williams was always perceived, rightfully so, as a brilliant tactical coach who didn't put in enough effort on the recruiting trail. Whether it was because of laziness or stubbornness (or a little bit of both) the Terrapins never seemed to have the talent of other high level programs. Of even greater concern was the amount of great local high school players going anywhere BUT Maryland to thrive and lead their team to greatness: Rudy Gay, Carmelo Anthony, Michael Beasley, Kevin Durant, Joe Alexander, CJ Fair, Victor Oladipo, etc, etc, freaking etc.
Along came Mark Turgeon, a coach touted as similar to Gary in his Xs and Os acumen but a decent if not below average recruiter. In his first three years he proceeds to: re-recruit local star Nick Faust, beat schools like Florida and Louisville for Jake Layman, pry Charles Mitchell out of Georgia, identify a no-name Seth Allen and sign a consensus top 10 ranked class for 2014 before many schools had gotten a single commitment, a class including two of the three best players in the DMV.
Note: While Maryland was in the process of losing to BU, two of those future Terps were battling up the road in Upper Marlboro. Bishop O'Connell High School beat Potomac High School behind Romelo Trimble's 25 points and five assists. Dion Wiley played through a foot sprain to score 11.
Recruiting matters. I will go as far as to say that I will take a great recruiter over a great Xs and Os coach at my college basketball team. Talent wins. Period. A coach can draw up all the complex in-bounds, flair-screens, elevator-doors, 4-out zone offense plays he wants, but if the players aren't on the floor to execute them and hit the shots it doesn't matter. Turgeon is getting these players.
3. There is a history of success
We have 12 years, dating back to him taking the Wichita job, of evidence that Turgeon is a very good coach.
Maybe Turgeon totally lost his coaching ability over his time at Maryland. Maybe he isn't a good fit for this school. Maybe we will lose 20 games and he is gone by April. This could all be true. Maybe, though, he lost a top 5 NBA draft pick (one of the best interior defenders in college ball) and his starting point guard 10 days before the season started and maybe it will take time for him to get this team back on track. What we do know is that he succeeded everywhere else he has coached.
Turgeon has a history of success that we should trust more than looking at a handful of poor performances in the first third of one season. It is frustrating to not make the NCAA tournament three years in a row for a school that within the last 15 years has won a national championship, but right now, we need to be patient.
This is a reactionary fan base to say the least, but whether you like it or not it takes time to build a program. Just because it is not on your schedule does not mean this isn't true. Believe it or not, it is okay to be angry and frustrated with a team and a coach without calling for wholesale change.
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- Maryland Minute 12.23 -- Melo Trimble scores 25 in DMV Tip-off win
- Maryland women's lacrosse has five preseason All-Americans
- Maryland football recruiting: reviewing the highlight film of commitment Nate Adams
- Maryland women's basketball: Forward A'lexus Harrison to redshirt