It's been quite a year for Mark Turgeon.
At this time in 2014, he was three years into his tenure as Maryland's head men's basketball coach and had yet to bring the Terrapins to an NCAA Tournament. Five rotation players transferred from the program, and some fans started to call for his job. One year, 28 wins and a handful of five-star additions later, Maryland is the preseason No. 3 team in the country and a legitimate national title contender. Turgeon has a Big Ten Coach of the Year honor under his belt and is a popular pick to win another next spring.
In a first for our website, Turgeon sat with Testudo Times for a one-on-one interview at the team's media day on Tuesday. Our conversation, as follows, has been lightly edited for clarity:
Testudo Times: The first time I ever asked you a question was Maryland Madness last year. I asked you what was different about last year's team from two years ago's team.
Mark Turgeon: What did I say?
TT: I think you didn't want to say much bad about the team from the year before, which is obviously understandable. But it's a lot different tenor of question now, just because of the year you had now and the expectations.
MT: Yeah, yeah.
TT: Does it feel any different at all to be the coach of the Maryland basketball team today than it did last year?
MT: Not really. It really doesn't. To me, coaching's coaching. You try to get the most out of your team. Each team's different. This team, I'm going to have to fight a little bit more because they're good, and what makes them good is they're extremely confident. I'll have to fight this team a little more than I had to fight last year's team, but talent-wise, it should be a fun team to coach.
TT: I know a lot's gone on since the end of last season. You've mentioned before that you didn't necessarily expect Diamond Stone to be at Maryland. I'm sure you didn't expect Rasheed [Sulaimon] to be at Maryland. We don't have to ask questions about minutes, but is it unusual for you as a coach to have not only so many new pieces, but so many pieces with this kind of ability that most coaches just don't have?
MT: Yeah, I don't see a lot of new pieces. I know it looks that way, but Robert [Carter] was with us last year. He practiced with us. We go head-up, top 10 guys, and he was in the scrimmages. Of course, he didn't play in the games, but Robert's a proven player. He's played at a high level. And then Sulaimon's played at a high level. I mean, he's new to us, but he's won a lot of games – at the high school level, the college level. He's got great experience. He's played in big games. He can help us right away. He makes us better because of that experience. The main guy is Stone. He's really the unknown for us, but he's talented. He's a really talented kid. I think, defensively, that's where he has to come in for us. He knows that, but he's a talented kid. Offensively, he's really, really skilled and has a great feel for the game.
TT: We mentioned Rasheed. Given the tough way that things ended for him at Duke, it must have been at least something that required a lot of thought for you, and a lot of care. What is your approach when you have a player who you want to add to your program and you believe he's a good person, but you've got those circumstances? How did you approach bringing on Rasheed?
MT: One, I based it on my relationship with him and his family. I knew he was a good kid. I knew he was raised the right way. I've watched him since seventh grade, his parents raise him and his sister, Raven. But I still had to do my due diligence. We did a lot of work on it. You know, Rasheed wanted to be a part of our team a long time ago, before it was announced, but we had to do our due diligence. But after I did that, I felt comfortable that he's a kid who can fit into our program, that he's a young man I can help and help him be successful.
TT: It seems – and not just with Rasheed coming in, and obviously Diamond – it seems like it must be a little easier to sell recruits on coming to Maryland now, given everything that's gone on. Is that true? Is it any easier to bring people in?
MT: It's really hard to recruit. Diamond was a four-year deal now. We recruited him from the day I took the job. [Assistant coach] Bino Ranson said, "There's a big kid in Milwaukee, you've got to go see him." I said, "Really? He's a freshman. I don't want to go see him," and I'm glad I did. So that was a four-year commitment. And Sulaimon was a relationship thing. He trusted me, his parents trusted me and Coach [Dustin] Clark, the assistant. It is hard to recruit. We put work in. We got lucky with Rasheed because of a relationship, but it's hard. So we'll keep battling. Hopefully, because we've had a good team last year and hopefully we'll have a good team this year, it's going to allow us to continue to get good players.