15 Years of Turgeon and Willard

Let's do one more Turge vs Willard comparison. You can put this in line with my prior "reasons not to be pessimistic about Willard" post: it's exactly the same theme.

Obviously we gotta get this stuff out of the way NOW, before any games start and before ther roster is even finalized. It'll all be worthless theorizing and statistical hand-waving once all the players are in and the games start. If we're going to entertain any illusions and fantasies, now is the only time.

A lot of people in the comments have said off-handedly that Willard's record is no better than Turge's. I wondered if that was true. Are we comparing apples to apples? Willard has been a HC for 15 seasons; Turgeon for 24. What if we compare Willard's 15 (total) seasons with Turgeron's first 15 seasons? Let's try.

Here's Turge:

Turgeon first 15 seasons

Age Year School Conf W-L Win% Notes Conf# ConfBids ConfNotes
33 98-99 Jacksvl State TAAC 8-18 0.308 10 1
34 99-00 Jacksvl State TAAC 17-11 0.607 3 1
35 00-01 Wichita State MVC 9-19 0.321 9 2
36 01-02 Wichita State MVC 15-15 0.500 5 2
37 02-03 Wichita State MVC 18-12 0.600 3 2
38 03-04 Wichita State MVC 21-11 0.656 2 2
39 04-05 Wichita State MVC 22-10 0.688 2 3
40 05-06 Wichita State MVC 26-9 0.743 Reg Season Champ; NCAAT 1 4
41 06-07 Wichita State MVC 17-14 0.548 6 2
42 07-08 Texas A&M Big 12 25-11 0.694 NCAAT 6 6 Kansas champ
43 08-09 Texas A&M Big 12 24-10 0.706 NCAAT 6 6
44 09-10 Texas A&M Big 12 24-10 0.706 NCAAT 9 7
45 10-11 Texas A&M Big 12 24-9 0.727 NCAAT 3 5
46 11-12 Maryland ACC 17-15 0.531 8 5
47 12-13 Maryland ACC 25-13 0.658 7 4
Total 292-187 0.610 NCAAT: 5 5.3 52

That column labeled "Conf#" just means what place his team finished in the conference that year. So in '99 his team finished 10th in the TAAC; the following year they finished 3rd; etc.

The next column, ConfBids, is how many NCAAT bids the conference got that year. The TAAC was a one-bid league the two seasons Turge was there. The Missouri Valley sent two teams to the NCAAT in 2001; it sent three teams in 2005, when Turgeon's team finished 2nd. The Tournament Selection committee chose Southern Illinois (reg season champ), Creighton (tourn champ) and Northern Iowa, leaving Wichita State at home.

The last column, ConfNotes, is to keep track of whether anyone from the conference went to the Final Four or won the national championship that year.

Here's Willard:

Willard career

Age Year School Conf W-L Win% Notes Conf# ConfBids ConfNotes
32 07-08 Iona MAAC 12-20 0.375 7 1
33 08-09 Iona MAAC 12-19 0.387 7 1
34 09-10 Iona MAAC 21-10 0.677 3 1
35 10-11 Seton Hall Big East 13-18 0.419 12 11 UConn champ
36 11-12 Seton Hall Big East 21-13 0.618 9 9 Lville FF
37 12-13 Seton Hall Big East 15-18 0.455 13 8 Lville champ, Cuse FF
38 13-14 Seton Hall Big East 17-17 0.500 8 4 Realignment
39 14-15 Seton Hall Big East 16-15 0.516 7 6
40 15-16 Seton Hall Big East 25-9 0.735 Conf Tourn Champ; NCAAT 3 5 Nova champ
41 16-17 Seton Hall Big East 21-12 0.636 NCAAT 3 7
42 17-18 Seton Hall Big East 22-12 0.647 NCAAT 3 6 Nova champ
43 18-19 Seton Hall Big East 20-14 0.588 NCAAT 3 4
44 19-20 Seton Hall Big East 20-9 0.690 Reg Season Champ; Covid 1 Bids: 4? 5?
45 20-21 Seton Hall Big East 14-13 0.519 4 4
46 21-22 Seton Hall Big East 21-11 0.656 NCAA Tournament 5 6 Nova FF
Total 270-210 0.563 NCAAT: 6* 5.9 73

*Note I gave Willard credit for an NCAAT appearance in 2020, when his team finished as Big East reg-season co-champs but the Tournament was cancelled. "6" appearances with an asterisk.

Personally I would also give Turgeon credit for a Tournament team in 2020. But 2020 is not among Turge's first 15 seasons, so it doesn't appear here.

So. What can we infer from these tables?

Well, the first thing I want to note is how fucking insane the "Old Big East" was when Willard started at Seton Hall. Those first three seasons, the Big East had the national champion twice (UConn and Louisville) and two other Final Four teams (Lville again, and Syracuse). The conference averaged over 9 NCAAT bids in those seasons.

The Big East "realigned" in 2013. Villanova started winning championships two seasons later. So Willard's first 8 seasons in the Big East, the conference produced 4 national champions plus two other Final Four appearances. That's some tough competition.

Turgeon also competed in big boy leagues. Kansas won the championship the year Turgeon joined the Big 12. But then the conference went thru a 3-yr Final Four "drought". The ACC didn't send any teams to the FF during Turge's first two seasons at Maryland.

It looks to me like Willard competed in more-difficult conference environments than Turgeon did, over these time periods. We might be able to quantify that. We can use the number of NCAAT bids that each conference earned as a proxy for how tough the conference was. I'll also add the number of Final Four appearances by the conference; and sum Turgeon's Big 12 and ACC years together, since the stats are similar and it helps make a larger sample.

Conf Years Finish Bids FF
TAAC 2 6.5 1.0 0
MVC 7 4.0 2.4 0
B12-ACC 6 6.5 5.5 1
MAAC 3 5.7 1.0 0
Old Big East 3 11.3 9.3 4
New Big East 9 4.1 5.3 3

When they competed in one-bid leagues, Willard's teams averaged a 5.7th-place finish; Turge's a 6.5th place. Eh, about the same.

Willard got absolutely stomped in the Old Big East. His teams on-average finished 11.3, when the league was sending 9.3 teams per year to the NCAAT. That's not great.
It's worth noting that when Willard took over, Seton Hall was in disarray from the Booby Gonzalez era. Talking about those years, Willad says he was an ignorant hotshot young coach, who thought he could go into the living rooms of 5-stars and sweet-talk them away from Pitino or Calhoun or Boeheim. It didn't work. He says it took him some years to – I dunno, figure things out? Make some adjustments? Find his niche? Whatever.

The middle of Turgeon's pre-Maryland career is the seven years he spent in a two-bid league. Willard doesn't have anything directly comparable to that. Turgeon's teams on-average finished 4th in those years.

Willard's New Big East years are directly comparable to Turgeon's years in the B12/ACC. Both sets of conference-years are in the 5¼ to 5½ -bid range. Willard's average finish was 4.1; Turgeon's was 6.5. To me Willard's stats are better, and that's without noting all the Final Four teams.

Over these two periods, each coach had two teams that finished in the AP top 25:
— Turgeon:Texas A&M '09 (23rd) and '10 (24th)
— Willard: Seton Hall '16 (20th) and '20 (15th)

Turgeon had two additional teams that were ranked at some point in the season; Willard had four additional teams. One example of how that happens comes from this past season. Seton Hall was ranked as high as #15 thru December, with a 9-1 start. Then PG Bryce Aiken was lost for the year with injury, and backup PG Jahari Long was too, and the Hall went 11-8 to close the season. They finished unranked. Stuff happens.

Overall, Turgeon's teams have competed in conferences that sent 52 teams to the NCAAT, with an average finish of 5.3th "place" with 5 Tournament appearances. Willard's teams have competed in conferences that sent 73 teams to the NCAAT, averaging a finish in 5.9th "place" with 6* Tournament appearances (note the asterisk). Willard's record looks better to me. About the same average finish (half a "place" behind) with one* more Tournament appearance (note the asterisk), in a tougher environment.


There's more we can do to quantify. College Basketball Reference has a column on their season charts for Simple Rating System. They definite it like this:

SRS - Simple Rating System
A rating that takes into account average point differential and strength of schedule. The rating is denominated in points above/below average, where zero is average. Non-Division I games are excluded from the ratings.

For each team's season there is a column for SRS, with a positive or negative. Take a historically great team in history, like Bobby Knight's 1976 Indiana squad that went 32-0: their SRS is 26.5. John Wooden's undefeated 1972 UCLA squad gets an SRS of 33.8.

A more "pedestrian" (non-historic) champion, this year's Kansas squad, has SRS = 22.8. Gary's Natty squad is 23.5. the algorithm thinks Gary's two previous teams were a smidge better: the other Final Four, and Steve Francis. That's defensible, for an algorithm.

In this measure, the "average" team scores at zero. A bad team is negative. This year's IUPUI squad, that went 3-26 and is last in KenPom, gets scored at -23.6. No B1G team was negative this year; the lowest was Nebraska at 3.0. Gary's 1979-80 squad at American that went 13-14 (5-6 in conf) is scored at -5.3.

Turgeon's worst team by SRS was his 1999 JacksonvilLe St team that went 8-18. It is scored at -17.4. Willard's worst by this metric was 2008 Iona, which went 12-20. That team is scored at -6.7.

The point of all this is not that SRS is the one all-knowing all-perfect tool for ranking teams; but that it's a quick-&-dirty, objective way to compare different batches of teams. We can sum up all the SRS scores for each coach's teams, and get a cumulative score of approximately how good they were overall. The good teams will increase the total; the great teams will greatly increase the total; the bad teams will reduce the total; and we can get a rough approximation of whose teams were better overall.

Sports Reference also has a number for each team-years's Strength Of Schedule, which works exactly the same way. Average is zero; a weak schedule is negative; a strong schedule is positive. So while we're at it I'll sum those up too, so we can compare the totals.


Coach Cumulative SRS StrengthOfSched
Turgeon 87.70 44.73
Willard 127.95 90.61

Theoretically this tells us that Willard's teams have been half again as much better-than-average as Turgeon's (first fifteen) teams were. And that Willard's opposing strength-of-schedule has been about twice as far above average as Turgeon's.

I wouldn't say this is definitive gospel truth. But it is consistent with what we saw from looking at the conferences and their NCAAT bids and Final Four appearances, so that's encouraging. Interesting, huh?


I'll tell you something else. Way back when Turge was hired, I was excited by his being a protege of Larry Brown, and talked myself into believing that he was an up-and-coming coach. Looking at the stats now, I don't see it. For one thing, look at his first team at Texas A&M. Wow, he walked into a brand-new situation and won 25 games in the Big12, taking A&M to the NCAAT. Woo hoo, helluva coach! Right?

Well, wait a minute. The A&M team that Turge took over had a vacancy because Billy Gillispie had been hired away by Kentucky. Gilispie had gone 27-7 (13-3 in conf) the year before Turge got there, finishing 2nd in the Big 12 and ranked #9 in the country, losing to #5 Memphis in the Sweet Sixteen. Turge walked into a great situation; that was a damn good team. He never got them back to the S16.

Willard hasn't had the chance to walk into a great situation so far in his career. Seton Hall was in shambles from Bobby Gonzalez when Willard got there. (And the Big East was the Death Star.) At Iona, the year before Willard got there they had gone 2-28 (1-17) under Jeff Ruland. Ugh.

How about Turgeon in the ACC? None of us would say that Turgeon walked into a "great" situation at Maryland. Certianly not compared to what he had at A&M anyway. But it also was nothing like the messes that Willard dove into at Iona or Seton Hall. Are we impressed with Turgeon not making the NCAAT any of the 3 years he was in the ACC? He had Terrell Stoglin and Sean Mosley and Nick Faust and Alex Len that first year. That should be the core of a half-decent team. 6-10 in conference?

How about conference tournaments? Turgeon went 7-6 in the Big 12 and ACC tournaments over this time period, with no trips to the finals. Willard went 12-10 in the Big East tournament, with two trips to the finals, including one championship. That's better. It's not ownership like Gonzaga has had in the WCC Tournament, but it's better.

The more I look into it, the more it seems to me that Willard's record is distinctly better than Turgeon's first-15-years record. Not in a blow-you-away obvious fashion, but in an under-the-hood nuts-&-bolts way. I think Willard has performed better against tougher competition.


There's a few weaknesses in this analysis.

For one thing, it gives no weight to NCAA tournament results. Turge went 5-5 in the NCAAT over his first 15 seasons. That's not awesome; but it's sure as shit better than Willard's 1-5. That is what it is. I think there's some nuance to the story, as discussed in the other post. But Willard is 1-5 until he proves otherwise.

For another thing, focusing on the NCAAT (and FF) teams in Willard's conference might overstate things to his benefit. The New Big East has sent teams to the Tournament; and Villanova has won the thing a couple times; but maybe the bottom of the conference is weak and has given Willard some easy wins, that Turge didn't have available in the Big 12 and the ACC.

For the last thing, I don't know for sure how Sports-Reference's SRS works. Maybe it gives Willard's teams too much credit for losing games against great teams like the UConn, Lville and Nova champions in his conference. If that's the case, then the thing I did above where I summed the SRS scores, is artificially inflated in Willard's favor.

So: don't bet the mortgage that I'm right about this. It's just the way it looks to me, today. I think there are very solid reasons to think Willard is a better, more accomplished coach on arrival at Maryland than Turgeon was.

We'll see.

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