I'm a little bit biased in favor of Mark Turgeon, Maryland's head men's basketball coach.
I don't really know him, because interactions in media settings a few times a week for a few months over a few years make for more acquaintanceship than relationship. (Sportswriters often pretend they're closer than they are with the people they cover, but this is a common arrangement.) Still, I think Turgeon is a good man, because close friends who have worked for him have told me that, and because he seems to me to treat regular people like they're stars and stars like they're regular people. He cares a lot about his job and his family, and he's authentic, and those are good things.
But that's not why Turgeon is Maryland's coach. Turgeon is Maryland's coach because college basketball is a cutthroat world that requires programs to have the best leadership possible, and Turgeon was established long ago one of the couple hundred best people in the world at what he does: coaching college basketball teams.
People aren't happy with Mark Turgeon. You can find just about any sentiment you want on the Internet, but a "fire turgeon" Twitter search will take you to a dark place right now. So will perusing our comment boards here. "Fire Turgeon" isn't a common view and unequivocally isn't coming true, but it's definitely out there right now, and that's odd.
Maryland's loss to Minnesota on Thursday was gruesome. The Terps clearly weren't prepared to play, or else they'd have had no trouble brushing off a putrid team that had been 0-13 in Big Ten play. Turgeon knows this is his sled to pull:
Turgeon: "I have to figure out a way to get us going again. We're not ourselves."— Roman Stubbs (@romanstubbs) February 19, 2016
It's on Turgeon that Maryland was a strategic mess against the Golden Gophers.
It's on Turgeon that Maryland, despite having three NBA-caliber forwards and centers on its roster, is a rebounding mediocrity and doesn't box out.
It's on Turgeon that Maryland's offense is eighth in the Big Ten in adjusted offensive efficiency during conference play, despite having more talent than virtually everybody else.
It's on Turgeon, at least in some part, that Maryland sometimes commits turnovers at a breakneck pace despite having a couple of NBA-caliber ball-handlers, Melo Trimble and Rasheed Sulaimon, anchoring the backcourt. (It's not on Turgeon that Jared Nickens and Trimble have slumped hard, or that Dion Wiley tore his right meniscus. Stuff happens.)
These are Turgeon's shortcomings.
Here are other things that are on Mark Turgeon:
It's on Turgeon that Maryland has compiled the most talented starting lineup in the country – through player development, transfers and bare-knuckled recruiting savvy.
It's on Turgeon that Maryland's defense is the best in the Big Ten in adjusted efficiency.
It's on Turgeon that Maryland is currently recruiting at a level where the Terps can bring in a 2016 class currently made up of two four-star recruits and have people be disappointed about it.
It's on Turgeon that Maryland has added two players in recent seasons – Dez Wells and Sulaimon – who left their previous schools under terrible pretenses and went on to be, as far as we know, not just great players but great ambassadors for the program.
It's on Turgeon that Maryland, for all its flaws, still has a better chance than about 340 out of 351 teams to make a Final Four run this March.
Above all, it's on Turgeon that Maryland is good. Maybe Maryland isn't great – at least not right now – but greatness tends to be a label slapped on teams depending on what they do in March, not in February.
Maybe Maryland will fail, and that'll be on Turgeon.
Maybe it won't, and that'll be on Turgeon, too.