The grass is rarely actually greener on the other side. The Maryland Terrapins have apparently realized this, as the university and its basketball coach, Mark Turgeon, agreed to a four-year contract extension on Thursday.
When looking back at the inauspicious start to the Turgeon era, it is relatively wild we have reached a point where the man has done so well — on the hardwood as well as on the recruiting trail — that it appears as though the Terps have definitely found their long-term replacement for legendary coach Gary Williams.
Unlike many other power programs in the nation, however, Maryland didn’t have to go through a handful of guys to find the right one. Instead, it merely needed to remain patient through the first few bumpy seasons in a post-Williams world, and things have worked out swimmingly.
While revisionist history will attempt to tell a different story, we aren’t all that far removed from many considering Turgeon as a hot-seat-occupying coach at a blue-blood program.
After starting his career with Maryland by failing to make the NCAA Tournament in his first three seasons with the university, Turgeon has been nothing short of delightful over the last two. Since the 2014-’15 season, Maryland is averaging 27.5 wins per season, has made the Big Dance both times (and danced relatively deep in it), all while Turgeon has been doing a splendid job of replacing NBA-level talent with more NBA-level talent on the recruiting trail.
Entering the 2016-’17 season, Maryland is expected to do well in the Big Ten Conference again. Despite losing some key players to the next level, Melo Trimble and a cast of more-than-solid guys are returning to the fold, not to mention the 12th-ranked recruiting class.
That’s part of the reason Maryland was wise to give Turgeon the extension — not only for the immediate future, but because — especially while the Big Ten continues to get deeper and tougher season-over-season — he regularly lures the nation’s best high school prospects to play for him.
Let the current have-nots in the Big Ten continue to make a run at relevance, while the university consistently attains it with other traditional conference powers. There’s no need to try to fix something that isn’t broken.
The aforementioned (No. 12) 2016 recruiting class is (so far) being reinforced. Turgeon has landed yet another four-star player for 2017 (with plenty of time left to snag more), and there’s no reason to think he won’t continue to bring in a mix of one-and-done types and low-level four-star guys who will stay three to four years, either.
That’s part of Turgeon’s own brilliance. He’s not strict in the nature of talent he brings. Whether on purpose or not, has collects a solid mixture of guys who are good enough to win but not great enough to leave early for the NBA, and others who fit that exact mold. It’s as though Maryland has quietly taken the best aspects of both Kentucky and Butler, and is using it to its advantage in an attempt to stay nationally relevant each season.
It has put the Terrapins in a place, at least over the last two seasons and presumably the one coming up, where losing players is obviously hurtful but not game-changing. The “next man up” for the Terps is usually another highly-sought high school prospect or an experienced and solid player already on the roster.
Only hindsight will tell us how brilliant this extension was in reality, but given what we currently know within an up-and-down sample size that seems to be trending in a positive direction, Maryland did the only thing it could, which is lock in a man who can keep the nation on alert.
#FearTheTurtles is a funny hashtag and movement, but it’s not going anywhere. Not as long as this relationship between Turgeon and Maryland stays on solid ground. If nothing else, that’s what this extension has done. Was it the easy move to do? Of course… but that doesn’t make it any less brilliant.