Mark Turgeon missed the NCAA tournament in each of his first three years at Maryland, then saw five players transfer, which created the perception that the fourth year could be a tie-breaker deal. Show real improvement, get into the NCAA tournament and he would get a fifth season. Otherwise, he might not.
Turgeon responded by going 28-7 in 2014-15.
Then he fired two of his top three scorers, scored two McDonald’s All-Americans and Maryland placed third in the Associated Press Top 25 preseason poll heading into the 2015-16 season. And it was against this backdrop that I visited the Maryland campus just before the start of this season to spend time with the Terrapins. I spoke with Turgeon about a lot of things – but mostly about what it was like to go into the previous season on the so-called Hot Seat, and how awesome it was to turn things around. The result was a positive story that detailed how a coach survived and thrived. But at one point I noticed how quickly things can change for a coach who has persevered and has written the following words:
Turgeon only needed to win enough last season to show real progress and calm his fans, and a move to the round of 16 was enough. But a second place in the Big Ten and a loss in the round of 16 this season will be technically disappointing, compared to expectations, as there is a lot more potential. So, as always, there is a new bar to meet.
Fast forward five months, and Turgeon’s 2015-16 squad indeed disappointed with pre-season expectations (even though they did make the Sweet 16), and, from that point on, he never returned to the good graces of the Maryland fan base (even though he took the Terrapins to five of the last six NCAA tournaments). His teams were almost always good, but never really great. Maryland fans have always wanted more and / or a different coach. And now, just eight games away from Turgeon’s 11th season,.
“After several in-depth conversations with [Maryland AD] Damon [Evans]I have decided that the best thing for Maryland Basketball, myself and my family is to quit, effective immediately, as the head coach of Maryland Basketball, ”said Turgeon. “I have always preached that Maryland Basketball is greater than any individual. . My departure will allow a new voice to guide the team forward. “
What I remember most from my time in Maryland just before the start of the 2015-16 season is a conversation I had with Mark Turgeon about entering the previous season with his work very much on the line and the impact it had on her family, most notably her eldest son, William, then a teenager. As the story goes, the father and son were together in a car. It was then that William asked the question.
“He said, ‘Dad, do you think you’re going to get fired?'” Turgeon recalls.
From my recollection, Turgeon explained to me that his oldest son was just worried about having to move again because that sort of thing is not always easy for young people. They had moved from Texas to Maryland three years earlier, leaving friends behind. Now, William feared, he would have to move again.
Turgeon told his son that everything would be fine.
And it was – for the most part. But the truth is, Turgeon lost part of the fan base when this 2015-16 season didn’t go as planned. And when he never returned to Sweet 16 any season after that, it was only one frustrating year after another – the one exception being the 2019-20 season in which Maryland finished tied for the ranked first in the Big Ten but never got a chance to make a run through the medium due to the 2020 NCAA tournament being canceled due to a global pandemic caused by COVID-19.
As for this season, it started with promises thanks to a few transfers added by Turgeon. Maryland was classified in the preseason. But the Terrapins have lost three of their first eight games, including one at home to George Mason. The boos inside the Xfinity Center were starting to outweigh the cheers. By all accounts, it cost Turgeon dearly. So on Wednesday night, after a home loss to Virginia Tech, Turgeon and Evans began discussing a possible divorce, according to The Washington Post. Two days later, it was done.
The most incredible part of this story is that Turgeon actually lasted eight full seasons after he first appeared on Everyone. Bolster lists, eight full seasons after his eldest son asked him if he thought he was about to be fired. This is usually not how these things work. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from covering the sport for two decades, it’s that once a fan base stops believing in a coach, it is very difficult for the coach to win back that fan base. Not impossible, but certainly very difficult.
Turgeon never did.
That’s part of what led to it.
Earlier this week, after Maryland fell to 5-3, a jerk with a twitter account decided to tag William Turgeon, now an adult, in a tweet approving his father’s dismissal. (No matter what you think of a coach’s job performance, we should be able to agree that scoring the coach’s kids is pretty classless.) Naturally, William saw it. Less than an hour after his father resigned on Friday, William responded.