Back in December, new Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson was tasked with replacing a head coach who was not only an alum of the school but could be seen as an institution when it came to football coach Ralph Friedgen.
Anderson-who was hired back on September 4th, 2010- had to show off his skills as an adequate leader and decision-maker of the athletic department when it came to finding a new football coach for the Maryland program, and he indeed found at least a worthy candidate in former Big East coach of the Year in Randy Edsall.
But Anderson’s skills were to put even more to the test last week when longtime coach Gary Williams-a 22-year stalwart and the school’s winningest basketball coach; the man who led the Terps to the lone national championship in school history in 2002-abruptly announced his retirement leaving Anderson again with the task of finding another coach for a major program at Maryland.
And after the ceremony last Friday to thank Williams for his time in College Park, it was Anderson’s job to tour the country in search of the next man who would follow in Gary’s steps on the sidelines of the Comcast Center.
Anderson-left in quite a predicament by Williams’ abrupt retirement-then went quickly to work in going through candidates to find the school’s next head coach.
And after several high-profile coaches turned down the offer to leave behind what they had at their respective schools, Anderson eventually found a candidate this week in Mark Turgeon, the basketball coach at Texas A&M who spent the last four years at College Station roving the sidelines in the Big 12.
Turgeon will be introduced Wednesday afternoon, but before then, Anderson joined “The Mobtown Sports Beat” with Thyrl Nelson Tuesday to introduce his next coaching hire to Terrapin Nation.
“I want to thank my team at Maryland and the athletic department,” Anderson said. “They helped me out tremendously so we were able to go after this in a hurry and after a couple days we were able to hire Gary’s successor.”
The first question Nelson asked Anderson? Who’s the next Maryland team that needs Anderson to find them a coach?
“Hopefully there isn’t an encore,” Anderson laughed. “I believe that if everyone embraces Randy and Mark the way they’ve embraced me, we’ll all be fine here for quite a long time and be successful.”
Just from his interactions with Turgeon, Anderson knows already that he is the right man for the job.
“He’s a proven winner,” Anderson said. “Everywhere he’s gone, he’s had a program…that he’s basically taken from scratch or he’s made it better.”
Turgeon is 250-159 in his coaching career between Jacksonville State, Wichita State and the last four years at Texas A&M.
He directed the Aggies to four straight NCAA Tournament appearances, and for his efforts was named Big 12 Coach of the Year the last two seasons.
He also holds the distinction of being the only coach in the history of the Big 12 with at least 24 wins in each of his first four seasons.
Anderson said that in occurrence-and this could be the first in Turgeon’s 13-year coaching record-he has something to build off of at Maryland when it came to Gary Williams’ foundation as opposed to starting from scratch or having to clean up after someone.
“In this case,” Anderson said, “he’s going to come in here and he’s going to work on what Gary’s done and the legacy Gary has, so he’ll continue to build on that greatness.”
And in a way, Anderson said that already Turgeon has shown him the tenacity that he’s willing to fight for recruits in the Maryland-VA-DC area-something that was the biggest criticism of Turgeon’s predecessor at Maryland in Williams.
“The other thing is that he’s a competitor,” Anderson said. “He will back down from nobody.”
Anderson said that attribute may have been the biggest thing Turgeon brought to the table on his resume.
“I believe that was one of the most important attributes we could find in the next Maryland basketball coach because we play in a conference against some great coaches. I wanted somebody to come in here who was not only a good coach, but wasn’t going to be afraid to go after the top prize and not back down from anybody.”
“And that’s Mark Turgeon.”
And that’s where Anderson wanted to drive the point home. While Gary Williams had a hand in choosing his successor, and Anderson certainly was looking for candidates ready to carry on the legacy of Williams-he wanted to make it clear.
They were looking for the best coach to lead the University of Maryland basketball team forward.
“You don’t find the next Gary Williams because Gary Williams is an entity unto himself,” Anderson said. “He’s a very unique basketball coach.”
“But it was all about hiring the best basketball coach for the University of Maryland-one who’s going to take care of the student-athletes, who’s going to be demanding in the classroom and on the court.”
Anderson compared it to hiring Edsall replacing Ralph Friedgen.
“I would say that therea lot of the same characteristics that Randy Edsall and Mar share…Mark sees things the same way as Randy does and I do too,” Anderson noted.
Anderson hopes bringing in a quality guy to the coaching chair on the sidelines at Comcast will bring in the quality prep talent to the program as well.
“That’s what we kept talking about,” Anderson said. “If you hire quality people, you recruit quality kids. Nine times out of ten you’re going to be successful. That’s part of why he’s here now.”
The irony of it all?
All of this almost didn’t occur with Turgeon in the mountains of Pennsylvania over the weekend in a bad cell area. The initial phone to call to Turgeon from Anderson?
It didn’t connect.
“I reached out to Mark and didn’t get a return call,” Anderson said. “I didn’t think he would be interested. Well, what happened was he was camping with his family up in the Pennsylvania mountains but there was no cell service.”
“As soon as they came down the mountain, he hit voicemail and responded immediately. We connected Sunday night and here we are today.”
WNST thanks Kevin Anderson for joining “The Mobtown Sports Beat” to welcome in the new Maryland basketball coach, Mark Turgeon! Glenn Clark has you covered tomorrow as he is introduced! Be sure to follow us on Twitter @WNST!