Your Monday Reality Check: Happy for Turgeon but hardly sympathetic

February 18, 2013 | Glenn Clark

In the immediacy of the comments, fans on Twitter raced to take outrage at the idea that Maryland fans would single out a coaches’ son to voice their frustration. In listening live and watching the comments again, I got much more of a feeling that Turgeon’s family overheard comments directed at the coach in the team’s frustrating 80-69 home loss to Virginia the previous Sunday.

The difference is negligible in the scope of my overall point, but I feel it necessary to state that if Maryland fans did indeed single out one of Turgeon’s family members to express their displeasure, it is simply unacceptable. I do not want that to be lost in what I’ll say next.

It is important however to state that Mark Turgeon’s biggest concern from the University of Maryland fanbase should not be frustration but instead apathy. It is imperative he remember that as he continues his tenure in College Park.

College Park is a VASTLY different place than the areas Turgeon is most familiar with in his career. Originally from Topeka, Turgeon has played and coached in areas that are much more college sports-dominated (including Kansas, Wichita State and Texas A&M). In such areas, the attention of sports fans and media alike is fixed solely on college sports programs, in a way insulating coaches and players.

The same cannot be said about College Park. Situated between one of the largest markets in the country (Washington) and a pro-centric Top 25 market (Baltimore), Maryland has the potential to get lost between the Super Bowl winning Ravens and four more pro teams coming off playoff seasons (Orioles, Nationals, Redskins, Capitals) plus the NBA Wizards.

Turgeon’s concern cannot be about whether or not fans get frustrated with him or his program. His fear must be that at some point Maryland suffers a disappointing loss but there isn’t a rabid fanbase there to even voice their displeasure.

The tenor of Turgeon’s postgame press conference left me feeling like what the coach REALLY wanted to say was “this job is hard. I didn’t fully realize that when I accepted it and I’ve learned that since then.”

Turgeon is paid handsomely ($1.9 million per season, second to only Coach K in the conference) to be able to handle fans’ frustration. He’s paid quite well to be able to tell his sons “you’re going to hear some things about daddy that aren’t particularly nice. I promise you it will be okay.”

He HAS to know it is much better than his family never hearing anything at all about daddy. That would likely mean those annual nearly multi-million dollar paydays would have to come to an end.

Maryland experienced an unprecedented level of success under Williams but talk radio callers seemed only to want to talk about Terps hoops in the rare disappointing seasons to say they wanted the coach fired. It’s a fickle place. Coaches and players don’t enjoy the same level of hero worship (away from campus) that they might in the immediate communities at other programs. Mark Turgeon HAS to be able to work with that mentality to succeed in College Park. It really IS hard.

The irony in Turgeon’s frustration with a certain group of fans’ negativity is that it comes at the same time as he has taken on a support group of students at every home game known as “The Turgeonettes.” The overall feel of the fanbase appears to be an awareness of how hard the coach is working to establish the re-establish the program as a basketball powerhouse.

It was never going to be easy. It was always going to be more difficult than it would be at a place like Kansas, where an entire region plays a similar “support” role for a basketball coach.

At Maryland, a coach can’t really even pause to smile after a win over the #2 team in the country. If the Terps were to turn around and lose at Boston College three days later, there would be much more anger directed towards Turgeon then even during the Virginia game.

It would still be better than the Terps falling to the Eagles and no one noticing.

Anger is significantly better than apathy. Turgeon has to remember the latter is a possibility for his program.