- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 11, 2011

One ACC icon provided candid answers about Maryland, a school he knew so well. Another insisted his protégé would be wise to make a career move.

Mark Turgeon listened to both, leading him to his introduction as the Terrapins’ basketball coach Wednesday at Comcast Center.

Turgeon arrives from Texas A&M, where he spent the last four seasons. Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson, who led a four-day search to find a replacement for the retiring Gary Williams, said Turgeon’s deal “will probably be longer than [five years]” and that the financial details have yet to be finalized.

Either way, Turgeon said he intends to restore Maryland to where it was a decade ago, when it made consecutive Final Four appearances and won a national title in 2002.

“I’ve played in Final Fours and coached in national championships,” Turgeon said. “That’s what I want to do as the head coach at Maryland. I’m not going to say that’s what is going to make us successful or not, but that’s what we plan on doing.”

A pair of title-winning coaches helped sway his decision.

One was his predecessor, who made 14 NCAA tournament appearances in his 22-year stint. Turgeon said Williams answered several pointed questions about the job Sunday, lending certainty Turgeon could succeed in College Park.

It also alleviated any concerns about following an institution at Maryland. Williams was 461-252 in his career with the Terps and ranks third in ACC history in victories.

“If I was apprehensive, I wouldn’t be standing here,” Turgeon said. “I had a great conversation with Gary. He made me feel comfortable. I know Gary’s not going to try to sabotage Maryland basketball.”

Turgeon had other allies as he weighed leaving Texas A&M, where he succeeded Billy Gillispie and went 97-40 with four NCAA tournament berths over as many seasons — namely another former Big 12 coach who migrated east within the last decade.

That would be North Carolina coach Roy Williams, for whom Turgeon worked during four seasons at Kansas.

“He was just adamant about this job,” Turgeon said. “He never pushed me for a job, ever. This one he was just adamant about. He didn’t tell me to take it. He said ‘I’m on your side no matter what you do.’ But 25 times he said ‘It’s one of the top 10 jobs in the country, Mark, and you deserve one of these jobs and I think you’d be foolish not to take it.’”

It just took a while for Turgeon and Anderson to connect.

Anderson said he “reached out” to Turgeon shortly after Gary Williams announced his retirement Thursday but didn’t receive a response.

“I was concerned, but it was a matter of we had to move on,” Anderson said. “I just didn’t think there was any interest.”

While Anderson flew to Las Vegas to meet with Arizona coach Sean Miller on Saturday, Turgeon was camping with his family in Pennsylvania in an area where there was no cellphone reception. Miller signed an extension late Saturday, and Anderson’s search continued.

Turgeon finally could check his voice mail Sunday and promptly called Anderson around noon. What followed was a whirlwind courtship; Anderson phoned his Texas A&M counterpart, Bill Byrne, for permission to speak with Turgeon and was in a car by 1. He arrived at a Pittsburgh hotel by 7, and he and Turgeon spoke for 2 1/2 hours. Then, Anderson drove back to Maryland, arriving home at 2:30 a.m.

Turgeon called Anderson on Monday morning and ultimately accepted the job to end a search Anderson insisted was filled with options throughout. Anderson said the one person he initiated contact with was Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon. While Army’s athletic director, Anderson hired Dixon’s sister, Maggie, as the women’s coach.

“I didn’t have to call people,” Anderson said. “The only one I even had a conversation and reached out to — and Mark knows that — was Jamie. Other than that, there were third parties and everything else [asking], ‘Did you know the Maryland job was open?’ I wanted not for candidates.”

Ultimately, Turgeon eventually became one of them. With the urging of two Williamses — one in the Hall of Fame, the other likely to soon have his name on the court at Comcast Center and owners of three national titles between them — he became the candidate for the Terps.

“It was going to take a great job for me to move,” Turgeon said. “I’ve turned down a lot of jobs over the last four years, and it was going to take a special one for me to move my family. And Maryland’s a special place and that’s why I’m here.”

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