COLLEGE PARK — Danny Manning‘s reaction to the coaching change at Maryland was pretty similar to the rest of the college basketball world’s.
“Complete and utter shock,” Manning said.
On Sunday, Manning led the Terrapins for the first time since taking over as interim coach, and the challenge he faces was evident during a 67-61 loss to Northwestern.
Although he has plenty of experience as a head coach, Manning is fairly new to the Maryland program. He was hired in April as an assistant to Mark Turgeon — his former teammate at Kansas — and when Turgeon abruptly stepped down Friday, Manning was put in charge.
Turgeon‘s departure was described by the school as a mutual decision. The timing — less than a month into the season — was jarring. Manning released a statement that day, but Sunday’s postgame news conference was his first chance to discuss the matter at length.
“I came to Maryland because of him,” Manning said. “I can’t speak for him, but I know that our team will continue to follow the direction that his leadership provided for so many years.”
Guard Eric Ayala said Friday seemed like a pretty normal day of film until Turgeon gave the news to the team.
“We came in, and he said he loved us, and that he felt it was best that he step down as our coach,” Ayala said. “At first, it didn’t seem as real, but that’s kind of how it went.”
Manning said he thought his team showed fight Sunday, but the Terps ultimately lost their third straight game. Maryland shot just 29% from the field and an abysmal 7 for 36 inside the arc.
Manning did say he wants the ball to keep going inside. The Terps had a significant edge in free throws that helped keep it close.
“I am a big believer in paint touches,” he said. “I’m a big believer in ball reversal. I thought paint touches led us to 22 free-throw attempts. We want that to be part of our formula for scoring points.”
Before Manning spoke, Northwestern coach Chris Collins addressed reporters and quickly offered a few words about Turgeon.
“I hope Coach Turgeon is being celebrated for what he did here. For 10 years, I’ve competed against that guy. A couple at Duke when I was an assistant, and then eight years here in the Big Ten,” Collins said. “He’s a good basketball coach and a good man.”
The Terrapins are in Manning‘s hands now. He was a head coach at Tulsa and Wake Forest before coming to Maryland.
He inherits a team that’s been relying on a couple of significant transfers, so it’s certainly possible that the Terps simply need time to build more cohesion. But it’s been a disappointing start for a team that began the season in the Top 25. Even Maryland’s victories haven’t been all that convincing.
Manning will have plenty of time to focus on that. On Sunday, his thoughts were about Turgeon.
“You go through a lot, our families go through a lot and it gets tough at times,” Manning said. “He just made the decision that he felt was best for himself, for his family, but more importantly, for this team. He thought that our team needed a different voice, and that was one of the lasting things that he said to me.”
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