Just eight games into the season, Maryland and basketball coach Mark Turgeon are parting ways. The school announced Friday that Turgeon is stepping down as coach of the Terrapins “in a mutual decision.”
Assistant coach Danny Manning will serve as the interim coach, beginning with Maryland’s next game on Sunday against Northwestern. The Terrapins are 5-3 but have underperformed thus far as the start of Big Ten play looms.
“After a series of conversations with Coach Turgeon, we agreed that a coaching change was the best move for Coach Turgeon and for the Maryland Men’s Basketball program,” Maryland athletic director Damon Evans said. “He has dedicated over a decade of his life to the University of Maryland, and has coached with distinction and honor. He leaves College Park as the 2020 Big Ten Conference champion and with more than 225 victories. He’s a great coach and a great person, and I wish Mark, his wife Ann and his entire family all the best in the next chapter of their lives.”
After beginning the season ranked No. 21 in the AP Top 25, the Terrapins have underperformed thus far with home losses against George Mason and Virginia Tech and a neutral-site loss against Louisville. Their best win is a victory over Richmond. For a program that was lauded for its use of the transfer portal this offseason with the addition of point guard Fatts Russell from Rhode Island and center Qudus Wahab from Georgetown, the results have been disappointing.
The university announced a contract extension for Turgeon through the 2025-26 season in April after some speculation that he may be interested in moving on. He finishes his tenure 221-113 in 10 full seasons and was one month into his 11th season as Maryland’s coach before stepping down.
“After several in depth conversations with Damon, I have decided that the best thing for Maryland Basketball, myself and my family is to step down, effective immediately, as the head coach of Maryland Basketball,” Turgeon said. “I have always preached that Maryland Basketball is bigger than any one individual. My departure will enable a new voice to guide the team moving forward.”
Turgeon, a former Kansas point guard and college teammate of Manning, previously served as coach at Texas A&M, Wichita State and Wichita State. Here are the takeaways from Friday’s announcement.
Despite his sold overall record and the fact that Maryland never truly bottomed out under his direction, Turgeon consistently received criticism for the postseason performance of his teams. Just once in five NCAA Tournament appearances did the Terrapins advance past the first weekend of the Big Dance under his watch. That came in 2016, when Maryland made the Sweet 16 but was promptly bounced by No. 1 seed Kansas.
There will always be a question of what could have been with the Terrapins in 2020 had the COVID-19 pandemic not ended the sport’s postseason. Maryland won nine straight Big Ten games over a month-long span that season and spent the entire season inside the top-20. It shared the Big Ten regular season title with Michigan State and Wisconsin and finished with a 24-7 (14-6) record. The team was surging and positioned for a postseason run until college basketball shut down.
Season not shot
Manning was in his first season as a Maryland assistant after taking a season off from coaching following a six-year run coaching Wake Forest. Manning posted a 78-111 record with the Demon Deacons, leading them to one NCAA Tournament appearance during his time.
His record at Wake Forest wasn’t great, but Manning was successful at Tulsa before his Wake Forest stop, and he proved to be a good talent developer with the Demon Deacons even if the results didn’t follow. It’s not a stretch to suggest that Maryland could still compete in the Big Ten and jockey for an NCAA Tournament appearance this season under Manning’s direction.
The Terrapins are off to an awful start in 3-point shooting, ranking 344th nationally as of Friday with a percentage of just 26.8%. As key players such as Eric Ayala, Donta Scott and Russell begin to catch up with their career shooting averages, this team should find another gear offensively.
Turgeon’s next move
With a career mark of 476-275 and successful runs with three solid brands, Turgeon could still have another move left. He’s just 56, and there should be some interested schools as jobs begin to open in the coming months. The lack of a Final Four-type breakthrough in over a decade at Maryland had clearly created tension between Turgeon and the fan base.
With a new environment, perhaps somewhere closer to his roots in Kansas, Turgeon could find himself back on the big stage as a head coach sooner rather than later. Of course, someone with his track record will likely also have opportunities in broadcasting or other fields. It’s also not uncommon for coaches to take a season off, like Manning did last season, before getting back into the fray.