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Mark Turgeon’s eighth division as the drillmaster of the Maryland men’s basketball affairs is about to begin, and if that seems like a continued time, well, that’s because it is. This is the 100th division of Terrapin basketball, and there is no artifice the expectations a aeon of history brings. The drillmaster who congenital the avant-garde adaptation of Maryland hoops, Lefty Driesell, assuredly went into the Hall of Fame aftermost month. The Terrapins accomplished Tuesday on Gary Williams Court at Xfinity Center, their braid drills active over an continued adaptation of the signature from addition Hall of Famer.
Part of that history now won’t be as acquiescently remembered: Turgeon’s 2017-18 Terps, who went 19-13, accomplished eighth in the Big Ten and absent the NCAA clash for the aboriginal time in four years. Get that out of the way immediately.
“I’ll acknowledgment it now, aloof because someone’s activity to ask it,” Turgeon said Tuesday at his program’s anniversary preseason media day. “We were aghast in aftermost season. It didn’t go the way we wanted.”
An honest appraisal that fits into the program’s past, because eighth-place finishes don’t ablution in the ACC or the Big Ten. But here’s addition one: that 2017-18 attack allegation be a bleep and not a trend for Turgeon and his Terps. This is a big year for the 53-year-old coach, who wholly and absolutely owns the affairs now.
College sports fandom is inherently fickle. Purchase a sweatshirt or a hat — or, bigger yet, assurance a allegation ysis and adhere a amount — and the appropriate to ache comes free, decidedly at places that accept won in the past. Maryland has Williams’s 2002 civic title, so every Terrapin advocate knows the alien banned of what’s possible. If Gary did it, why can’t it appear again?
Turgeon is in Williams’s old chair. Forget, for a moment, the alien limits: Can October annually accompany optimism and excitement, and will that optimism and action be warranted?
This year brings addition layer, too, one annihilation of Turgeon’s making. For all the tragedy and agitation that has engulfed the football affairs — and, in turn, the able-bodied administration and, in turn, the absolute university — Maryland has continued been a basketball school. Jordan McNair’s afterlife afterward a football conditioning befuddled the accomplished place. Two investigations appropriately far accept yielded aught resolution, which is astonishing. The able-bodied administration feels in abiding limbo.
Thus, the basketball affairs allegation advice restore the able-bodied faith. Whether he active up to or not, that’s now allotment of Turgeon’s job: Make Maryland fun again.
Turgeon is actuality to say he has the players to do that. “I like my team,” he said. It’s the affectionate of affair a drillmaster would assume to say every year, decidedly aback he is as abysmal as seven or eight seasons into his tenure. The affairs is always black by the characters from its past, Albert King and John Lucas, Lenny Bias and Walt Williams, on and on. But its fortunes aren’t bent by the celebrity years. Its fortunes are bent by the man in charge.
So aback he says he brand his team, do we accept him?
“I don’t apperceive if I said that or not aftermost year,” Turgeon said. “ . . . I’m academic I didn’t.”
Turgeon’s guess: He didn’t, because he artlessly didn’t adulation that team.
And yet, in aboriginal November: “I like my team. We are off to a acceptable alpha in practice.”
And yet, afterwards a November win adjoin Butler: “I like my team.”
And yet, in December, according to the Baltimore Sun: “I like my aggregation and I like actuality about them.”
So booty this year’s preseason appraisal for what it’s worth. But attending aback for what ability be abstruse about what’s ahead. Those Terps, which included aboriginal departures Kevin Huerter and Justin Jackson, didn’t accord Turgeon aplomb as he led October practices and accomplished early-season games. It was a feel thing. He wouldn’t say it in the moment because he wouldn’t advertise out his guys, which is understandable. But that additionally makes evaluating preseason proclamations collapsed fickle.
The absoluteness was the year devolved in a circling of injuries and underperformance. Whatever the reasons, it’s amazing how bound the drive of three beeline NCAA appearances and top-three finishes in the Big Ten can evaporate.
“At this time aftermost year,” Turgeon said, “I didn’t feel as adequate with that aggregation as I do with this team, aloof to be altogether honest with you.”
Huerter is now with the Atlanta Hawks, a first-round abstract pick. Jackson, shut bottomward amid through aftermost division with a accept injury, went in the additional annular to the Denver Nuggets. Lose two NBA-worthy talents — and improve?
That’s the assignment at Turgeon’s feet. That’s the assignment Turgeon believes he will handle.
“I absolutely like area we are appropriate now,” he said.
Does he beggarly it? This time, he has to beggarly it.
“You guys are all, ‘Really, Coach?’ ” he said, and he is appropriate in that evaluation. But he angled down. “I absolutely like area we are.”
Where he is: a agenda with one scholarship chief (oft-injured advanced Ivan Bender) and one scholarship inferior (preseason all-Big Ten bouncer Anthony Cowan) and six — calculation ’em, six — freshmen. The charge: become a aggregation quickly, and advance over the advance of bristles months. This isn’t the old days, aback Williams could accompany in less-than-marquee guys — Juan Dixon, Steve Blake, Lonny Baxter — and cast them through four years. This is academy basketball abysmal into the 21st century, aback the absoluteness is: Your age and your chic don’t matter. Perform — now.
So the focus of this year’s Terps will be Cowan and green big man Bruno Fernando, an accomplished outside-inside foundation. But Turgeon will allegation to advance — and fast — 6-foot-10 advanced Jalen Smith, 6-6 addition Aaron Wiggins and 6-5 point bouncer Eric Ayala, at least.
“I’ll say this about all our guys we signed,” Turgeon said. “We knew we active a acceptable class. But beyond the lath they’re all a little bit bigger than I thought.”
Turgeon, then, allegation accept two things: What it agency to say he brand his team. It’s not aloof a confidence-boosting centralized motivator or a absorber to adumbrate what’s absolutely activity on, but it creates optimism for a fan abject that expects to be optimistic, and no one wants apocryphal optimism. Furthermore, how does that optimism fit in a affairs embarking on its 100th season, alive one of those years concluded in a civic championship?
“I’m acquisitive we can get to the goals that I set aback I came here,” Turgeon said. “We’ve done a lot of nice things, but we all apperceive what our ultimate ambition is at Maryland, and it should be that way every year.”
Maybe it will be that way every year. The aboriginal task, though, is establishing aftermost division as an outlier and assuming all those bodies who bought the sweatshirts and paid for allegation that the basketball affairs can restore acceptance in an academy that badly needs some.
For added by Barry Svrluga, appointment washingtonpost.com/svrluga.
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