Big Ten Coach of the Year: Mark Turgeon

Posted by Alex Moscoso on March 10th, 2015

Whenever it’s time to decide a Coach of the Year award, there’s always a debate on the approach. Should we give it to the coach with the most successful team or should we give it to the coach who outperformed expectations? More often than not, we associate excellent coaching with those who overachieve. That’s because we also associate the concept of “coaching” with those who excel in game strategy and player development — if your team is perceived as better than the sum of its talented parts, you’re labeled a “good coach.” This notion, however, discounts some of the other important aspects of modern college coaching like recruiting, scheduling and fundraising — which lays the foundation for dominant programs to have such high expectations. Our Big Ten Coach of the Year, Maryland’s Mark Turgeon, has had a successful year because of the excellent recruiting and in-game coaching that he’s done, but also because of his ability to successfully lead Maryland through a number of obstacles all season long.

Mark Turgeon's Terps could get off to a rocky start in the Big Ten.

Mark Turgeon led his Terps to a big splash in their first Big Ten year.

First, some praise to our two runner-ups: Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan and Purdue’s Matt Painter. Despite the highest of national and regional expectations on his team, Ryan delivered. The Badgers’ season wasn’t flawless in that they were easily handled in Madison by a younger Duke team and suffered an inexplicable January loss to Rutgers on the road (even without Frank Kaminsky). But make no mistake, Ryan has readied his team to make another legitimate run at the Final Four. Painter, our second runner-up, started the season on the hot seat after two consecutive campaigns below .500. Some smart offseason additions in the forms of Vince Edwards and Jon Octeus, coupled with the development of A.J. Hammons and Raphael Davis, catapulted the Boilermakers to a surprising 12-6 Big Ten record. But as impressive as Ryan and Painter were this season, Turgeon is the coach whose team best exhibited on-court success and overcame significant hurdles to do so.

Maryland was projected to miss the NCAA Tournament and have a losing season in the Big Ten but the Terps instead finished in second place with a two-game lead over third-place Iowa, Michigan State and Purdue. Maybe more impressive than that is that Turgeon achieved this success in a brand new conference against a string of unfamiliar opponents. And unlike Purdue, the Terrapins have been playing well since the very beginning of the season. It became evident that things could be different when freshman point guard Melo Trimble erupted for 31 points in a November game against Arizona State. Turgeon’s successful bid to convince the Upper Marlboro native to play for his home state’s flagship university was instrumental to Maryland’s return to prominence. And while Ryan had to deal with an injury to his point guard Traevon Jackson, Turgeon experienced multiple injuries to essential players. There was the preseason foot injury to Evan Smotrycz — who never really recovered — followed by a midseason injury to Dez Wells. The senior’s absence for seven games during the non-conference slate was arguably the turning point in the season. Turgeon coaxed the rest of his players to rise to the occasion and continue to develop without him in the lineup. When Wells returned, he found a confident and poised team which carried on into Big Ten play. For all that he’s accomplished under trying circumstances this season, it’s clear that Turgeon has turned in the most outstanding coaching performance in the Big Ten.

Alex Moscoso (170 Posts)

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