March 8, 2020 served as a day of joy for Maryland men’s basketball. Terps defeated Michigan at the Xfinity Center to take part in the Big Ten Conference title during the regular season and enter the NCAA Tournament with high expectations.
Suddenly, the coronavirus pandemic swept across the world, shutting down sporting events including March Madness. It left a lot of “what ifs” for the program, including whether coach Mark Turgeon could have led Terps to a deep tournament, perhaps as far as the Final Four. Instead, he dropped out less than two years later, just nine games into his eleventh season.
Maryland Sports Director Damon Evans does not dwell on “what if.” He is focused on the present, which means hiring a coach who can give energy to the program and its fan base after the team went 15-17 overall (7-14 in the Big Ten) and ended its first losing season since 1993.
When Evans was asked what this job means for his career, he did not shy away from its significance.
“I will not run away from it,” he said. “I know what this job means for this institution, and I embrace the opportunity to be in that position to hire. I appreciate the opportunity.”
With the NCAA tournament in full swing, Evans said the search for a coach will begin to take off in earnest. Evans understands that things can change, depending on how the potential candidates fare in the tournament, but he is convinced that the school can get a new coach within the next two to three weeks.
“If the person I stop liking is in the Final Four, it changes history,” he said. “But if you look between now and the Final Four, which is about two to three weeks away, we’re progressing accordingly and have a coach within that time frame.”
Turgeon went 226-116 with the Terps, guiding them to five NCAA tournaments. Although Turgeon had a competitive team every year, some felt he was underperforming. Maryland only reached Sweet 16 once during the Turgeon, which was criticized for missing key local players in the recruiting track.
Turgeon left eight months after signing a $ 17 million three-year contract extension. Assistant Danny Manning took over in an interim role, and Maryland struggled to find consistency throughout the season, starting the conference game 3-11 before winning four of his last six regular-season games.
The Terps were knocked out in the second round of the Big Ten tournament and ended one of the worst seasons in decades. However, Evans does not believe that Maryland’s turbulent season will require a rebuild.
Maryland’s sports director Damon Evans said he is looking for a basketball coach for men who could become the program’s “CEO.” But more importantly, Evans wants to find someone who can return Maryland to a nationally prominent place. (Will Newton / AP)
“I think basketball is the kind of program that you can turn around faster than some sports, like football,” Evans said. “But I also want to make sure we are set up in a way that we build on the long term, not just the short term. It’s important that we have long – term, sustained success here at the University of Maryland.”
Evans said he is looking for a coach who could be the “CEO” of the program. He wants someone who embraces the transfer portal and student-athletes who benefit financially from their name, image and resemblance. But more importantly, Evans wants to find someone who can return Maryland to a nationally prominent place.
During Maryland’s win over the then no. 22 Ohio State On February 27, the same day that Terps’ national team in 2002 was honored, fans were reminded of the glory days when the program was at the top of the college basketball world 20 years ago.
When former coach Gary Williams stepped onto the field during a timeout and raised his fist in the air, Xfinity Center roared. It was obvious that Terps needed to hire someone who joins a fan base that has consistently been ranked among the top 25 in attendance over the past decade but has not come close to filling the Xfinity Center in recent years.
“That’s what a good coach does,” Williams said. “He will bring back the crowd and get people enthusiastic about Maryland basketball. When there is a change of coach, there is a need for an infusion of enthusiasm.”
Evans wants a coach who can reason with society but wants to ensure that the candidate can develop players while competing for a national championship.
Since Turgeon left, Seton Hall’s Kevin Willard, Notre Dame’s Mike Brey, Providence’s Ed Cooley and Southern California’s Andy Enfield – who has just signed a six-year contract extension with the Trojans – have been discussed as potential candidates.
After Seton Hall lost to TCU in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday night, Willard raised rumors about his future at New Jersey School.
“I have an agent I’ve not talked to yet,” Willard said. “I do not know who he is talking to. I have absolutely no idea. But when I get home, I’ll talk to my agent and discuss things with my agent. “
When Willard was asked when he thinks everything will work out, he said, “I have no idea.”
“I’ve had three different agents in the last month,” Willard said. “So my original agent that I’ve had for 12 years went to TV shows. I’ll be honest with you. If I’m not here next year, I would love, if [Saint Peter’s coach] Shaheen Holloway is here, that would be the happiest thing that would happen to me. “
Brey, who has guided Fighting Irish to their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2018, would be an exciting candidate. He is from Bethesda and graduated from DeMatha, a perennial power in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference that produces some of the best high school talent in the country.
Despite Notre Dame’s lack of success in recent years, Brey has a strong track record and guides Fighting Irish to 13 NCAA tournaments, three trips to Sweet 16, two Elite Eight appearances and the 2015 ACC Championship since taking over the program. Notre Dame won its first four play since upset No. 6 seeds Alabama Friday afternoon to advance to the second round.
Asked if Maryland would consider non-college basketball candidates, such as NBA assistants, Evans said the school is throwing a wide grid.
“That’s how you start any search, whatever position you’re looking for,” he said. “We’ll look around the country and find the person we think will meet the expectations we have here in Maryland. It’s the Big Ten and national championships.”
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey, who has guided Fighting Irish to their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2018, would be an exciting candidate as he is from Bethesda and graduated from DeMatha. (Aaron Doster / AP)
The question remains how expansive that network is, and whether it would land on coaches who have committed NCAA crimes.
Iona coach Rick Pitino, who was fired from Louisville in 2017 after the FBI launched an investigation into fraud and corruption in college basketball, was considered a potential candidate for Terps before condemning the rumors on Twitter and saying, “It will not be me.”
Evans said that integrity is important to the school, and they examine everyone’s background before making a decision that is appropriate for the university. Lawyer and former Maryland star Len Elmore said the program should avoid candidates with a scandalous past.
“I think they’s basically toxic to long-term programs,” said Elmore, now a college basketball analyst.
For this coaching search, Evans enlisted the help of Parker Executive Search, a search company based in Atlanta that the former sports director at the University of Georgia is very familiar with. Evans said he is “confident they will help us properly”, and the same company contributed to the hiring of football coach Mike Locksley.
Evans said he has also requested feedback from other individuals, including Williams, and has spoken to school president Darryll Pines “quite a bit.”
“Our president is someone who understands sports,” Evans said. “He is someone who will be fully involved and make sure he is informed about what I do on a daily basis.”
As Evans continues to find the program’s tenth basketball coach, he sees playing style and off-conference scheduling as key factors. He understands the importance of a balanced schedule, but would not mind letting national powers like Kentucky, Kansas or UCLA play at the Xfinity Center.
After Maryland was knocked out of the second round of his last two NCAA tournaments, Evans said he will evaluate a candidate’s track record after the season.
“The post-season is not easy,” Evans said. “There are a lot of really good coaches out there who have done the off-season and maybe just have a win. But you have to take a look at where they are, you have to take a look at their recruiting ranks. When you go to a place like Maryland with the resources we have available, with the fertile recruitment ground we have available, some of these coaches can have a better result in the tournament just because of it. “
Evans sees local recruitment as a necessity, as he wants the coach to have a good understanding of the area. If the coach does not, Evans said “he must have people in his staff who are.”
“I think nationally, the DMV is a good area for basketball,” Williams added. “I think the new coach comes in with the idea that he wants to get involved in the field.”
Former Maryland head coach Gary Williams speaks when his 2002 national championship is honored during the game against Ohio State on February 27 in College Park. “When there is a change of coach, there is a need for an infusion of enthusiasm,” Williams said. (Julio Cortez / AP)
Maryland is considered a top-20 program, where the only negative is the lack of a training facility. The school is the only one in the Big Ten without a dedicated training facility for both men’s and women’s teams. After the athletics department presented its plans for a Basketball Performance Center in 2019, Evans said they raised $ 37 million out of the $ 40 million needed to start building.
“I have to finish collecting that money,” Evans said. “My goal is to have that money in hand when we hire a new coach.”
The school has invested heavily in football recently, the construction of Jones-Hill House – the total price tag for the project, which was funded by private donations and the state, amounted to 149.3 million dollars – and a new video board inside Capital One Field at. Maryland Stadium. While some, if not most, may consider Maryland a basketball school, Elmore is not surprised by recent investment in football.
“Football in the big ten is king, and honestly, college football from a revenue standpoint is king in power conferences because they run the budget,” Elmore said.
Evans said the Basketball Performance Center is crucial to competing against other Power Five schools and said that “your resources must match the expectations you have as a program.”
Former Virginia Tech coach and current ESPN analyst Seth Greenberg said a training facility provides a better way to develop players while marketing the program. From a recruitment point of view, Greenberg said a training facility is a “visual incentive.”
“You never know what will be the difference in a young person making a decision,” he explained. “You want to eliminate the negative. Not having a training facility is certainly negative.”
For Evans, it’s just a matter of finding the right coach who not only fits into the fan base but restores the program to become a national title challenger.
“I want our fans to know that I appreciate expectations,” he said. “I want them because we want to bring Maryland basketball back to the glory days, and we’ll knock our butts out when we do.”