During the first half of conference play, the SFN community started seriously talking about coaching prospects. My main contribution:
Mark Turgeon – Probably should have been our “B List” hire the last time. Now, after some great work at Texas A&M (Wichita State before that), I put him on the “A List.” He’s a former Roy Williams assistant, which adds instant fuel to the rivalry fires, and will bring more national publicity our way. Probably more affordable (but not cheap), and perhaps the most upside. I could easily see him winning a national title here. Combo of being from a Hall of Fame “coaching tree” with head coaching success in his own right.
Turgeon’s Aggies finished third and league play, and lost in the Big 12 semi-finals to Texas. This can be viewed as the one smudge on Turgeon’s record – he pretty much had his ass handed to him thrice by Rick Barnes’ Longhorns this season. However, I would caution that: (i) Texas A&M is largely regarded as playing well above their talent level (they have no stars, but win with depth, defense, rebounding, and effort); and (ii) the Aggies’ historical record against the ‘Horns is abyssmal. To be #3 in an extremely tough conference in just his fourth season (at a school with almost no tradition of success on the hardwood) is damned impressive. One could argue (as I do) that what Mark Turgeon needs to take the next step is a program with the institutional advantages that NC State offers. That’s what makes it such a good fit – NC State needs Mark Turgeon, and Mark Turgeon needs NC State.
The only real issue – to me – is that Turgeon has always been a midwest guy, back to his playing days at Kansas (as an undersized, backup PG – the perfect example of a guy that had to have a great basketball IQ to play at the high D-1 level) and his apprenticeship under two legendary coaches (Larry Brown and Roy Williams). Does he want to come East? He might have to, if he wants to reach the next level of success (like almost all successful young coaches, Turgeon has a healthy competitive spriit and ego). And there’s a very strong personal element that only he can answer – would he welcome the chance to compete against one of his mentors for the next 5-10 years? Or is that something that makes him uncomfortable?
Keep an eye on Mark Turgeon this weekend. The Aggies are seeded 7th in the Southwest, with a tough, physical first round matchup against Florida State. But if A&M passes that test (and Turgeon is 4-0 in NCAAT first round games), they face a very beatable Notre Dame squad in the second round. Turgeon made the Sweet Sixteen at Wichita State, but lost in round two in each of his previous three seasons in College Station. Given that the following weekend’s games would be played in San Antonio, Texas A&M is a legitimate Final Four dark horse. We would probably rather that not happen, from a selfish perspective.
To recap, Mark Turgeon is a young coach, with a very good reputation in coaching circles. He’s won at multiple stops, including the major D-1 level (at a challenging place to win). He has assisted two sure-fire Hall of Fame college coaches. His teams rebound and play defense. What’s not to like?