Mark Turgeon sees most of the same faces at practice these days as he did in his first two seasons at Maryland, yet in some ways he is coaching a completely different team. Not only has the talent improved dramatically, but so has the chemistry.
The first season when he inherited a fairly dysfunctional group from Gary Williams – made more difficult by the fact that his best player, Terrell Stoglin, was the toughest to coach – is becoming a distant memory.
Even last season, after Stoglin left the program and the Terps improved from 17-15 to 25-13, it wasn’t easy trying to mesh four freshmen and two transfers with the three players remaining who had been recruited by Williams (sophomore Nick Faust, junior guard Pe’Shon Howard and senior James Padgett).
“Last year we had too many young guys who were worried about themselves,” Turgeon said in an interview with The Baltimore Sun on Tuesday. “They’re calling the mom, ‘I only played 10 minutes’ or calling the AAU coach. Now if we win the game and he gets a call from the AAU coach or family and he only played 10 minutes, it’s ‘Hey, we won, we’re doing what coach asks and it’s fun.’”
Turgeon said that the attitude is different now as the Terps head into Friday’s season opener against Connecticut at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
"I think our guys are about winning now,” he said. "In the end, when the game is over, it’s all about winning with this group. My first couple of years it might have not been that way. I think it’s getting to that point and it shows in practice. Last year I had to beg guys to practice, this year I’ve had to dial them back.”
Turgeon said coming to Maryland was different than going to Wichita State or Texas A&M. He said that in many ways he went through having a first season twice in College Park.
“I’ve taken over programs before and it didn’t have to be all my guys to be comfortable,” he said. “This was just a different deal. Everyone jumped ship who I didn’t recruit and it set us back a bit. In the end, it’s going to help us. I think it’s just familiarity. It’s Year 3. Some guys have been in the system for three years.
“It’s no fun going though what we went through. I think it’s amazing that we won 42 games, to be honest, and what we were able to beat Duke, which means a lot to people. I’m pretty happy with where we are. It just takes time. I think all the programs I’ve been at, they’re all a little bit different. It just comes down to getting to know each other and believing in what you’re trying to do as a group.”