The easiest way to win is to have a deep, balanced draft. If you start with the right guys, it'll be a lot easier to manage them accordingly. Let's say your buddy Frank asked you to take over his 2-5 team for the remainder of the season. You're not inheriting a deep or balanced team, you're taking over the reins of a wild, bucking bronco (think Jake Plummer).
Mark Turgeon walked into a similarly tough situation. After Jordan Williams decided to forgo his final seasons of eligibility, the University of Maryland Men's team was relying on Sean Mosley (SR), James Padgett (JR) and Terrell Stoglin (SO) to carry the team through the daunting ACC Conference. Turgeon left Texas A&M for a school less than ten seasons removed from a national title, but you wouldn't have been able to tell by the roster that was currently assembled.
There were two factors that prevented the Terps from scoring at a high level. In the offseason, the team's leading scorer from the 2011-2012 season, Terrell Stoglin, failed what must have been his 49th drug test, and he was suspended from the team. Stoglin left school, with plans to walk-on to an NBA or D-League roster. After failing to catch on with a pro team in the states, he left for Europe. This past January, Stoglin had been released by Cholet Basket, a professional team in France. His departure from Maryland meant that Turgeon was forced to replace his ACC-best 21.6 PPG. Dez Wells was the team's leading scorer that next season, averaging just over 13 PPG.
The second and most important reason the Terps struggled on offense, was a lack of a true point guard. Nick Faust was able to increase his shooting percentage across the board, but he is a 2-guard at the NCAA level. The team's starting point guard, Pe'Shon Howard, clashed with Turgeon. Howard was a junior, and thus was brought in by Gary Williams. Howard was a liability shooting, hitting only 29% from the field. As the season progressed, Turgeon significantly cut his playing time. After the season, Howard transferred to USC, where he is averaging 10.9 PPG, 3.9 APG and 3 RPG. Seth Allen was asked to run point, despite being more of a combination guard. Seth's scoring ability was refreshing, but he lacked the court-vision and awareness needed to run the team's offense. That left Dez Wells, a swingman, with the ball-handling responsibility. Wells possessed the passing and scoring ability that was required of the position, but his poor ball-control and knack for turnovers became frustrating for a team that was supposed to secure a tournament bid.
Ideally, Alex Len would have returned for his third season, and Maryland would have been a pre-season top-25 team by many estimates. Len's stock rose high enough for him to warrant a lottery selection in the NBA Draft, and he left school. The big man went fifth overall to the Phoenix Suns.
This year, Seth Allen was expected to share the point guard duties with top prospect, Roddy Peters. Unfortunately, Allen suffered a broken foot, and he ended up missing the first twelve games of the 2013-2014 season. Dez Wells was named starting point guard, and Maryland fans were forced to endure another season of extreme highs and lows. Faust struggled to shoot early, but improved as the season progressed, likely due to the return of Allen. Peters played poorly in stretches, rendering the Terps in the same position as last year; an offense with no quarterback.
I'll be the first to admit that Turgeon has frustrated me. His teams appear to lose focus at times, and teams that make too many mental mistakes cannot survive in the ACC (or B1G 10, for that matter). Only John Harbaugh and Andy Reid have less of a grasp of when to call timeouts. His recruiting classes have failed to produce a single player over 6'9", except for the since-departed Len. At times, his offense is not discernable; no, seriously, it's impossible to figure out what play is being run. Instead of dribble, drive penetration, it looks like a dribble, drive, turnover/throw the ball at a defender. His biggest fault, of course, is not being Gary Williams. Anyone following a legendary coach is going to go through this transition period. Maryland fans look back on Williams' tenure and picture Vasquez, Baxter, Blake, Drew, Wilcox, Francis and Dixon. They hold on to memories of ACC Championships, a couple of Final Four appearances, regular season upsets over Duke and Carolina and the 2002 National Championship. What they forget, is that Williams refused to recruit AAU players in a pipeline loaded with talent. Gary was great, but there is no excuse for a program with a rich tradition to bring in the 2007-2008 recruiting class that Williams brought in. Part of this was Williams' unwillingness to participate in the "shady" side of college recruiting, which is fine. However, Williams looked to find players that fit his specific system rather than attracting the top players and coaching to their strengths. He wanted players to coach-up, rather than the NBA caliber players.
Turgeon is not the second coming of Coach K. He's not an "elite" head coach in college basketball. I am not telling Terps' fans to ignore his short comings, or to pretend that the past few seasons haven't been discouraging. What I am saying, is that we have to give him time. You won't turn that awful fantasy football team around overnight, and if Turgeon is going to restore Maryland's resume, he's going to have to do it with his guys. Next season will be his fourth at UMD, his first in the B1G 10 and it will be a very important season. If Mitchell, Allen, Faust, Peters and Jake Layman can continue to improve, and this incoming class of sharp-shooting guards can play as advertised, Maryland should be able to finish in the middle of the B1G 10 next season. Turgeon is quick to take blame for the team's poor performance in loses, which is an admirable trait for a head coach to possess. However, it's not his fault that Stoglin kept getting high, that Len's draft stock rose too high or that Seth Allen was highly missed for the first half of the season.
There are some things out of a coach's hands. Just like it would take more than a week to turn Frank's fantasy team around, it was unrealistic to expect Mark Turgeon to immediately turn around a team that had been trending downward since 2004. Maryland fans have been teased with potential and promised tournament appearances, and the school has not delivered on those expectations. Someone needs to be the fall guy in College Park, and unless his luck changes, it's going to be Turgeon. While that may not necessarily be fair, he knew what he was signing up for. If the team doesn't improve, he will need more than a shell to protect him from his eventual termination.
Sal Rinaudo is a wannabe GM that spends way too much time watching NBA games. Be sure to follow him @SalTeamSix.