Everybody thinks being the head coach is easy. On Fridays, when it’s payday, it’s certainly a lot of fun. However, you don’t get the chance to make big-boy money unless you make big-boy decisions. Those kinds of decisions have consequences. Ask Mark Turgeon.
Take a walk in Turgeon’s shoes. He spends years in Texas cultivating a relationship with Andrew and Aaron Harrison, arguably the most talented twins in basketball recruiting history. He then gets the Maryland job and immediately sets out on a quest to bring the twins home -- they have tons of family in the Baltimore area.
Turgeon, as he should be, is singularly focused on getting the twins from the moment he steps off the podium at his first news conference for the Terps. He knows, in the back of his mind, that because of their ties to the area and the fact that he’s know the family since seventh grade, Maryland will have a shot at two program-changing guards.
Everything’s going great. The twins like him, they visit the school and their family in the area, and yet Turgeon sees the writing on the wall. Kentucky covets his top targets. At this point, he’s been all in since the inception of their recruitment. He needs guards and more talent at Maryland, so he’s in it to win it. So is Kentucky. John Calipari doesn’t offer a scholarship to any other point guard. Now Turgeon knows he’s in for a fight.
While the battle with Kentucky is hot and heavy, another variable enters the equation. Locally, Roddy Peters (District Heights, Md./Suitland) has a reputation as a good player, but it isn’t until late spring that he becomes good enough for Maryland to actually offer.
By late May, Peters has managed (under the direction of former Washington Wizards coach Eddie Jordan) to transform himself from scoring lead guard to bona fide point guard. A month later, Peters wows observers at the NBA Top 100 Camp and continues his stellar play before an injury takes him out of action in July.
At this point, the rumors that the Harrison twins are Kentucky-bound are staring Turgeon right in the eye.
Bird in hand with Peters or ride it out with the twins? Keep in mind, Turgeon’s information on Peters is somewhat second-hand. Turgeon likely saw him in April during the open period, but the guard was only scratching the surface and he wasn’t privy to his late spring and early summer convincing performances.
Now you’re in July and you’re knee-deep with the Harrisons. It just so happens that the twins are at Reebok’s camp the first day of the open period. So is Peters. Boom, double-dip.
The traffic for the twins is heavy. Kentucky and SMU send staffers. Turgeon brings his entire staff to make a statement. While they’re watching the twins on one court, Peters is making statements on the far court. If you’re Turgeon, you have to notice. Is the kid trying to send a message? He’s shot up a flare saying, “Coach, I’m better. Look at me.”
Meanwhile, more rumors emerge about Kentucky being the behind-the-scenes favorite for the Harrison twins. And at the same time, more good play from Peters.
Now Turgeon has a decision on his hands. He’s in so deep with the twins, he can’t get out. Maryland fans want those kids on campus, and throwing in the towel is not in Turgeon’s vocabulary. Plus, more than anyone, he knows the relationship that’s been built. Under normal circumstances, Peters might be offended. After all, he lives near the school and he can’t possibly drown out the wishes of the fans to get the twins.
Turgeon plugs away and now he’s recruiting all three, but he’s kept the twins at the top of the list. It looks like he won’t take Peters without knowing the twins’ decision. It’s a risky move with Kansas, Georgetown, Rutgers, UCLA and just about everyone else dive-bombing Peters.
Turgeon does have one thing no other school has: a deep tie with Peters.
When Gary Williams was the head coach at Maryland, he did not recruit D.C. Assault travel team players. Williams and the AAU program’s coaches and administrators didn’t get along.
However, one of the first things Turgeon did when hired was to lure assistant Dalonte Hill from Kansas State to College Park. Hill was one of D.C. Assault's first players and is essentially a family member of the program.
Hill’s task would be keeping up communication and the relationship with Peters. While the twins are tops on the list, Hill -- and Turgeon -- have to remain in communication with Peters and help him understand the program’s intentions. It’s dicey, and without an inside man like Hill, it may not work.
Peters knows who the top targets are. He has a choice to make: listen to Hill and Turgeon’s reasoning or move on. No one could blame him for making either choice, just as no one could blame Turgeon for hanging on and waiting for the twins’ announcement.
Hill and Turgeon work their magic. They’ve kept themselves in a good position with Peters while making the final list for the twins. In October, the twins go on ESPNU and announce for Kentucky.
In the immediate aftermath, Peters plays it the right way and says he is still listening to Maryland. The takeaway is that he wants to see Maryland’s full arsenal and just how hard the Terps will chase him now.
The truth turns out to be, once the twins popped for UK, Peters made up his mind. As he watched the twins make their decision, Peters himself made up his mind: “I knew I was going to Maryland.”
Not every staff plays this situation the correct way. Maryland had an inside man in Hill but also had a local recruit with great affection for the program.
However, the key to the whole situation was communication. If Peters sensed at any moment that Turgeon or the staff wasn’t being completely honest with him, there’s no way they land him.
At some point, Peters knew he wasn’t the first choice. The first choice was a lottery-pick point guard from another state. The young man had to swallow some pride, put himself in Turgeon’s shoes and believe Maryland was forthright in what they were telling him.
In the end, you have to credit both sides. They were patient enough to allow the situation to play itself out, and each got what they wanted because of it.
From the outside looking in, the situation had to be tense and dicey. After all, every day there’s another school telling Peters that he’s their first choice. That will weigh on kids' minds. It has to.
But then there was Peters, in love with his first choice. He had all the information he needed and felt comfortable with the situation. And while he might have made the Terps sweat a little in the end, the story has a happy ending for both.
Well played, gentlemen. Well played.