The Maryland men’s basketball team will visit Crisler Center on Saturday for just the second time as a member of the Big Ten Conference.
Coach Mark Turgeon, in his third season in the conference, has overseen the Terrapins’ transition from the Atlantic Coast Conference to the Big Ten. Maryland has one of the youngest rosters in the conference this season, as 10 of its 16 players are underclassmen.
Turgeon gained experience coaching younger players last summer. He was an assistant coach on USA Basketball’s under-18 national team that won gold at the 2016 FIBA Americas U18 Championship.
The Daily sat down with Turgeon at Big Ten Media Day in October to discuss the Big Ten Tournament’s move to Washington D.C., his experience coaching with USA Basketball and the challenges Maryland faced switching from the ACC to the Big Ten.
The Michigan Daily: Coach, you talked previously about how excited you are about having the Big Ten Tournament in Washington D.C. What does it mean to have the tournament here next March?
Mark Turgeon: As far as I can remember, Maryland fans have always had to travel for their tournament. So it’s good to have it here. It was part of the promise when we went into the league that we would have a tournament here in DC and in New York. It’s good it has happened so quickly. I’m really happy for our fans not having to travel as far, to save a little bit of money and getting to see quality basketball in their backyard.
TMD: When you coached the USA under-18 team over the summer, what, as a coach, do you gain coaching at the international level and outside Maryland?
MT: I think it was just great to be a part of USA Basketball. That was fun. I got to hang around other coaches in (Texas coach) Shaka Smart and (Connecticut coach) Kevin Ollie and be around great players, and then travel the world a little bit. It was a good experience, as far as we won the gold, so it was a good time.
TMD: What experiences can you particularly bring back from the under-18 tournament and instill at Maryland?
MT: You steal a little bit from Shaka Smart, you steal a little bit from Kevin Ollie, and I’m sure I helped them a little bit too. Then you’re dealing with the best players who are under 18 and you realize you have pretty good players too (at Maryland). Just the experience (of) being with the coaches and being in tournament play and preparing guys in a short time, it all helps you as a coach move forward.
TMD: Has there been a difference for you between how basketball was played in the ACC and the Big Ten?
MT: I think basketball is basketball. Every league is different, yet every league is the same. What I mean by that is, there’s 14 teams, so you’re going to have a lot of different teams. You’re going to have coaches that play fast, coaches that play slow, teams that are really physical and teams that are finesse. And you have that in every league. I think the biggest difference in the leagues is just the venues and the crowd support. It’s just amazing in the Big Ten, and it’s hard to win on the road.
TMD: Was there any learning curve for you in your first couple years in the Big Ten?
MT: I’ve been in a lot of leagues as a coach. I’ve been able to adjust everywhere I went. I think I had an advantage the first year because none of the teams knew my system and we had a great year (finishing) 14-4. In terms of the learning curve, are we much better guarding Michigan’s stuff than we were when we first entered the league? Yes, it’s a complex offense. There is a learning curve in everything you do. They also had a learning curve with us to learn our system. We feel pretty locked in, pretty comfortable with where we are and our understanding of the teams.