The Odd Couple
New coach Mark Turgeon and little big man Terrell Stoglin are leading the Terps.
by Scott Gleeson / @ScottMGleeson
He’s dealt with it all of his life, all of his career. He’s heard “too small” or “not good enough” since high school. Truth is, he loves it. He thrives off the thought of someone doubting him for the slightest second.
“I never forget when people tell me I can’t do something,” said a smirking Stoglin. “A lot of people—college coaches, scouting services when I was in high school—they didn’t give me the love I felt I deserved either because of my size or where I was from. I just keep that with me for my mentality now. I play with a chip on my shoulder. I’m always trying to get respect, that’s what I love.”
So when Stoglin’s new coach told him that he couldn’t play defense or pass the ball well, he did what he’s always done: he took it on as a challenge.
“He’s learning a lot about the game,” said first-year Maryland coach Mark Turgeon. “He’s gotten much better defensively and he’s trusting his teammates more. I think he’s bought in. He’s been very coachable.”
The relationship appeared far from smooth early on when it looked like a train wreck waiting to happen.
Meet Turgeon: A former fundamentally-sound point guard who made up for his 5-10 stature with his smarts as a reserve point guard at Kansas. KU fans used to call him Turgeon “The Surgeon” for the way he carved up defenses. He coaches with the same fierceness and tenacity as his mentor, Larry Brown. He has grey hair coming in, and he often fluctuates from being calm on the sidelines to being a ticking time bomb. He listens to ‘60s music, mostly Motown, or “whatever’s on the radio.”
Meet Stoglin: A left-handed cat from Tuscon, Ariz., who handles the rock but mostly plays shooting guard. Despite his 6-1 frame, he has a pure scorer’s mentality—pouring in an ACC-leading 21.3 points a game this season. He gets to the cup at will, using a combination of tear-drop floaters and pull-ups to cash in. His game is the definition of street, as he uses his handle to penetrate and create most of his scoring opportunities. His teammates, in his eyes, are the guys who pass the ball to him to score. He listens to mostly hip hop music.
Basically, it looked like a generic version of Allen Iverson playing for a non white-haired Bobby Knight.
But Turgeon’s understanding and patience mixed with Stoglin’s all-ears approach have turned out to be the right recipe for Maryland in a rebuilding, topsy-turvy season.
“We had our differences when he first got the job,” Stoglin said. “On the defensive end, he felt like I wasn’t giving the right effort and he felt like I wasn’t being a great teammate. He started calling me to his office for meetings, pointing stuff out to me. Coach has always known I can score, but he’s trying to get me to do other things better. I understand I can’t argue with the head coach. It’s definitely been a learning experience for me personally, as a man.
“Our relationship is much closer now because I understand that in order for me to get to where I need to get, I need to listen to him.”
Turgeon came to Maryland with big shoes to fill—replacing longtime stalwart Gary Williams, whom the Terrapins’ court is named after in College Park. Williams was the face of Maryland basketball, particularly since the turn of the millennium on the way to a 2002 National Championship.
“They’re real similar,” Stoglin said of Turgeon compared to Williams. “Coach Turgeon is a little bit more conservative but he will tell you something bluntly without sugar coating anything.
“He gives us a lot of confidence…I think we’ve responded to him real well. From the beginning of the season to now, we’re a whole different team, man. Everybody’s stepped up. Our defense is better, our execution is better, our shot selection is better. Everything.”
Turgeon isn’t Gary Williams, but his resume speaks for itself. It helps that this isn’t Turgeon’s first time around the block. He’s been a successful head coach twice before. He led Texas A&M to four NCAA tournament appearances in all four of his years there and helped build Wichita State into one of the best mid-major programs in the country en route to reaching the Sweet Sixteen in 2006.