Can This Be Fixed?

1/21/2014 8:42:15 AM Last night was a watershed moment for me and many other Terp fans.  It's clear that Mark Turgeon is not getting the most of out this team.  The parts are greater than the whole.  Turgeon is a young coach and he's made a mistake that many young coaches make.  He's round pegging the Terps into his square hole. 

I've been wracking my brain to come up with some precedents where a coach realized what he was doing wrong and that catapulted the team to new heights.  Unfortunately, there aren't many of them.  Most turnarounds occur after the coach has been let it go.  I'm not advocated that with this post.  What I'm hoping for is that Turgeon can see that he is going about this the wrong way and he is the one who needs to change.  Maybe a story will help.

As many readers will remember; I follow the British Premier League (note:  it's no longer the English Premier League because 2 teams from Wales are in the top division).  The team I follow is Tottenham Hotspur.  Tottenham has a similar history to Maryland in that they are perpetually the third fiddle among the London clubs (Chelsea and Arsenal alternating between 1 and 2).  The historical parallels to UNC and Duke being top dogs in the ACC with Maryland a rung down are unmistakeable.  Similarly, Tottenham has just missed inclusion in the Champions League the last three years (soccer's equivalent of the NCAA Tournament).

This offseason, Tottenham sold it's best player, Gareth Bale for a world record $85MM to Real Madrid.  With that money, Tottenham bought a slew of young exciting players in to add depth to the roster and make a push for the Champions League this season. The Spur's coach was a young Portuguese guy named Andrea Villas-Boas or AVB.  AVB's style focused on holding possession as opposed to the attacking style that other coaches favor. 

As the first part of this season progressed, the Spurs would dominate time of possession but found scoring difficult.  So much so, that they became the lowest scoring team in the BPL.  Things went from bad to worse when Tottenham got blown out 6-0 and 5-0 in a span of four weeks.  After the 5-0 drubbing, AVB was fired.

The Spurs promoted an assistant, Tim Sherwood who immediately changed to an attacking style.  He started two strikers instead of AVB's one and the dividends were immediate.  Tottenham hasn't lost a league game under Sherwood (5 wins and 1 draw) and the Spurs are now back in contention for the Champions League.

The lesson here for Mark Turgeon is that just because you want to play a certain way and have sets you like to run that have worked in the past, does not mean that you have the right players to execute those sets. "Your style" doesn't work for everyone.  There are only two ways to coach college basketball:  only bring in players that can play your way or coach in a more malleable fashion that allows you to tailor your gameplan to the strengths or your players. 

Turgeon is doing the former but his players clearly don't fit the system.  The offense is disjointed with too many players standing around.  On occassion (usually when the Terps are down), Turgeon may switch to a defensive press and the team invariably responds by generating some steals and fast breaks.  This team needs to get out and run so they can best take advantage of their athletic ability. Turegeon's style actually reigns in the athleticism as the players are forced to play within the confines of the motion offense.

What offense does Mike Kryzewizzzzle run?  It depends, doesn't it?  Sometimes Duke is a three point shooting team.  Sometimes they are run and gun.  Sometimes, they pound it inside.  Coach K caters the offense to the talent on the roster.  Other coaches (Bobby Knight comes to mind) only recruited players that could excel in his system.  That works too.  What you can't do is to try and do both. 

Turgeon has been going out in a recruiting frenzy in the hopes of landing the best possible talent.  Then, he forces them into his offense regardless of their talents.  At Texas A&M, Turgeon couldn't get top recruits so he got guys who could run his sets.  Now, he has talent but he's not utilizing it the right way. 

Hopefully, Turgeon spends the next 2 months experimenting and learning.  This season is lost but if we are having this conversation next year, the calls for Turgeon's ouster will be deafening.

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