For longtime Maryland men’s basketball fans who not so long ago checked out on one of their true passions in life, the end of the Mark Turgeon era is good news in that the return to real relevancy is again possible.

Many national writers are talking as if Turgeon stepping down was somehow a major shock. For me, the news immediately reminded me of the Woody Allen film “Annie Hall.” In a key moment regarding the ups and downs of being in love, the couple played by Diane Keaton and Allen reach the mutual decision that once and for all, their relationship is over. Allen’s character, Alvy Singer says, “A relationship, I think, is like a shark. It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we’ve got on our hands is basically a dead shark.”

For Maryland basketball fans who have turned away in droves from the actual belief that Turgeon was going to be able to truly deliver at meaningful times, this wasn’t a day to celebrate. Turgeon doesn’t deserve derision on his way out the door, but the door really can’t hit his backside fast enough for me.

In 10-plus years on the job, Turgeon made the NCAA Tournament five times (it would have been six if not for COVID) and the Sweet 16 once. In fairness to Turgeon, his best chance to play deeper into March was in 2020, when he was deprived of that chance due to the pandemic.

But in the world of big-time college basketball, the head coach is both coach and GM — he has to decide what his needs are from one year to the next and be able to put together a coherent plan regarding how those players will fit into his vision of a team.

Time and time again, Turgeon’s teams were just the opposite of that — incoherent. Sprinkle in his questionable coaching ability and the mix was actually quite maddening for those of us who believed in Lefty Driesell, who believed in Gary Williams, and yes, even believed in Bob Wade.

Maryland basketball fans were an audacious bunch from 1969 until about 2015. From the time Driesell stomped onto the scene and hyped the entire sleepy world of college hoops, to when Williams pumped his fist coming out onto the court and yelled at his own coaches just to vent, Terps fans always thought a brighter day was around the corner, intersecting with the next recruiting announcement.

If fans don’t have that belief, apathy can settle in. That’s why Turgeon’s exit means the Dead Shark Era is over in College Park.

Now, athletic director Damon Evans has to make one of the most consequential hires in the history of Maryland athletics.

Doubt the job is still an attractive one? Evans will be fielding scores of texts, emails and calls in the coming months. The Maryland job is one of the top 10 to 15 jobs in the country.

So, who are the names that really have a chance to end up at College Park?

Because they can’t afford a mistake here, I have to start with 68-year-old John Beilein, who somewhat surprisingly walked away from one of the best jobs in basketball — head coach at Michigan for 12 years — to coach the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Luckily I am touting him for his coaching and leadership skills, not his decision-making this one time. Remember, he took over a Cavaliers team without LeBron James. Beilein signed on in May 2019 and didn’t even make it through an entire NBA season, resigning in February 2020.

CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander wrote a column shortly after Turgeon stepped down, leading with Beilein as a possible hire because “he is the best possible coach Maryland could land.” Norlander is dubious of Beilein wanting to coach again, but there is no reason not to reach out. Beilein did sign a five-year contract when he signed on with the Cavaliers. If I were advising Evans, I would ask Williams to help me try to get a visit with Beilein.

Should they find out Beilein isn’t interested, you have plenty of time to regroup and assemble the other serious possibilities.

As much as I want a Maryland basketball team that can reenergize its fan base, Maryland can’t take a chance on any of the so-called big names with big problems. Please, no Rick Pitino or Sean Miller. Maryland cannot afford to sign someone with that kind of baggage.

Interim head coach Danny Manning is one of the greatest college basketball players of all time and will have the incumbency in his favor, but he would pretty much have to take this Maryland squad to the Sweet 16 to really stand out.

Norlander mentioned other popular names, like Seton Hall’s Kevin Willard, USC’s Andy Enfield (a former Johns Hopkins standout), BYU’s Mark Pope, George Mason’s Kim English, St. Bonaventure’s Mark Schmidt and Providence’s Ed Cooley. A couple other names to throw in are Auburn’s Bruce Pearl and former Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski, who recently concluded a mixed run of seven years as a first-time head coach.

There will be umpteen more candidates who surface. To me, if Beilein isn’t the man, Willard very well could be.

Evans needs to really do his homework and lean on the sage advice of Williams and some others in honing down his list of serious candidates.

I said earlier that the Maryland job is seen as a top-tier position. If Evans makes the right call, it’ll stay that way and Maryland will again contend for Final Fours. If he blows this decision, Maryland basketball will have an incredibly steep journey back to relevance.

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox

Issue 272 December 2021 / January 2022

Originally published Dec. 15, 2021

Stan Charles

See all posts by Stan Charles. Follow Stan Charles on Twitter at @stanthefan