Former Maryland men’s basketball players Len Elmore and Travis Garrison believe it’s important for the team’s next head coach to embrace the history of the program … and Elmore has a suggestion for the school as it searches for the right hire.
Maryland and former Terps head coach Mark Turgeon announced in early December that they mutually split, with Danny Manning taking over on an interim basis and the school executing a national search following the season. Turgeon went 226-116 in his 10-plus years as coach, but fans’ dissatisfaction steadily grew. Athletic director Damon Evans says it’s his job to meet fans’ expectations for the program.
Elmore, who played for Lefty Driesell from 1971-1974 and is still the program’s all-time leading rebounder (412), and Garrison, who played for Gary Williams from 2002-2006 and was part of two tournament teams, have some ideas in mind for the next head coach, regardless of whether they have Maryland ties or not.
“I do think that there are people that are outside the program and the family and the history of Maryland that deserve a look that are reasonably young and up-and-coming that have a proven track record of beating teams, sometimes even as the underdogs, and have established programs and cultures that the alumni are proud of,” Elmore said on Glenn Clark Radio Jan. 13. “But I also think that Maryland needs to get back to connecting to Maryland culture and Maryland family.”
Garrison, who hosts the Go Terrapins podcast on the Field of 68 network, shared similar vision for the next coach.
“Think about a Juan Dixon, even to have on your staff,” Garrison said on GCR Jan. 12. “Obviously you’ve got Duane Simpkins over at George Mason. Do you get those individuals that have basically been through the program back on the staff? They know what Maryland wants in a sense because they played at Maryland, and they know the fans and the fans know them. You kind of have to look at it from that perspective and go from there, I believe.”
Williams, the most successful coach in Terps men’s basketball history, was a 1968 Maryland graduate. However, no former Terps are natural fits as the head coach this time around. Dixon, the head coach at Coppin State, is a Maryland legend, but he’s had mixed results at Coppin and the jump from the MEAC to Big Ten would be massive. Šarūnas Jasikevičius, who played for Williams from 1994-1998, is a very successful EuroLeague coach but has never coached in the college ranks.
With the next coach unlikely to have played at Maryland, it’ll be important for him to build his staff with the history of the Terps in mind, according to Elmore and Garrison. Dixon was a special assistant for Turgeon from 2013-2016, but other than that, Turgeon didn’t have any assistants who had played at Maryland.
“You look at some of the finest programs in college basketball, whether it be Duke or some others, look at the connection to their past history,” said Elmore, a college hoops analyst for Fox Sports and the Big Ten Network. “We don’t have that. I think that’s what we have to get back to. [If] the head coach is an outsider, he has to recognize the history and embrace it.”
There has been no shortage of outsiders mentioned as possibilities for the job opening, including Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl. The 61-year-old Pearl has run the show at Milwaukee, Tennessee and Auburn, bringing a combination of energy, personality and on-court success to each stop. Most recently, Pearl took Auburn to the Final Four in 2019, and he may have a team capable of making a similar run in 2022.
It seems unlikely that Pearl would leave Auburn, where he’s coached since 2014, or that Maryland could pay him enough to lure him away. (Pearl is under contract through the 2023-24 season at about $4 million annually.) Regardless, Elmore says he would “absolutely not” consider Pearl for the position because of his past run-ins with the NCAA.
Those issues include recruiting violations at Tennessee, which led in part to his 2011 firing. He was suspended two games by the NCAA this season as part of the investigation into a former assistant.
It’s enough for Elmore to go in another direction.
“I’m not saying that Bruce is a bad guy. In fact, he’s a good guy,” Elmore said. “But you just don’t want [improprieties] attached because you invite scrutiny that otherwise is undeserved.”
For more from Elmore, listen to the full interview here:
For more from Garrison, listen to the full interview here:
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