Mark Turgeon: Father of Three, Father to Many More - Washington FAMILY Magazine: For Moms

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Mark Turgeon: Father of Three, Father to Many More

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Posted: Friday, June 8, 2018 12:56 pm | Updated: 1:55 pm, Fri Jun 8, 2018.

When Mark Turgeon leaves work after a long day, he heads home to his wife and their three kids, leaving behind his extensive “work family.” This includes 15 young basketball players, seven coaches, eight managers and two graduate assistants. As the University of Maryland Men’s Basketball Coach since 2011, this 53-year-old has just finished “a really hard year” — a year that he says was professionally maybe the most difficult thus far. In spite of a disappointing overall record of 19-13 for the season, Turgeon said, “I’m so darn competitive. I want to win the next game. I want to get the next player. Even after losing the Michigan game, I have a fire burning inside me right now.”

Competitive is not the first word that Turgeon’s wife, Ann, uses to describe her husband of nearly 25 years. She says that even with all his successes, “He has never changed. He is still the same honest, transparent man. He has passed his goodness on to his kids.”

Since moving to Kensington, Maryland in 2011, the Turgeon’s family life has changed. Now coaching in the Big Ten, Turgeon says he is busier than ever. But also, living in the D.C. area is very different from living in College Station, Texas as the head coach for Texas A&M, where he could go home for lunch. In addition, his own children — Will, a high school senior; Ella, an eighth-grader; and Leo, a sixth-grader — are much more active in their own lives with school, sports, theatre and other activities. So it is more difficult for them to travel with him. During the five months of the basketball season, especially during the fall semester, Turgeon is actually around home more often with only ten road games and fewer speaking engagements. During offseason, he is busy recruiting next year’s players. With superb high school basketball in this area, he is lucky to have a rich pool to choose from. But being in the Big Ten means he also travels to the Midwest quite a bit.

Turgeon stresses to his team the importance of a college degree, saying knowledgeably, “Only a handful of my players will retire from playing professional basketball.” He doesn’t attend their college graduations, because he “expects them to graduate.” He proudly quotes the statistic that he has “28 or 29 graduates in a row” (including a few he inherited when joining the program), and no one wants to be the one to break the chain. As a result, the assistant coaches are all assigned a few players to monitor and mentor, checking in on class attendance and grades. There are learning specialists to help struggling students, and tutors go on the road with the team. The kids may want sports more, but most value education and want to do well.

As their coach, Turgeon serves as a role model for these men both on and off the court in the way he lives his own life. He and his staff not only serve as basketball coaches, but also as life coaches — bringing in people to speak to the players on topics like etiquette and table manners, making good decisions, how to buy a suit and how to treat women. Turgeon said that it is all about learning disappointment versus triumph and being a good person. When they are down about losing a game, he tells them, “Wait until you have kids, losing a game is nothing compared to raising kids.”

Mark Turgeon: Father of Three, Father to Many More

The distinction between academics and sports is clear, however. When recruiting and meeting with a family, he tells them they can ask him anything: about basketball, about playing time … anything at all. But, after they sign, he tells them they can ask him about anything except basketball. He tries to read these potential players, to see if they will work hard, and if they can work for him. Yet he admits that he isn’t always right. “You can’t change someone, you can only make them better.” Sometimes, he has to give the “tough talk,” like when they work hard on the court, but not anywhere else.

His coaching instincts come from his mentor Larry Brown, his coach at Kansas University. It was there that the 5’10” 140-pound point guard was given the “tough talk” himself, one he admits was bittersweet. “He told me that I would never play in the NBA, but that I would make a good coach. He changed the whole course of my life.”

Turgeon counts himself lucky to have had several mentors throughout his basketball life. His father, Bob Turgeon, started the Topeka Youth Basketball program. His high school coach, Ben Meseke, along with his father, convinced him to go to Kansas and play there where both Brown and Roy Williams gave him his foundation as a future coach. His coaching style evolved and continued to change after he had children of his own. He developed more patience with his players, realizing that he didn’t want anyone yelling at his own kids one day. Conversely, being a coach has taught him a lot about being a father. Raising 15 kids a year on the court has meant that he has seen or heard almost everything. It has made him a better dad to his own boys and his daughter.

A Catholic with all three children in Catholic schools, his team prays before and after each game. Faith and family are important to him. Even though his parents divorced when he was young, and both subsequently remarried, together they sacrificed a lot for him and his four siblings. He grew up in a community of families with lots of children who all looked after each other. Even now, Turgeon’s extended family vacations together, including all his siblings and both his parents.

In the end, Turgeon hopes that his players will think back on him with the knowledge and acceptance that he “made them better,” even when he was “hard on them.” He has few regrets from his life and career. “My biggest regret is that I’ve never coached any of my own kids,” although, he laughingly admits that they probably wouldn’t be big fans of the idea. While he has many great memories as a player and a coach, including Kansas winning the NCAA Championship in 1988 when he was a graduate assistant, he feels his best memory hasn’t happened yet. His goal on the court each day is to “strengthen the one weakness” in each of his players, and to teach them to be good people who are humble about the basketball talent they have been given. However, both on and off the court, he lives by example, and says, “I just want to be known as a good person, a good husband and a good father.”

Michelle Blanchard Ardillo is a middle school language arts teacher and freelance writer. Follow her on Twitter or Goodreads @michardillo. To read more of her writing, see her website at michelleardillo.com.