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.”