What's next for Texas A&M Aggies?

May, 10, 2011

Now that Mark Turgeon's move to Maryland is complete, the question turns to who will replace him at Texas A&M, a rising basketball job that looks nothing like it did throughout the 1990s and early into the 2000s.

The Aggies now are a serious Big 12 player, and this season's team has a realistic chance to win the conference, especially in light of early-entry defections at Kansas and Texas, which should bring those two programs closer to the pack.

The facilities at Texas A&M are considered to be among the best in the country: Each locker sits at 6 feet wide and includes a flat-screen television; the practice facility is open 24 hours for the players; and the home court, Reed Arena, is slightly above average. College Station is within 90 minutes of Houston and about three hours of Dallas, and the athletic department generates enough revenue from football to offer up plenty of amenities for the basketball program.

"It has gone from a terrible basketball school to one that is pretty good," a former Aggies assistant said. "Billy Gillispie won and Mark Turgeon won."

Texas A&M's decision to make a commitment to basketball altered the landscape in the Big 12, if only a little bit. Kansas and Texas still dominate the league, but by improving their facilities, for one, the Aggies ensured they could be much more competitive.

The proof is in the results: The Aggies suffered an NCAA tournament drought from 1987 to 2006, when Gillispie tapped into something special and took Texas A&M to the second round of the tourney in his second season before reaching the Sweet 16 in 2007.

After Gillispie left for Kentucky after the 2006-07 season, Turgeon took over and reached the NCAAs in each of his four seasons.

Now comes the tricky part: Can Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne pry former Gillispie assistant Buzz Williams away from Marquette? Williams is the obvious choice to replace Turgeon because of his Texas ties, but it would be extremely difficult for him to leave Marquette.

According to sources, Williams would listen to Texas A&M, but it's probably unlikely he would depart.

According to sources with knowledge of Williams' situation, his contract at Marquette would be tough to manage, even for the Aggies. Williams makes close to an estimated $2 million annually and agreed to a six-year rollover contract after Marquette reached the Sweet 16 this past March. A buyout of Williams' contract would be $2 million.

Sources said Marquette isn't worried about losing Williams to Texas A&M because of the prohibitive nature of his contract and because Marquette's current roster has the Golden Eagles positioned to challenge for the Big East title this season. Also, Texas A&M isn't Texas. If the Longhorns had called, it would be a different story, much in the way no one at Marquette begrudged Tom Crean's departure for Indiana.

Another factor working against Williams' move to College Station is that he would then have to recruit directly against his former mentor, Gillispie, who recently was hired at Texas Tech, while Texas recruits much more nationally.

So, if Williams is out of the picture, where do the Aggies turn next?

Memphis coach Josh Pastner is from Houston, but he just signed a new deal at Memphis and has a top-25 team returning. If Sean Miller had left Arizona for Maryland, it might have been difficult for Pastner to turn down his alma mater had the Wildcats come calling.

If Byrne wants to stay in-house and follow successful models that schools such as Pitt, Butler and Gonzaga have followed with great success, assistant Scott Spinelli is the choice. Spinelli has an offer to join Turgeon's staff at Maryland but would embrace the chance to be in the mix for the head-coaching position in College Station.

Nebraska coach Doc Sadler, a good friend of Gillispie and Williams, received a vote of confidence from athletic director Tom Osborne after this past season, but he would make sense as a possible replacement for Turgeon. The Huskers are off to the Big Ten next season -- would Sadler want to compete with Gillispie in the state?

Colorado State coach Tim Miles, who is doing a nice job rebuilding the Rams, and Tulsa's Doug Wojcik are well-liked and respected and would be off-the-radar hires for Byrne, much like Turgeon was when he arrived from Wichita State. So, too, would a coach such as Northern Iowa's Ben Jacobson. Byrne also worked at Oregon with current Colorado coach Tad Boyle, who coached under Turgeon at Wichita State. North Texas coach Johnny Jones could be a viable alternative, too, since Texas high school and AAU coaches are extremely provincial, as one high-major assistant with strong Texas ties remarked.

This will be an interesting test for Byrne and the Aggies. Prior to Turgeon's arrival, there was perception that Texas A&M didn't need or couldn't get a "name" guy. The job has changed and the timing of this opening does alter the equation, but this job should still be considered an attractive destination because of the facilities, the recruiting base and a roster that is ready to win at a high level.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer



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