Maryland hoops is about to hit the brakes

I'm not talking about the forward momentum of the program. If you'll recall, I happen to think Mark Turgeon is a very solid coach, better than any realistic candidate any of his detractors could name.

No, I'm talking more about Turgeon's style of play, and how Maryland fans will greet that style after rooting for former coach Gary Williams' brand of uptempo, fast-paced basketball. Turgeon and Williams have been compared on a variety of things -- their emphasis on X's and O's, doubts about their recruiting ability, and so on -- but perhaps the biggest change for Terps fans will come in the speed at which the game is played.

We don't exactly need Ken Pomeroy's excellent new Coaching Résumé database to make this assertion; anyone who has watched either coach knows Turgeon's squads are slow and Williams' teams are (or were) fast. But just how wide is that gulf?

Texas A&M Under Mark Turgeon

Adjusted Tempo/National Rank

  • 2008: 63.2/No. 296

  • 2009: 65.0/No. 231

  • 2010: 65.6/No. 246

  • 2011: 62.2/No. 326

If you care to look at Wichita State's pace under Turgeon, the result is much the same. His teams are typically among the slowest in the nation. This was especially true of his most recent squad, which ranked above only Penn State, Wisconsin, and Old Dominion in adjusted tempo among teams that made the NCAA tournament.

By contrast, Williams' teams have always been fast, and sometimes they play at a breakneck speed matched by few other Division I outfits.

Maryland Under Gary Williams

Adjusted Tempo/National Rank

  • 2003: 74.0/No. 17

  • 2004: 72.9/No. 15

  • 2005: 75.5/No. 2

  • 2006: 74.1/No. 5

  • 2007: 72.6/No. 15

  • 2008: 71.2/No. 33

  • 2009: 67.3/No. 128

  • 2010: 70.3/No. 46

  • 2011: 71.6/No. 17

Williams lives his life a quarter-mile at a time. OK, so that's Vin Diesel. But still, that is a mighty fast eight seasons in College Park, Md.

What does this all mean? Nothing more than what it says. There are no inherent value judgments tied to pace. Sure, plenty of fans -- myself included -- happen to prefer fast-paced basketball, but that's a matter of entertainment, not effectiveness. It doesn't matter how many possessions you use. What matters is how you use those possessions. For most of his career, Turgeon's teams have been solidly (if not spectacularly) efficient. His A&M teams typically thrived on the margins. They weren't great shooting squads, but they rebounded the ball and got to the free-throw line, and their defense was frequently excellent.

That said, there are two reasons Turgeon might consider pushing the pace.

For one, it could help endear him to Terps fans who rather like Williams' uptempo style. That's simple enough.

Two, it could help in recruiting. We've seen countless coaches speed their styles in the hopes of marketing their programs to young players, who by and large seem more fond of fast-paced, freewheeling basketball than the slow, deliberate style preferred by Turgeon and his spiritual brethren in the Big Ten. It's not a determining factor; one of Maryland fans' biggest complaints about their beloved coach centered on his inability to land top recruits in recent years. As we saw above, Williams was playing plenty fast throughout those years. But if Turgeon is in a hurry to prove he can expand Maryland's recruiting success, maybe a boost in pace could help. It certainly couldn't hurt.

More likely than not, though, Turgeon will keep his proven style intact in College Park. Maryland fans may take a moment to adjust to the disparity in pace between their former coach and their new one. Replacing the tortoise with the hare is always going to be a shock to the system.