COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Mark Turgeon was introduced as
Texas A&M's basketball coach Tuesday, just five days after Billy
Gillispie left for Kentucky.
Turgeon comes to Texas A&M from Wichita State, where he led the
Shockers to a 17-14 record last year, including 8-10 in the
Missouri Valley Conference.
He was introduced at a news conference in a conference room
above Reed Arena before being welcomed by about 2,000 A&M fans at a
pep rally style event in the arena. The band played and fans
whooped and hollered and some displayed signs that said things such
as "Howdy" and "Welcome Turge, Gig Em."
Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne presented Turgeon with a
maroon jacket before raving about his new coach.
"When we lost Billy last week we were very disappointed because
he had worked so hard to take us to places we've never been at
Texas A&M," Byrne said. "When he left our goal was to get
somebody to continue to lead us there and take us beyond that.
That's why we started looking at Mark."
He takes over a team that Gillispie took from an 0-16 Big 12
record to its first trip to the NCAA Tournament round of 16 since
1980 in three seasons. Texas A&M finished with a school-record 27
wins and was ranked in the top 10 for most of the season.
Turgeon and Byrne have known each other since 1990 and he said
the athletic director was key in his decision to take the job.
"I felt like it was a great opportunity for me," Turgeon said.
"I was at a special place and a place that was very good to me and
it was going to take a special place and a special man and a place
where I knew we could be successful to leave. I've had
opportunities to leave before and nothing excited me the way A&M
Turgeon was 128-90 in seven seasons at Wichita State. He led the
Shockers to three consecutive 20-plus win seasons from 2004-2006,
culminating with a trip to the round of 16 in the 2006 NCAA
Turgeon met with players at Wichita State on Monday night after
taking the Aggies job and he became emotional when discussing that
"It's hard and I'm here today because of those players and I
told them that," he said, choking back tears. "I hope they're not
as mad at me as they were last night."
His first head coaching job came at Jacksonville State, where he
led the team to a 25-29 record from 1998-2000. Turgeon also served
as an assistant coach at Kansas under Larry Brown and Roy Williams,
and was an assistant at Oregon and with the Philadelphia 76ers.
As a player at Kansas, Turgeon became the first player in
Jayhawk history to appear in four straight NCAA Tournaments and was
part of the 1986 team that reached the Final Four. He led Hayden
High in Topeka, Kan., to back-to-back state championships as a
player in 1982 and 1983.
"I was able to watch A&M play quite a bit this year I was
impressed with how driven they were, how hard they played and how
they competed," he said. "I want to be around young men like
that. It's a special group."
Turgeon inherits a team that returns several starters, including
6-foot-9 Joseph Jones, top defender Dominique Kirk and three-point
shooting ace Josh Carter. Promising freshman Donald Sloan and Bryan Davis, who both got significant playing time in 2007, will also be
All the returning members of the team were at the announcement
and wore white T-shirts that had "Turgeon 2007" printed over a
picture of a basketball goal.
"He wants to win. That's the main thing," Jones said.
"Winning and taking good care of us, making us better young men.
He wants to see us all succeed and to succeed as a team. So I have
nothing but good first impressions of him."
Turgeon met with the team for a few minutes before the
The Aggies were eliminated by one point in the regional
semifinals by Memphis in their second straight appearance in the
tournament. It was their school-record third straight 20-win season
and marked the first time Texas A&M had made back-to-back
Atop the list of tasks for the new coach will likely be
persuading A&M's top recruits to remain committed to the team.
The biggest name among the list is Houston's DeAndre Jordan, who
the recruiting Web site Rivals.com calls the eighth-best recruit in
the country. The 7-footer is also considered the top recruit in the
state. Also on the priority list will be keeping Derrek Lewis of
Tulsa, who is one of the top five recruits in Oklahoma.
Turgeon said he would be contacting the Aggie recruits Tuesday
afternoon and will work to keep them committed to the school.
Gillispie turned down Arkansas to agree to a new contract with
the Aggies that increased his salary $500,000 to $1.75 million.
School officials said he'd sign the contract when he returned from
the Final Four, but he bolted for Kentucky instead