MIKE BURKE

Allegany Radio Corporation Sports

It’s like this – Maryland’s men’s basketball team is playing better and better each game, even in successive losses at Iowa and Illinois. The Terps have direction; they have a plan; they’ll even get better as the season goes on, just you watch.

It’s also like this – It won’t matter. Maryland just isn’t very good … not very good at all.

Interim head coach Danny Manning was dealt an impossible situation by his friend and college teammate Mark Turgeon, the former head basketball coach at the University of Maryland, who walked eight games into the season because he was booed while walking off the court after his team’s listless and lifeless loss at home to Virginia Tech.

I would have bet every Brooks Robinson baseball card I own that Turgeon, who I have always liked very much personally, would have resigned during the past offseason, because, really, even if we liked him very much (which, we do), nobody, the fans, the boosters and, most importantly, Damon Evans, the Maryland athletic director felt he should stay. And this was why Evans gave him a two-year contract extension that actually made it more economically feasible for Maryland to cut ties with him.

So, perhaps, that is why Turgeon walked eight games into this season. He got his and Maryland got what it wanted with a not-so-big hit on the buyout.

This cannot be pleasant for anybody in the Maryland athletic department, particularly the basketball players, particularly the most recent players who transferred to Maryland, and particularly interim head coach Manning, all of whom came to College Park because of Mark Turgeon.

Nothing on or about this team fits. It’s merely a collection of players who were available, but who do nothing in their respective games to complement the respective games of their teammates or the team as a whole.

They are woefully overmatched and it is inexcusable that they are.

This is what Turgeon left his friend and former teammate to deal with, when he probably understood last summer that his heart was no longer into this gig at the University of Maryland.

Yet, it in just over a month, the Terps are already better coached and have far better direction than at any time since Gary Williams was the head coach. They’re just not meant for each other, and it shows. Just as Mark Turgeon was not meant to start this season as the head coach.

And that will continue to show for some time.

The upcoming hire of the new head coach will be the biggest hire Damon Evans ever makes in his career and the most important athletic hire for Maryland since Lew Perkins hired Gary Williams.

The next hire better be a big one, and a great one – not Randy Edsall; not Mark Turgeon. It has to be a big-time head coach who knows he’s coming to a top 10 or 15 coaching position, which Maryland is, to return this program to the big time.

When Lefty Driesell came to Maryland, he said at his introductory press conference he planned to make Maryland “the UCLA of the East.”

Not long after his Maryland team won the 2002 national championship, Gary Williams said in his usual emotional and emphatic way, “The thing I never understood … why, we as a university, didn’t believe we could do it.

“We took some shots, no doubt about it; and maybe we were responsible for some of those shots, you know … But that doesn’t mean we can’t be great.

“What I think we did helped the university. And just pointing out to all doubters, ‘Here we are, you know? What are you going to say now?’ “

Gary Williams’ drive, ambition, belief and love for his school showed that Maryland can be and is great.

So now it’s up to Damon Evans.

It’s time for Maryland to have that again and to be that again.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Radio and Pikewood Digital. He began covering sports, including University of Maryland basketball, for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT