Kevin Willard, Juan Dixon among the top five potential candidates to replace Mark Turgeon as head coach of the Maryland basketball program.
The college basketball world received a shock on Friday afternoon when Mark Turgeon announced he was stepping down as the head coach of Maryland basketball.
Turgeon had held the position for over 10 seasons and guided the program from the ACC to the Big Ten with success. He led the Terrapins to five of the last six NCAA Tournaments and won a share of the Big Ten regular-season title in 2020.
However, he had only advanced to the Sweet 16 once (2016) and was never able to get the fan base to buy in at any point in his tenure. That unhappiness with Turgeon reportedly played a major role in his decision to walk away. In fact, Turgeon expressed some interest in leaving Maryland his past offseason for the Wichita State job, which ultimately didn’t open when interim coach Isaac Brown received the permanent title. He was also linked to the Oklahoma opening before the Sooners hired Porter Moser.
The Maryland job is held in high regard around the country. It’s not a top-tier position on the same plane as blue bloods, but it’s a top-15/20 job nationally thanks to the school’s resources, dedication to basketball and recruiting footprint. It’s a job that will garner a lot of interest and Maryland is looking for a coach who will both keep the Terps in Big Ten contention annually and recruit at a high level.
Danny Manning has been named the interim head coach and will get the first crack at the permanent job. He does have major head-coaching experience, having served that role at Wake Forest from 2014-2020 following a successful stint at Tulsa, but he only led the Demon Deacons to one winning season.
If he’s able to turn Maryland’s season around, there’s no doubt Manning will be seriously considered for the permanent job.
Who else will the school look to permanently replace Turgeon? Here’s a list of 10 games to keep an eye on:
The “have-to-include” options
Rick Pitino, Iona
Pitino remains the only coach implicated in the FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball that lost his job. As such, some of the stigma that surrounded one of the best coaches in the sport’s history has faded away at the same time he has Iona playing at an extremely high level. The biggest roadblocks here are his age (69) and Maryland’s willingness to take on Pitino’s baggage for what likely won’t be a long-term solution. But, given Pitino’s pedigree, he’ll be in the conversation.
John Beilein, Pistons advisor
The same goes for Beilein, who has been out of the college game for two and a half years now. He’s available after a failed stint in charge of the Cleveland Cavaliers but hasn’t shown a lot of interest in returning to the college game after not seriously looking at any openings this past offseason. At 68 years old, he may very well be content in his current role as an advisor for the Detroit Pistons.
Juan Dixon, Coppin State
There’s already a groundswell of fan support behind Dixon, who was the star of Maryland’s only national championship team. He’s also the most notable alum who’s coaching in college. However, he’s still a long shot because of his lack of success at Coppin State (losing record in each of his first four seasons).
Kim English, George Mason
Terrapin fans got an up-close look at English as a head coach when George Mason knocked off Maryland in College Park. He’s one of the most respected young coaches in the sport and would bring a renewed energy to the program. English is also from the area, which should only help with recruiting, an area in which he already excels. That said, English is only 33 years old and in his first season as a head coach. Is he ready for a job this big? The Maryland brass may want to see how George Mason performs this season before putting him with more proven candidates.
Quality mid-major options
Mike Rhoades, VCU
Rhoades has been successful at one of the area’s best mid-major programs in VCU. He has strong ties to the area and is well-respected despite not having an NCAA Tournament win on his resume. He’ll likely only be a backup option because of not yet finding success in March.
Ritchie McKay, Liberty
McKay is going to be an interesting case. The 56-year-old has turned Liberty into a perennial mid-major threat by recruiting and developing talent in the same geographic footprint as Maryland. That said, he has already failed at bigger jobs like Oregon State and New Mexico. Would the Terps want to gamble again?
Mark Schmidt, St. Bonaventure
Schmidt is at the top of the mid-major list. His head-coaching experience goes all the way back to 2001 when he took over Robert Morris, and he’s been at the helm of St. Bonaventure since 2007. In that time, he has led the Bonnies to three NCAA Tournament appearances (2012, 2018, 2021) and won two Atlantic 10 titles (2016, 2021). His teams have also been consistent and able to maintain a high level of play over multiple seasons, and he has a top-25 caliber team this year. However, that team is composed almost exclusively of seniors. Is now the time for the 58-year-old to try his hand at the power conference level?
Proven high-major options
Kyle Smith, Washington State
Most of Smith’s coaching experience has been on the West Coast, where he has been successful rebuilding programs in San Francisco and Washington State. Coaching Maryland would be a different challenge, but he is originally from the state and appears to be in line for a bigger job sooner rather than later.
Andy Enfield, USC
Enfield is another coach from the area having grown up in Pennsylvania and attended college at Johns Hopkins. He has also done a really good job in his nine seasons at USC, particularly on the recruiting trail — which appeals to the Terps. The Maryland job is also an upgrade over USC, but is it enough for him to leave what he has going in Los Angeles?
Kevin Willard, Seton Hall
Willard appears to be something of the favorite at the moment. He grew up in and has spent his entire coaching career in the Northeast. Seton Hall has become one of the Big East’s most consistent programs during his 12-year tenure, including a streak of four straight NCAA Tournament appearances — it would’ve been five if the 2020 tournament had been played — that was snapped last season. Willard has proven he can attract talent and develop it, making him a very attractive candidate.