Turgeon leaves Wichita State for Texas A&M job
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Mark Turgeon was introduced as Texas A&M's basketball coach Tuesday, just five days after Billy Gillispie left for Kentucky.
Prior to last season, Wichita State had improved its win total in each of the past five years under coach Mark Turgeon.
|Career coaching record: 128-90|
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 excited me."
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 Tournament.
Turgeon met with players at Wichita State on Monday night after taking the Aggies job and he became emotional when discussing that meeting.
"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 back.
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 announcement.
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 tournament appearances.
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
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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