Would Mark Turgeon really leave Maryland for Oklahoma?

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Would Turgeon really leave Terps for Oklahoma? originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

On Thursday, a major head coaching position in college basketball became available suddenly when Lon Kruger retired at Oklahoma. 

The 68-year-old coach called it a career after his seventh NCAA Tournament appearance in nine possible tournaments with the Sooners. And with his departure, the second-biggest coaching search of the offseason (behind Indiana) began. 

One of the names that immediately popped up on shortlists to fill the opening? Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon. 

Two of the sports' most prominent writers both speculated that Turgeon is a coach that Oklahoma should consider. He's from that part of the country growing up in Topeka, Kan. and more than fits the bill for the position.

Now, before anyone takes offense to someone leaving College Park to go to Norman, there are many ways this makes sense for Turgeon. Throughout his career, there are several ties back to the Big 12 conference and the central U.S. Additionally, his long-term job security may be in question. 

Prior to his job with Maryland, most of Turgeon's coaching history came in the central part of the country. Turgeon went to school at the University of Kansas in Lawrence just 30 miles from his hometown and then joined the Jayhawks' coaching staff as an assistant to the legendary Roy Williams. 

The 56-year-old began his head coaching career at Jacksonville State in Alabama before heading back to Kansas at Wichita State and then Texas A&M. Aside from his brief stint on the 76ers' bench, Turgeon has no other ties on the East Coast other than Maryland and would be in familiar territory. 

Then you also have to factor in the current situation with the Terrapins. In 10 seasons directing Maryland, Turgeon has seen moderate success with the program. He's coached Maryland to five out of the six possible NCAA Tournaments, but only making it to the second weekend and the Sweet Sixteen once.  

For a Terps' fan base spoiled by years of success under Hall-of-Fame coaches Lefty Driesell and Gary Williams, many believe that just doesn't cut it. It didn't help matters when the coronavirus shut down Turgeon's best season in College Park, where the team won a share of the Big Ten regular-season title and was more than capable of a March Madness run. We'll never know how far they could have gone.  

The pressure has been on Turgeon to perform and he knows it. After winning the 2020 Big Ten title, he addressed the crowd in the Xfinity Center saying the "thousand-pound gorilla" was finally off his back.

A year later and another second round exit in the NCAA Tournament and that gorilla may have stuck around. The discontent from the fan base hasn't gone anywhere. 

Oklahoma would represent a fresh start in an area of the country he is quite familiar with. It wouldn't just be leaving for any position. The Sooners were NCAA runners-up to Kansas' Danny Manning and the Miracles in 1988 the year after Turgeon graduated. Billy Tubbs was the head coach.

They made the Final Four in 2002 - the year Maryland won its first and only championship - and an Elite Eight in 2003. Kelvin Sampson, now at Houston, was the head coach then. Jeff Capel took Oklahoma to an Elite Eight in 2008-09 and Kruger was in the Sweet 16 in 2014-15 and the Final Four again in 2015-16. That's sustained success over 30-plus years under four different coaches.  

This could be ideal for Turgeon, a competitive situation and a way to escape all of the drama surrounding his status with the Terrapins where his contract is down to two years with no word of an extension coming from Athletic Director Damon Evans. Not yet anyway.   

And Seth Davis believes "the smart money" is on Oklahoma pursuing Turgeon. ESPN's Jeff Borzello said it would be a wild card but realistic option

Oh and another layer to all of this? Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione is a College Park alum. 

OU probably isn't an upward move for Turgeon or any coach. Resource-wise, Maryland has the upper-hand there and there isn't a big difference between the Big 12 and the Big Ten. At best, it would be seen as a lateral move to another solid program.  

But if Turgeon's cell phone rings with an Oklahoma area code, it would make a lot of sense for him to pick it up.