Top Shock media darling

Ex-Jayhawk ‘Turg’ popular with press

By Gary Bedore,, Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Former Kansas University point guard Mark Turgeon, who has guided Wichita State into the NCAA Sweet 16 for the first time since 1981, is one popular mid-major basketball coach these days. Turgeon, 41, has been flooded with phone calls and e-mails from “coaches and fans in the (Missouri) Valley, my high school teachers, classmates at KU and other places,” since Saturday, when his Shockers defeated Tennessee, 80-73, in a second-round tournament game in Greensboro, N.C. “It’s been amazing,” he said.

Turgeon especially was surprised to hear Tuesday from his college coach, Larry Brown, now coach of the New York Knicks. Brown tutored the former Topeka Hayden standout at KU from 1983 to ’87 and hired him as a graduate assistant for KU’s 1987-88 national-title season. “He doesn’t call anybody ... except his wife,” Turgeon quipped.

Turgeon, who also worked on Roy Williams’ KU staff for four years before heading to the University of Oregon with former KU aide Jerry Green, has been a popular interview this week. National media have hyped the fact either Wichita State or George Mason on Friday will advance to the Elite Eight — one victory from the Final Four. Turgeon said his favorite interview was his Monday-morning appearance on the Jim Rome show. He also has been interviewed by national hosts James Brown, John Thompson and Doug Gottlieb.

“I’m tired of talking. My head hurts,” Turgeon said, adding, “I’ve tried to shield my players as much as possible. I’ve tried to take the bulk of it. My assistants (including former KU guard Tad Boyle) have been great. The attention has been phenomenal for the city of Wichita and Wichita State.”

Prior to this season — his sixth at WSU — Turgeon received the most media attention during his days at KU. Legendary is the story of his waltzing into Brown’s office after leading Hayden to its second straight state title and telling Brown, “You should recruit me. I’m better than any of the guards you have.” Brown offered the brash Turgeon a scholarship on the spot. “Coach changed that story a little bit,” Turgeon said. “I actually said I was as good as anybody in the program, not better than anybody they had. That caused me some problems with teammates when I got there my freshman year.”

The problems didn’t last long. The popular player was a two-time team captain who became the first player in KU history to play in four straight NCAA Tournaments. His career highlight was being a member of KU’s 1986 Final Four team, which lost to Duke in Dallas.

Current KU coach Bill Self was a graduate assistant that season; current director of student-athlete development Danny Manning was the starting power forward. “I’m happy as hell for ‘Turg.’ His team is doing great, and I hope they continue to win,” Manning said. “Turg obviously has done a great job at Wichita State,” Self noted. “They are a well coached, disciplined team. Their success in the tournament has shown that.”

Self takes no credit for Turgeon’s run as a coach. “Graduate assistants back then watched coach Brown coach,” Self said.

Brown is proud of his star pupil. “He’s just got it. Mark has a great feel for the game and a great way with kids. He’s going to be a star, if (he’s) not one, already,” Brown said.

Former KU guard Greg Gurley, who was a freshman during Turgeon’s final season on Williams’ staff, said everybody on the 1991-92 team, which went 27-5, knew Turgeon would become an excellent coach. “He was a player’s-type coach,” Gurley said. “Even then you said to yourself, ‘One of these days, he’ll lead his own program and be a great coach.’ He has such a boyish look to him. He’s a young, energetic guy, a tireless worker. Playing under Larry and coaching under coach Williams, Larry Brown and Jerry Green … that tree has paid big dividends for him.”

Turgeon realizes the growing media attention will be even greater if WSU (26-8) can handle George Mason (25-7) in Friday’s Sweet 16 battle at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., just down the road from Fairfax, Va., where George Mason is located. “We’re getting the attention this week because maybe they assume we’re going to lose,” Turgeon said. “But, c’mon, the final eight? In today’s world, Wichita State, that would be pretty special. “The pressure is off. Everything we do now is icing on the cake.”

If WSU does advance, the success and added exposure don’t figure to go to family man Turgeon’s head. He and his wife, former KU hoops manager Ann Fowler, have three small children — two boys and a girl ranging from 1 to 6 years old. “Just because you are prepared doesn’t make it easy. We have three little kids at home. I was up at 5:30 this morning, makes for a long day,” Turgeon said. “The kids don’t have a clue (about what’s going on with WSU’s team). That’s what makes it fun.”

Make no mistake about it: Wichita State is having fun. And WSU athletic director, Jim Schaus, is not concerned about possible job offers from power conferences that soon may come Turgeon’s way. “I can’t say enough about the coaching job he’s done,” Schaus told the Associated Press, refusing to acknowledge the rumors. “We’ll let him know how much he’s appreciated.”