University of Maryland men's basketball coach Mark Turgeon is on the clock.
The Terrapins are finishing their third straight disappointing season under Turgeon with no realistic chance of reaching the NCAA tournament -- barring a miraculous Atlantic Coast Conference tournament run -- and maybe not even an NIT appearance.
This is not acceptable.
Maybe Turgeon inherited a depleted roster when he arrived in 2011, but college basketball is a year-to-year sport, and everything after that first season is all on Turgeon. The current 15-13 team, 7-8 in the ACC, will probably finish 16-15 after traveling to Clemson March 2, and hosting Virginia Tech March 4 and Virginia March 9. With a first-round ACC tournament loss, Maryland would have a 16-16 season.
That's all on Turgeon. If he recruits players that don't execute plays as told, he picked the wrong players. If the Terps don't have a real point guard, that's on the coach.
The bottom line is winning. Turgeon is 57-41 overall at Maryland and 21-28 in the ACC. So far during his tenure, the Terps have finished eighth during the 2011-12 season and seventh during the 2012-13 season, and they are currently in a three-way tie for seventh in the conference.
Maryland is a basketball school. Anything football does is a bonus, despite university officials selling the school to the Big Ten for football TV revenues. Basketball has long dictated the pulse of College Park.
Gary Williams spoiled Terps fans during his 22-year tenure with 461 victories and a national championship. Lefty Driesell didn't fulfill his pledge of turning Maryland into the UCLA of the East, but the Terps won 348 games from the 1969-70 to 1985-86 seasons. H. Burton Shipley won 253 games from the 1923-24 to 1946-47 seasons, while Bud Millikan gained 243 victories from the 1950-51 to 1966-67 seasons.
Indeed, Maryland boasts four successful coaches who lasted at least 17 years and three with losing marks during three years or less before Turgeon.
Much more was expected when Turgeon signed an eight-year deal. His Texas A&M squads made the NCAA tournament all four seasons. He raised Wichita State from 9-19 to Sweet 16 during five seasons.
But Maryland has not progressed during three seasons. The Terps are still playing sloppy, fouling needlessly and not running plays as designed. They're too undisciplined for a team that's not talented enough to overcome poor efforts. Indeed, junior guard Dez Wells' 14.9 points-per-game average and sophomore forward Charles Mitchell's 2.7 offensive rebounds-per-game average are the Terps' only statistical averages ranking in any ACC top 10 category.
Even worse, the Terps faithful seems to have lost the faith, with average attendance only 12,318 in the Comcast Center, which holds 17,950. The place is half empty all too often.
Turgeon merits one more season, and if there's no improvement, then Maryland has to consider a change. Williams needed four years before his 11-year tournament streak, but three of those seasons were under NCAA sanctions for his predecessor's infractions. Still, patience proved worthwhile when waiting for Williams to turn around the program.
Adding former Terp Juan Dixon to the coaching staff is a big help. Assistants are so underrated in college sports. Williams didn't recover from losing Dave Dixon and Jimmy Patsos, especially when it came to recruiting. Turgeon gains a local hero in Dixon, the leader of the 2002 national crown, who's also in players' ears and toughening them up.
But it all comes down to whether Turgeon can find a team that doesn't lose close games and beat itself. The Terps expect madness each March, and so far, there has only been sadness.