One-on-One with Mark Tur­geon: How Video Defines the Scout­ing Process

One of the NCAA’s top coach­es shares how he uses video to pre­pare Mary­land for upcom­ing opponents.

One-on-One with Mark Tur­geon: How Video Defines the Scout­ing Process

One of the NCAA’s top coach­es shares how he uses video to pre­pare Mary­land for upcom­ing opponents.

HOUS­TON — If there was ever any doubt about how impor­tant video study is to col­lege coach­es, Mark Tur­geon squash­es that thought almost immediately.

An assis­tant on the USA Bas­ket­ball U18 squad that won the FIBA Amer­i­c­as U18 Cham­pi­onship in Chile, Tur­geon knows a thing or two about lead­ing a team. Enter­ing his 19th sea­son as a head coach (his sixth at Mary­land), he’s already cap­tured four con­fer­ence Coach of the Year awards — one Mis­souri Val­ley, two Big 12, one Big Ten. Tur­geon has learned the impor­tance of prepa­ra­tion and used it to vault him­self into the upper ech­e­lon of col­lege coaches.

Video has played a big­ger role in his rise than most casu­al observers might real­ize. In fact, Tur­geon esti­mates that an assis­tant spends 20 – 30 hours watch­ing video for every oppo­nent. He’ll watch six to eight hours him­self, depend­ing on how famil­iar he is with the oppo­nent or its coach.

If that seems exces­sive, it’s not. In a one-on-one con­ver­sa­tion dur­ing USA Basketball’s prepa­ra­tions in Hous­ton last month, Tur­geon dis­cussed just how crit­i­cal video is to his scout­ing process, what he looks for when watch­ing and how he feeds that infor­ma­tion to his players.

Video is huge for us.”

These are the first words Tur­geon uses to kick off the inter­view. He watch­es all that he can, break­ing down an opponent’s sets, sec­ondary break strate­gies, rebound­ing and ball screens. If the oppo­si­tion excels on fast breaks, Tur­geon will zone in on that. 

The staff puts extra atten­tion on close games — Tur­geon and crew will always watch the last four min­utes of any game decid­ed by five points or less. No detail is too small to overlook.

For about six months it feels like you’re just watch­ing video after video,” Tur­geon said. But it’s para­mount for what we’re try­ing to accom­plish as a bas­ket­ball program.”

Tur­geon locks in on the ten­den­cies dis­played by both the oppos­ing play­ers and coach­es. If a team runs a cer­tain play more often than oth­ers, Tur­geon will ded­i­cate more prac­tice time to defend­ing that action. Sim­i­lar­ly, if an oppos­ing wing play­er dri­ves right far more than he dri­ves left, Tur­geon will instruct his defend­er to shade more toward that hand.

There are a lot of ways we can use video to get those stats,” he said. That’s a lot of work for my guys and they put a lot into it. Left shoul­der, right shoul­der for a post play­er, we break it down that way.

When it comes to per­cent­ages defen­sive­ly and offen­sive­ly for an indi­vid­ual play­er, is he turnover prone? Is he an assist guy? Is he a real­ly good shoot­er? Is he a bet­ter shoot­er from the right cor­ner than the left cor­ner? I have a great staff and great film guys that do a tremen­dous job of help­ing our play­ers get pre­pared in a real­ly fast manner.”

All the time spent prepar­ing through video leaves Tur­geon armed with an ency­clo­pe­dia of valu­able infor­ma­tion. But gath­er­ing the break­down data is only half the bat­tle — shar­ing the infor­ma­tion with his play­ers is a dif­fer­ent obstacle.

Play­ers have nei­ther the time nor the atten­tive­ness to take in as much data as coach­es do. If Tur­geon unleashed all the video he and his staff gath­er on the ath­letes, they would be over­whelmed, and most of the insights would like­ly go in one ear and out the oth­er. Play­ers might think too much dur­ing games, try­ing to recall dozens of instruc­tions instead of play­ing instinctively.

Turgeon’s expe­ri­ence has taught him how to avoid those poten­tial pit­falls. His oppo­nent break­downs are rarely longer than 12 min­utes, hit­ting on the most impor­tant oppo­nent ten­den­cies with­out drown­ing his play­ers in information.

The same goes for self-scout­ing. Maryland’s post-game video ses­sions are gen­er­al­ly brief, though some con­tests require longer breakdowns.

Tur­geon will occa­sion­al­ly have play­ers watch video on their own time. Each lock­er in Maryland’s prac­tice facil­i­ty is equipped with an iPad that allows ath­letes to study both game footage and the playbook.

But Tur­geon does try to lim­it how much study­ing play­ers do on their own time, espe­cial­ly the younger ones. He’d rather they get their infor­ma­tion from the coach­es dur­ing team ses­sions than make their own judgments. 

We don’t real­ly want them form­ing their own opin­ions on how to guard some­body or whether it’s a good shot or a bad shot for them per­son­al­ly,” Tur­geon said. But when you get a vet­er­an around, they watch a lot more on their own. Jake Lay­man for us was a vet­er­an last year. He’d been through it, so he’d be sit­ting at his lock­er watch­ing film.”

The USA Bas­ket­ball expe­ri­ence was a unique one for Tur­geon. The last time he was an assis­tant coach was 1998, but he took a back seat to head coach Sha­ka Smart for the U18 Cham­pi­onship.

Such an ego check might have been dif­fi­cult for a coach with his resume, but Tur­geon took it as a learn­ing oppor­tu­ni­ty. Hav­ing pre­vi­ous­ly coached under titans Lar­ry Brown and Roy Williams, Tur­geon real­ized this was anoth­er chance to improve at his craft.

If you have that approach to your coach­ing career, it allows you to stay fresh and stay suc­cess­ful,” he said. It comes down to pas­sion and real­ly want­i­ng to help peo­ple be successful.

In the end, I couldn’t be my high school coach. I couldn’t be Lar­ry Brown. I couldn’t be Roy Williams. I had to be Mark Tur­geon, and that’s what they gave me. I’m not a dum­my. I soaked it up like a sponge. When I was with them I learned and took the good from everybody.” 

That includes video study. Tur­geon has his philoso­phies, but they are ever-evolv­ing, and he’ll incor­po­rate some of what he learned from Smart and fel­low assis­tant Kevin Ollie into the way he approach­es video in the future.

I want to be great. I don’t want to be good,” Tur­geon said. I want to be great, so I’m always try­ing to get bet­ter and try­ing to learn.”

It’s clear that video has been one of the cor­ner­stones of Turgeon’s career. See how Hudl can up your game.

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