Bob Lutz

Turgeon vs. Boyle: Battle of best friends

Mark Turgeon needs a win. His Texas A&M basketball team is in a deep funk, having lost four of its past five games to fall to 4-4 in the Big 12 and to No. 22 in the national rankings after rising into the Top 10.

Tad Boyle also needs a win. His Colorado team, after an attention-grabbing 3-0 start in the Big 12, has dropped five of six.

Tonight, when A&M plays at Colorado, one team will win and one team will lose and neither coach will have fun.

This might be a one-time only meeting for Turgeon and Boyle, former Kansas basketball teammates and friends who coached together at Oregon, Jacksonville State and for six years at Wichita State, where Turgeon was coach and Boyle his top assistant.

They are buddies. Their wives are buddies. They each have three kids and they're all buddies. Several buddies of the two buddies will be in the stands tonight, keeping their mouths shut and their allegiances secret.

"I'd rather not compete against my good friends,'' Boyle said. "And Mark is one of my best friends. I wouldn't be coaching college basketball if it wasn't for him. I'd still be a stock broker in Boulder and coaching high school basketball.''

Boyle, who is from Greeley, Colo., was a junior at KU when Turgeon arrived from Topeka Hayden. It didn't take long for them to become close; both knew they eventually wanted to become coaches because of Larry Brown's influence.

They hopped around some before setting in Wichita in 2000, intent on breathing life into Wichita State's program.

Building almost from scratch, they had the Shockers to 20 wins by their fourth season and to the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 by their sixth. Boyle then left to be the coach at Northern Colorado and Turgeon, after suffering through a difficult season with the Shockers in 2006-07, took over from Billy Gillispie at Texas A&M, where he has guided the Aggies to the NCAA Tournament in each of his three seasons.

They talk often. So do their wives, one of whom is excited about tonight's game and one of whom wants to throw up just thinking about it.

"I'm excited they get the opportunity to face each other,'' Ann Boyle said. "Both of them are fiercely competitive, so it should make for an interesting game. But if they could put on a uniform and play each other, I think they'd be happier.''

Boyle is in his first season at Colorado, a program that has been down for decades. Being a native, he's always thought of the CU job as a dream job, while others have seen it as a coaching graveyard.

There were few expectations at A&M before Gillispie led the Aggies to three straight 20-win seasons for the first time in school history. He parlayed a 27-7 record in 2006-07, and a Sweet 16 appearance, into the Kentucky job, where he lasted only two seasons.

Turgeon was able to pick up where Gillispie left off, but is going through a difficult time now.

"Tad and I had been talking quite a bit early in the season,'' Turgeon said. "But with both of us losing more recently, we haven't really been in the mood to talk as much.''

Turgeon's wife, Ann, is sick about tonight's game. Though invited to go to Boulder and with an enticement of seeing old friends, she declined politely, but adamantly.

"There's no way in hell I would be sitting in that arena,'' she said. "I would just cry because it would just be so sad for me. I cry every time I watch Tad coach because I'm so proud of him and I miss him for Mark. It's hard for me, hard not to be around Tad and Ann.''

So instead, the two Anns will get together for a game when Colorado leaves after this season to join the Pac-12, when there's no competition to get in the way of their friendship.

Of course, while it's possible tonight's game will be the only time Boyle and Turgeon square off, there is a chance they could meet in the Big 12 Tournament at the Sprint Center in Kansas City next month.

But they would be fine if this is the only time they have to do this.

"I don't think either one of us has been really looking forward to this, to be honest with you,'' Boyle said. "I just know we better win this game or I'll never hear the end of it.''

Being the competitors they are, Turgeon and Boyle have gone at one another in a variety of games and sports over the years. They are cut-throat cards players and especially love to play gin rummy.

"I'm probably gonna beat him in that,'' Boyle said. "But on the golf course, I need strokes.''

The Wichita State reunion that will take place tonight goes deeper than the head coaches.

Boyle's coaching staff includes Mike Rohn and Jean Prioleau, both former Shocker assistants. Turgeon also has a couple of former WSU assistants on his staff, Scott Spinelli and Pooh Williamson.

"A few of their friends are going to be here,'' Ann Boyle said. "Jeff Dishman and Chris Piper are coming and Jeff Johnson is coming out from Wichita. We're trying to figure out if they're going to wear divided shirts or how we're going to do this.''

Ann Boyle has tried to talk Ann Turgeon into coming numerous times.

"Her comment to me is that she'd rather have hot pokers stuck in her eyeballs than to see Mark and Tad coach against one another,'' Boyle said.

Ann Turgeon said she might sneak a peek at the game on television. She does want to see the guys approach one another for the pregame handshake, realizing it'll make her bawl like a baby.

"It's going to be really tough for her to see either guy lose this game,'' Ann Boyle said. "But I feel like there's really not going to be a loser. It's just a great thing. They're both competing and may the best team win.''