The ACC coaching carousel began during the NCAA Tournament, as the ACC lost Sidney Lowe, Paul Hewitt, and Frank Haith from NC State, Georgia Tech, and Miami respectively. Then came yesterday’s news that Maryland men’s basketball coach Gary Williams was retiring. Honestly, I thought he would be one of those coaches who would have to be carried out in a casket for his coaching career at Maryland to be over.
The fiery head coach from NJ (yes I hear alot about him because he’s a local guy for me), was a big reason why the Duke-Maryland rivalry began to surpass the UNC-Duke rivalry in recent years. His competitiveness rubbed off on his players, none more so than recent alum Greivis Vasquez. Both became very ‘hated’ at Cameron Indoor Stadium by the Crazies.
Williams’ retired as the longest-tenured DC-area sports figure. He led his 2002 Terrapins to the National Championship and spent more than three decades at Maryland (he also was a guard with the Terrapins from 1964-67). He held a career 461-252 record at Maryland, including 14 trips to the NCAA Tournament and two trips to the Final Four. The Terrapins also won or shared the ACC title three times.
However the legend is more known for his frenzied style of coaching (he sweated more than his players and he rarely took a seat on the bench). Many believe he should be inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame (as do I), and former AD Debbie Yow (who did not share a great relationship with Williams) believes that his name should be on the Comcast Center’s court (the home of the basketball team).
Williams also was a GREAT coach. Look at the current NBA playoffs and you will see Steve Blake and Vasquez playing. Neither were considered great players coming into Maryland, but both became stars and All-Americans under Williams and have succeeded in the NBA.
â€œI love Gary. What he has done for Maryland and for college basketball is remarkable,â€ Coach K told reporters. â€œHe is one of the great coaches of all time. He is a coachesâ€™ coach and an ultimate competitor. His retirement is a big loss for the ACC and for college basketball.â€
But Williams was more than just a great coach. He was a great person. Take this example from former Dukie Jay Bilas in his column:
“I went to the Middle East with Williams to coach U.S. Army teams in a tournament called Operation Hardwood. Williams coached a group of soldiers from Wisconsin, and in a short week of coaching these soldiers, he won supporters for life. In talking with the soldiers on Williams’ team one day, I could tell they revered him. One went so far as to say, “I’d take a bullet for him.” It was a remarkable statement from that Wisconsin soldier, and it was a remarkable statement about Gary Williams.”
Williams will stay on at Maryland to serve as the assistant athletic director.
I know I’ll miss Coach Williams patrolling the sidelines when Duke plays Maryland in the upcoming basketball season.