The Plight of University of Maryland Basketball

Gary Williams sudden retirement last week from a basketball program he lead for over 20 years put the spotlight back on those who question how good a coach he really was.  I was never a Gary Williams fan, and while he was a winner, he also was tough to work with and work for.  Gary’s dealings with former Athletic Director Debbie Yow are a perfect example where he publicly bashed her numerous times especially in 2008 when he did not get his way recruiting two individuals.

Many will point to his 2001-02 NCAA Basketball title and his other Final Four appearance, but it came at a time when top programs like Duke, Kansas, and UCLA were not getting top talent because high school kids were jumping straight to the NBA.  Maryland beat a weak Indiana team that had one marginal pro in the championship game.

What saddens me the most as a University of Maryland fan is that Gary never developed a strong coaching tree where he had a natural successor.  Rick Barnes, who was an assistant when Gary was at Ohio State, is by far the most notable.  The rest of the list is weak at best, especially for a coach that was at the same place for 22 years.  Compare that to Jim Boeheim at Syracuse or Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, both programs Maryland fans like to compare themselves to, where multiple natural successors are in place already, with former assistants lined up around the block if any of the successors don’t work out.  When Gary left, not one mention was made of trying to bring back someone who played at Maryland or coached at Maryland to take over.

Now we have a new coach in town in Mark Turgeon, who ironically enough comes from the Dean Smith coaching tree at UNC via Larry Brown at Kansas.  So while Gary’s legacy is a winning program and a 2002 NCAA Title, Gary also managed an 8% graduation rate and never developed a successor to the program.  Maryland is not a top 10 coaching job and it never was, and that we can thank Gary for.