Three decades after Len Bias' tragic death rocked the University of Maryland, two former Terps have published a book remembering Bias and his legacy.
Walt Williams, a forward for Mayland from 1988-1992, and Tony Massenburg, a forward from 1985-1990, wrote "Lessons From Lenny: The Journey Beyond a Shooting Star," a collection of conversations between Williams and Massenburg about Bias, his death and the difficulties the university endured for years.
"Me and Tony first laced them up together 30 years ago in 1988. I was a freshman, he was a junior," Williams said on
Glenn Clark Radio
Dec. 19. "Over the years, whenever we've hung out, we always talk about our playing days and there's always a conversation about Len Bias. The book is just a conversation between Tony and me about the impact Len had on us. We had a joy in being able to document these things."
The book includes interviews with former Maryland coaches Lefty Driesell and Gary Williams, both of whom are enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, as well as former players such as Juan Dixon.
"People know the tragic story involving Len, but many don't know about the aftermath, what happened after that," Walt Williams said. "How we [rebuilt] as a university from 1988 to NCAA champions to where the program is today. And we felt like it is more remarkable than people know."
After Bias' tragic death in June 1986, the school was embroiled in turmoil and faced NCAA sanctions for the conduct of Bob Wade, who was the Terps' head coach from 1986-1989.
Williams, a top local high school recruit from Temple Hill, Md., could have easily transferred to a different school to get away from the chaos, but instead, he stayed, in part because of his loyalty to the school and also because of his love for Bias, his childhood hero.
When he was a kid, Williams and his friends would emulate Bias on the playground.
"I didn't really have dreams of becoming an NBA player or emulating an NBA player out on the basketball court. I just wanted to be Len Bias, so that was a big reason I wanted to go to Maryland," Williams said. "Up until that point I had never paid attention to ... how [players] got to the NBA or where they came from, but when I saw Len Bias I saw that he was a guy who was a dominant player in college.
"I knew that he was from the Prince George's County area like I was and so I started to follow that. He made me see the heights that you could reach."
The book, he said, offers two different perspectives: one from Massenburg, who played with Bias, and the other from Williams, a young player who looked up to Bias as an idol. Williams was keen on returning the program to prominence in the aftermath of Bias' death.
"I wanted to have that same impact and I felt that the only way I could do that was at the University of Maryland, even when we were going through the turmoil," Williams said. "And that's what makes the book so intriguing."
Was Bias the best player Williams saw?
"Oh, absolutely," Williams said. "He's somebody we saw and have not seen it again, the elevation on his jump shot, how purely he could shoot. Just how effortless he could score inside and out. Just how he played the game, there hasn't been anyone who reminds you of that. We haven't seen anyone who remotely reminded you of him."
In fact, Bias' jumper was so pure it made Williams a Maryland fan the moment he saw it.
"My dad was from North Carolina. He took me to a UNC-Maryland game," Williams said. "I saw Len Bias pull up and shoot that jumper and I was amazed how pretty it was. It just stood out. It turned me into a Terp fan. I was a Terp fan from that point on after seeing that jump shot."
After an 11-year career in the NBA, Williams is now the sideline reporter for the Maryland Sports Radio Network and gets to see the development of the program he helped save up close. This season, head coach Mark Turgeon's team is loaded with young, unproven talent, but Williams sees potential in the group.
"As these kids go along, they are [getting] a lot of experience," he said. "You go into games apprehensive because of how much you have to rely on young players, but I think they've shown early on they come into games with a lot of poise, they don't get caught up in the moment. They play like they've been there before. Collectively, that's a little bit unique."
A key for the young Terps moving forward, Williams said, is developing more depth. Turgeon's rotation has often shrunk to six in crunch time this year.
"When you have a six-man rotation, unfortunately, you have to keep guys in there an extended period of time," Williams said. I think guys like [guard] Serrel Smith and [forward Ricky] Lindo have to prove to the coaches that they can have extended periods of playing time so that they can add a little bit more depth, but I think that will happen over time.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Maryland Athletics
"It's expected for a young freshman to not have that poise and consistency. The learning curve is pretty high. I think those guys will prove themselves before season's end."
To hear more from Williams, listen to the full interview here: