By Stan "The Fan" Charles
I said at the time of his retiring that Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams wouldn't be a hard act to follow -- but rather an interesting act to follow. Williams' long legion of sycophants would have you believe that when he arrived at College Park, the Terps basketball program was the NCAA equivalent of the Baltimore Orioles of the past 13 seasons. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The Maryland program under the direction of Lefty Driesell was one of the top 10 programs in America from 1969-1985. It's not Driesell's fault that the NCAA tournament didn't have a 64-team field back then. Nor was it his fault Len Bias died from a cocaine overdose. Some of the fallout -- and his audacious behavior -- led to his resignation.
Unfortunately, a hasty decision was made to hire Baltimore's high school basketball nouveau legend, Bob Wade. If that term seems contradictory, I assure you it's by design. Wade was a prima donna, without the true resume to have warranted such petulant behavior. He was done after three years in College Park, never to be heard from again in big-time basketball.
Enter Gary Williams. True, Williams could have stayed at Ohio State and equaled the 22 years of sweat, tears and whining he put in at Maryland. But, his alma mater beckoned and he answered the call. And yes, the sanctions that Maryland got hit with were worse than imagined -- but Gary Williams was good enough and lucky enough to have had a key player, Walt Williams, stay the course and help steady the Terps' ship.
In time, through the '90s, Williams would win a lot more than he lost. He was an in-game genius.
Yet, his chip on the shoulder, always defending his approach to the media and administrators wore poorly on a lot of faithful Maryland fans. And don't forget one thing when you come to praise Williams: He was handsomely paid for working in athletic director Debbie Yow's sweatshop.
In somehow outlasting the feisty Yow, Williams won his final victory. It's a bit laughable how the head coach worked under Yow for more than a decade and nary a compliment came her way, and yet now he extols the virtues of Kevin Anderson just six months into their now-finished marriage.
New coach Mark Turgeon is cut of a different cloth from Williams -- just as Williams was vastly different in approach from Driesell. But, in 10 days on the job, Turgeon has probably accomplished more to set the Terps' basketball compass in the direction of W (winning) than Williams had during the past five years.
In working to immediately keep Bino Ranson and bringing in Dalonte Hill and Scott Spinelli to his staff, Turgeon has shown an ability to assemble a staff that can own the Baltimore-Washington corridor. One of William's last recruits, Sterling Gibbs, is the collateral damage -- it took him about 20 seconds to head to Texas. Goodbye, don't let the door hit you in the back.
Maryland has already landed its first new recruit, left-handed point guard Seth Allen. Additionally, Nick Faust from City has been recruited successfully … again. He's on board Team Turgeon.
Make no mistake, I didn't come to bury Gary Williams. It's just that I have a feeling naming the Comcast Center floor after him may be a bit premature. It's my strongest hope and belief that in the future fans just may want Turgeon's name on something special in the building, too.
Posted May 18, 2011