Gary Williams is to blame for Terps coaching search saga, not Anderson

May 09, 2011 | Drew Forrester

Maryland and Kevin Anderson have now reached day four of their basketball coaching search and all they have to show for their efforts are a bunch of men who would have been a good fit had one of them said “yes”.

Four days to hire a coach at one of the country’s top 30 basketball schools?

Seems crazy, doesn’t it?

But that’s what happens when your former coach picks the absolute worst time to pack his bags.

Since no one else will say it, I guess I will.  You can blame this coaching-search saga on Gary Williams and his decision to wait nearly eight weeks after the Terps season concluded to inform the University of Maryland that he wasn’t going to coach in 2011-2012.

I wrote on Friday that perhaps it is time for Gary to go, even after 22 successful seasons and all the polite wordsmithing that took place at the press conference announcing his sudden retirement.  What I never once said, or wrote, was that the timing was right.  It never was, from the minute I first heard the news with the rest of Maryland on Thursday afternoon.

I understand the irony here.  The man who rebuilt the school’s basketball program and turned it into a national power is also the man who, right now, is mostly responsible for the possibility that the program might once again be in need of an overhaul.

I still don’t know why Gary didn’t just pack it in right after the Terps were booted out of the ACC tournament in mid-March. Waiting until May 5 – or, perhaps, waiting until Jordan Williams confirmed he wasn’t going to return – didn’t make any sense when I heard it on May 5 and it still doesn’t make any sense now.

And that’s the reason Kevin Anderson can’t hire a basketball coach.  Or, at the very least, it’s why Anderson can’t hire the coach he wants.

It’s one thing to botch a coaching dismissal/departure the way Anderson completely bungled the Ralph Friedgen fiasco, but this one can’t possibly be linked to the new Athletic Director.  All the money in the world obviously couldn’t get Sean Miller to leave Arizona or Jay Wright to leave Villanova.  And that’s too bad, because the Maryland job is a good one.  It’s not a Syracuse or Florida or Kentucky or Michigan State kind of job.  And it’s clearly not “one of those can’t-turn-down-jobs”, as Miller proved on Saturday night when he conveniently said “no thanks” right after Arizona sent him a bunch of new money. But the Terps job opening is one that could have been filled much easier had Anderson been operating from a position of strength in April instead of a position of pressure in May.

Gary Williams should have known better than to walk away on May 5.  Why not just wait until Labor Day?

The Terps are going to wind up hiring “someone else” rather than a top notch candidate and that’s too bad for the school and for the guy who gets the gig.  This, frankly, is the way Georgia Tech or Wake Forest would handle a coaching search, except Georgia Tech had one of these in March/April and they handled it better.

I always knew Gary’s departure from the school would be ugly, but I didn’t expect it to be disorganized too.

I hope the Terps land a quality coach.  If it turns out to be Mark Turgeon from Texas A&M, so be it.  If it’s another one of the young up and comers like Alabama’s Anthony Grant or Richmond’s Chris Mooney – as some have speculated it might be – that’s OK too, although all three of those guys would clearly be “page 2″ hirings compared to the big fish like Wright or Miller or even Notre Dame’s Mike Brey.

At this point, unless somehow there’s a major change of heart from a big name, Maryland’s almost guaranteed to make one of those page 2 hirings.  Some folks around the country and fans here in the mid-Atlantic are of the opinion it’s “an embarrassment” to Maryland basketball if they wind up hiring a Turgeon-type.  I’m not so sure it’s an embarrassment, but more so an indication that it’s hard to hire a prominent name on May 9.

One of the biggest problems facing the Terps is the mere fact that mid-major coaches who in the past might have done backflips to sign on at Maryland and coach in the ACC are no longer making $250,000 a year and in need of that big, fat contract to put them over the top financially.  Guys like Shaka Smart are now making over $1 million a year at a place like Virginia Commonwealth.  He wouldn’t make much more than that at Maryland if they wanted him.  So why leave the security of VCU and the CAA for the powerful ACC and a yearly battle with Duke and North Carolina?

Brad Stevens (Butler) and Mark Few (Gonzaga) are two of the more successful and popular mid-major coaches, but their compensation package is such that moving to anyplace except one of those legit, “can’t turn down” schools like Duke or Kansas or UConn or UCLA makes no sense for them.

That’s just another reason why Gary’s decision to leave on May 5 was a hiring-wrecker for the Terps.  This really isn’t about Maryland not being a good job or Kevin Anderson not knowing what he’s doing or anything like that.  This is simply about bad timing.

I still can’t figure out for the life of me why it all took place the way it did and I’m sure Gary’s never going to REALLY explain the timing of his departure to any interested party.

But no matter the explanation – unless it was health related – I know for sure the May 5 departure was wrong for Maryland.

And I know that because four days into the process, the Terps still don’t have a coach. And they certainly didn’t get the guy they wanted in the first place.

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