Someone else is going to coach Maryland basketball?
Another man is going to care as much as Gary Williams?
Answer to the first question is, of course, yes…someone else is going to walk the halls of the Comcast Center and be called “coach” by players, staff and faculty.
I’m not so sure the the answer to number two is yes. In fact, I’m fairly certain it’s probably “no”.
Like most folks – in and out of the media – I’ve kept up with the stories, the quotes, the press conference and everything else connected with Gary’s sudden departure on Thursday afternoon. I’m still not sure why he quit like that, so abruptly and all, nearly five weeks after the NCAA championship game. It’s not Gary’s style to throw in the towel. I’m guessing, even though he adamantly denied it, that Jordan Williams’ departure was the final blow…the message that finally hit home for the 66-year old Williams. “Maybe it’s time to go.”
And you know what?
Gary just might be right on this one.
Maybe it IS time for him to go.
He might be smarter than all of us.
Maryland basketball will go on without Gary Williams, the same way the Celtics went on without Red Auerbach, UCLA went on without John Wooden, the Cowboys went on without Tom Landry and the Yankees went on without Joe Torre.
Someone will coach the team in 2011-2012 and that man will win games in College Park.
We tend to look at these iconic coaches and wonder how life will go on without them. And yes, I’m well aware that Williams isn’t as “nationally” iconic as Auerbach, Wooden, Landry and Torre, but on Route 1, Williams won’t ever have to pay for another meal as long as he lives. I call that iconic.
And we assume the next guy won’t be better.
So we worry and fret and overwhelm ourselves with thoughts about the short term viability of the program.
But someone else is going to come in and do just fine.
If it’s Sean Miller, or maybe even Jay Wright, he’ll do things his own way and it’s likely it won’t resemble the way Gary did it. That’s OK, too. Gary’s style wasn’t for everyone, that’s for sure.
Maybe the next coach will be a balls-to-the-wall recruiter. Gary wasn’t one of those, as we all know. That didn’t make him a bad recruiter, per-se. After all, you don’t win national titles and compete like the dickens in the ACC if you don’t get good players to play for you. But Williams never wanted to be the guy who chased players around like they were in possession of the Da Vinci Code.
The next coach, though, might be one of those recruiting madmen who enjoys the concept of going toe-to-toe with “the other Williams” or Coach K or Jim Calhoun or Jamie Dixon.
And if that’s the case…if Maryland hires a gung-ho recruiter, perhaps that’s the different style the Terps need moving forward.
On the court, Gary’s unique flex-offense philosophy almost certainly won’t be repeated or utilized by the incoming coach, although Sean Miller has, at times, used something close to that at both Xavier and Arizona.
But the new coach will have his own beliefs and his X’s and O’s playbook will be different than Gary’s was, for certain.
And you know what? That’s OK, too. Gary was a great coach, but anyone even halfway paying attention over the last 5-7 years or so has noticed a drop-off in the team’s success. There are reasons for that, naturally, and without question Terps basketball was always better WITH Gary Williams at the helm than WITHOUT, but something in the last few years wasn’t clicking at College Park.
But I think there’s a decent chance that Maryland basketball will be just fine in the post-Gary Williams era. The foundation is set, mainly due to the man who stepped down yesterday, but it’s not like the new guy is inheriting a perennial bottom feeder in the ACC. It will be odd at first, for certain, and some boosters who were Gary backers might move on and take their money with them, but the new guy will endear himself to power-people over time and the show will go on.
Nothing is forever. That’s the life lesson we were reminded of yesterday when word leaked out that Gary Williams was stepping down after 22 years at Maryland.
I sort of thought he might actually go on forever, or until one March morning in about 2033 when the janitor found him on the floor in a heap somewhere in the Comcast Center, dead from exhaustion or just plain tired of coaching basketball at age 88.
I figured Gary would always coach at Maryland.
But I also assumed the end, whenever it came, would be ugly.
That was probably my biggest fear, knowing how Gary is and all. I figured when the time came for the boom to get lowered, Williams would pitch a fit of epic proportions.
He did himself a favor yesterday, avoiding the inevitable “tough talk” that Kevin Anderson or any other Athletic Director sitting in the hot seat at Maryland would never, ever want to have on his or her watch.
In the end, like he did night after night as a coach, Gary Williams did it “his way” yesterday when he bid farewell to the Maryland basketball program.
And I’m guessing he knows something we don’t know. Make that, “he knows two things we don’t know”…
He knows the time is right to call it a day.
And he knows someone else can come in behind him and win games at the Comcast Center.
On Gary Williams Court, no less.