Terps hoops: Yow’s endorsement was right thing to do…

February 03, 2009 | Drew Forrester

Yesterday was Monday.  That means the daily soap opera returned to the three major TV networks.

Down at College Park, the soap opera that is now “As the Terps turn” also made it back into the news.

Debbie Yow spoke out about “the rumors” swirling around town that Maryland and Gary Williams are at odds.

Debbie is fully supportive of Gary’s efforts.

Gary is happy to hear Debbie’s kind words.

Everyone is thrilled with everyone at College Park.

OK, if you say so.

First off, what *exactly* was Debbie Yow supposed to say yesterday?  Maryland basketball currently rests at 3-4 in the ACC and they’re in for the proverbial “fight for their lives” as it relates to qualifying for the NCAA Tournament in March.

Was it in Debbie or the school’s best interest to make some sort of controversial, tell-all statement about Gary and the downturn of the basketball program over the last four or five years?

Absolutely not.  In fact, last week’s media scrap was counter-productive for everyone involved.

I wrote about that concept last Wednesday when Associate A.D. Kathy Wortington barked to the media about Gary’s role in losing Gus Gilchrist and Tyree Evans.  During the season, unless there’s some sort of legal-incident that requires the school to take action and make public comment, it’s best for the athletic deparment to lay low and let the coaching staff do what they do best – prepare their “student-athletes” for the rigors of their respective seasons. 

Debbie Yow must be thinking along the same lines now.

Yesterday’s hastily arranged press conference and Yow’s public endorsement of Williams was her way of making everyone think that things at College Park hunky-dory with Gary and Company.  It didn’t work for me, personally, but I’m sure it served its purpose with the administration.  Remember, late last week, the Board of Regents – in between lunchtime glasses of wine and cobb salads – made a public statement asking that the “infighting” in the athletic department come to an end.

Apparently, both Debbie and Gary got that message loud and clear.

In fairness to Debbie Yow, she was NOT in town last week during the whole Williams-Worthington fiasco due to the death of her sister, Kay.  I feel very comfortable in saying this: had Debbie been around last week, almost none of this (last week’s tete-a-tete and yesterday’s love-fest) would have happened. 

But, it did. 

And, with Gary pursuing high school hotshot Lance Stephenson (some say he’s as good as O.J. Mayo), it’s important for EVERYTHING that comes out of College Park to be positive…not negative.   Anyone who follows college basketball recruiting knows guys like Rick Pitino and Bruce Pearl (and about 90% of other coaches in the game) will go to great lengths to point out to Stephenson that things aren’t peachy-keen at Maryland.  You can hear them now:  “Lance, why would you go to Maryland – haven’t you been following what’s been happening there?  Gary’s probably on his way out in a year or two and then where does what leave you?”

So, it’s important for Debbie and Gary to patch this thing-up as neatly as they can and move on to what really matters with the Maryland basketball program:  winning.

Gary is always quick to remind everyone how much success he’s had at Maryland.  He’s right, of course.  He took the program from totally geek to totally shic, to borrow a line from “Can’t Buy Me Love”.

But the other undeniable fact about Maryland hoops is that the program has dropped a notch or two over the last four years.  That’s on Gary too.  If Gary was the reason why the program went UP, he has to understand that he’s going to be looked at as the reason why the program is DOWN right now.  Fair is fair. 

That’s why he gets paid the big bucks.

However, while we’re all putting the heat on Gary to get the team fixed, we also have to understand that the Athletic Department has to work WITH him to help make that happen.  Working AGAINST Gary Williams during the season is unproductive.

And, ultimately, that’s why Debbie Yow’s public endorsement yesterday was the right thing to do for everyone involved.

It made the administration happy.

It satisfied Gary, albeit maybe only temporarily.

And it might have been good for Lance Stephenson and his family to see and hear.

All that matters is winning.

Gary knows that.

Now, he needs to do something about it.

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