Gary fighting with Maryland: Embarrassing for all…

January 28, 2009 | Drew Forrester

Anyone who has listened to me over the years at WNST knows my #1 sports axiom: “The toughest thing to do in sports…is to stop losing.”

When your car breaks down, you take it to a mechanic and he (or she) knows how to repair the problem. And, if for some reason they don’t know how to fix it, there’s a manual – or web-site these days – that will give them the steps to take to get the job done.

If your faucet starts leaking, you call a plumber and it gets fixed.

Where’s the coaching manual on how to fix a team that’s losing?

There isn’t one.

I might not know exactly how to fix the woes that are smothering the Maryland basketball program right now — but I definitely know what WON’T fix the problem(s).

Gary Williams fighting with the administration:  Won’t fix it.

The administration fighting with Gary: Won’t fix it.

If you haven’t seen this article yet, you may want to check it out, as it’s the latest chapter in Gary-Gate. The whole thing has now blossomed into an ill-timed word-scuffle about how the Terps have stumbled so much over the last six games.

Gary is telling folks he had a couple of players who would have helped this year’s team, but both (Gilchrist and Evans) scampered off for varying reasons…and he’s hinted that the school’s administration didn’t exactly help keep them on campus at College Park.

The administration has relayed a different story, saying Williams knew what was going on the whole time, approved Gilchrist’s departure, and discovered some new information on Evans that he assumed wouldn’t have gone over well with Athletic Director Debbie Yow.

Unfortunately – for both parties – now is not the time to air dirty laundry.  

You would think both of them would be smarter than this…but they’re evidently not…or they’re just looking for a fight.

Gary Williams is in a fight for career-continuation right now.  His team is struggling, his program has taken a significant step backwards over the last five years, and, more importantly, it looks like it might not be getting better anytime soon.

Still, the administration and Kathleen Worthington should be trying to help Gary through this down-time.  

I don’t consider a “he said/she said” newspaper article six games into the ACC campaign to be “trying to help”.

Sources say Worthington appeared in the post-game interview room after last night’s loss to Boston College at the Comcast Center.  Two different people both labeled that appearance “rare”, although Debbie Yow is a regular at Ralph Friedgen’s post-game press conferences.  So, while it’s not an eye-opener to see a member of the team’s athletic department or administration listen in to a coach discussing the game with the media, it’s probably not a coincidence that Worthington showed up out of nowhere last night and decided – on the same day she spoke with The Sun about Williams – to sit in and listen to what Gary had to say after that loss.

I’m no mind reader, but I’d say Worthington was in the room just to make sure Gary didn’t have free reign to hold court with the gathered press corps in the event more questions came up about the players he has and the players he doesn’t have.  Clearly, Sun writer Jeff Barker contacted Worthington during the day Tuesday to get her quotes for the article I linked above – and she must have known that Gary offered a counter-point to what his perceptions were of the departures involving Gilchrist and Evans.

Why Gus Gilchrist and Tyree Evans aren’t in Maryland red is NOT important right now.

Beating Boston College last night was important.

Winning over Miami on Saturday is important.

Creating friction with the coach over players who can’t help him win on Saturday is bush-league.  That said, Gary helped grease the skids for the back-and-forth serve and volley affair with Worthington by discussing the situation with The Sun.  I’m surprised, frankly, that Gary fell for that trick.  Gary Williams should have said:  ”I have a basketball game to win tonight vs. Boston College.  And, after that, I have a game to win against Miami.  I see no reason right now to talk about Gus Gilchrist and Tyree Evans.”

That approach – taking the high road – would have been the best way to go for Williams.  He could have, naturally, knocked on Worthington’s door yesterday afternoon and said to her privately – “Hey, I have games to win and you babbling to the newspaper about those two players and trying to pin it all on me just serves to aggravate me and get me thinking about stuff that takes away from preparing for Boston College.”

I seriously doubt that Gary Williams is pleased with The Sun’s story today.  It paints the picture of a program fractured.  It gives the impression that Gary’s trying to spin some of the blame in the direction of the suits – and they, in turn, have decided they won’t let Gary forget that it was he, not them, that “lost” those two players.

Gary might feel good about the way he defended himself.  But, that article in The Sun is not good for the on-going account of “what’s gone wrong” with the Maryland basketball program.  It’s also not good that Williams spiked the conversation with a snarky, “she’s never won a national championship…” comment when talking about Worthington’s role with the program.  Of course she hasn’t won a national championship, Gary… – if one could give a coach a technical foul for saying something inappropriate, I’d “tee up” Williams for that one.  It was a fan-flamer…and the hotter the fire, the tougher it is to put out.

What’s gone wrong at Maryland is simple:  Gary hasn’t brought in enough good players to compete at the top of the ACC.  Some will blame his coaching ability, some will blame the kids and their performance, and some will say “sports is cyclical and this is the way it goes…the other schools are trying too.”

All of those issues might have some validity.  It’s usually not just one thing that leads to drop-off in winning.

But a coach battling the administration in the newspaper over anything – or the administration battling the coach, whichever way you see it – is just not productive for all who are associated with the program.

I haven’t seen “the manual” on how to fix losing — but I’m almost sure there’s not a chapter in there that reads:  ”When all else fails and your program is going through a tough time, pick a public fight with the Athletic Director, Compliance Director, Coach, or other significant member of the school’s administration.

What’s the old saying?  Loose lips sink ships…

I think I hear the captain now:  ”Folks, we’ve encountered a problem and there appears to be a hole in our boat…”

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