Maryland hoops: Faithful getting restless?

January 15, 2009 | Drew Forrester

At some point, losses like the one suffered by the Terps last night have to stop.

Losing is one thing.  It happens all the time.

Squandering a 17-point lead in the game’s final 12 minutes…now that’s another story.

It’s still far too early to panic if you’re a fan of Gary Williams and the Maryland basketball program.

Let’s be clear on one thing:  I am NOT advocating that Maryland make a coaching change.

Not in the least.

But the ’08-09 campaign is an important one for Maryland and, particularly, for Gary, because the faithful are starting to get a tad restless.  The “unfaithful” jumped ship a year ago, or maybe three years ago, when the Terps couldn’t win late season games against the likes of Virginia, Boston College, Clemson and Virginia Tech.  In 3 of the last 4 years, the Terps have failed to earn a spot in the NCAA tournament.  In each of those three years, Maryland coughed up late leads and lost important games down the stretch in ACC play. Those defeats generated a mass exodus from the “unfaithful”.

Now, even the faithful are getting worried.

I’m one of them.

Gary’s locked in at Maryland, mainly because he’s been ultra-successful and has a fat, guaranteed contract to show for it.  It would be extremely difficult for Athletic Director Debbie Yow to terminate Gary and pay him a ton of money for sitting around.  Remember, when you fire a coach and have to pay him, you also have to hire a coach and pay him, as well.  Firing the coach isn’t as easy as, well, firing the coach.

This is a Maryland team that will more than likely battle right down to the final game or two of conference play before either making it into the NCAA tournament – or not.  At the start of the season, I thought Maryland had the goods to go 9-7 in the conference earn a spot in the big dance.  I still feel that way now. After all, they’re only 1-1 in ACC play.  

Losses like the one they suffered last night at Miami – and last week at home to Morgan State – are particularly unsettling because quality teams don’t gag away games with double digit second half leads.

It’s one thing if you go down to Miami and the Hurricanes shoot 47% from the field and win a nip and tuck affair, 62-60.  Hey, both teams are trying, right?

But when you hold a 17-point lead on the road and you can’t put that game away, something’s wrong.

When you own a 14-point advantage at home and you’re playing a mid-major program from a conference that routinely features a single “one and done” entry in the NCAA tournament – and you lose the lead and the game…something’s wrong.  With all due respect to the outstanding job Todd Bozeman has done at Morgan State, the Terps can’t lose that game to the Bears.  They did, of course.  

And that’s why it’s starting to be worry-time at College Park.

There’s no sense in breaking down what Maryland’s problems are on the court.  They have plenty of them. But so do a lot of schools in the ACC, SEC, Big East, etc.  Maryland doesn’t have a true big man.  They haven’t had one for a while, in fact.  Some call that a recruiting issue – and those that do point to Gary and say, “he’s not getting the right kids”.  There’s truth in that.  

Rather than break down Maryland’s issues, let’s just stick with the theme:

Maryland needs to turn it around.

And it’s Gary’s job to do it.

It’s his basketball program.

He’s the one that made it into something special – and he got the praise, the contract, the extension and the money for that hard work and success.

Now, with the team bobbing along trying to keep its head above water, Gary needs to fix the program.

I’m sure Gary is working as hard right now at trying to win games as he ever has…there’s no doubt in my mind losing games like the one he lost on Wednesday in Miami are tearing him up.

But those kind of losses can’t continue at Maryland.

In the ACC, you’re either flyin’ – or, dyin’.

Right now, Maryland’s not flyin’.

And, if they wind up missing out on this year’s NCAA tourney, I think it’s time to take a long look at where the program is headed under Gary Williams.

Let’s see where the next 2 months takes Maryland and their coach.

The faithful are getting restless.

That’s usually step number one, unfortunately.

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