Maryland misery: What happened and what’s next for the Terps?

March 15, 2011 | Luke Jones

Still, those calling for the end of Garyland should notice what’s transpired in Raleigh over the last five years. After chastising Herb Sendek and his five consecutive tournament appearances, N.C. State turned to alum Sidney Lowe in 2006. A formerly-prestigious program — with two national championships to Maryland’s one — claimed it needed a new vision to get back to the success it enjoyed in previous generations. Wolfpack supporters instead received five straight years without an NCAA tournament trip and an 0-9 record against Maryland before the maligned Lowe’s departure on Tuesday.

Anyone can ask for someone better, but finding the right man for the job is the tough part, with far more misses than home runs historically.

Just ask the superior Tar Heels when they hired Matt Doherty.

Remember the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, even when yours appears to be browning.

Unquestionably, the peaks haven’t been as high and the valleys have been lower since 2002, but Williams’ many critics were applauding his efforts as recently as last season when Maryland shared the ACC regular-season title with Duke.

Next year might be Williams’ best chance to regain that elusive model of consistency with a talented recruiting class joining the current crop of freshmen. Of course, it all hinges on the plans of sophomore Jordan Williams who will explore his NBA prospects. His potential departure would paint a different picture entirely, though draft projections and an ominous labor showdown in the NBA would logically point to the 6-foot-10 forward returning for his junior season.

The Terps desperately need a perimeter threat or two, and help is supposedly on the way with City College star Nick Faust and New Jersey point guard Sterling Gibbs. Frontcourt depth will be a concern — even with a returning Williams — but Martin Breunig, a 6-foot-9 forward from Germany, will join James Padgett, Berend Weijs, and Ashton Pankey in what figures to be a cloudy equation.

Of course, Maryland’s recruiting deficiencies in recent years are well-documented and cannot be overlooked by even the coach’s biggest supporters. Continuity within the coaching staff is critical if the Terps are to climb back into the top 25 consistently. The revolving door of coaches coming and going over the last decade, ranging from Billy Hahn and Jimmy Patsos to Dave Dickerson, Mike Lonergan, and Chuck Driesell, does no favors for recruiting and would make any head coach’s job more difficult, let alone one who relies heavily on his assistants to recruit.

We’ll begin to see the results of assistant Bino Ranson’s local efforts this fall with the arrival of Faust. But continuing to attract talented local kids is a must if Maryland wants to recapture that comfortable feeling it enjoyed for so many seasons on Selection Sunday.

It’s tough feeling optimistic with the season’s aftertaste lingering in the collective palates of Terps supporters, but fortunes can turn quickly. Even the 1993 team that finished with a 2-14 conference record included talented freshmen Johnny Rhodes, Exree Hipp, and Duane Simpkins. A year later, two freshman named Joe Smith and Keith Booth joined them, and the young Terps found their way to the Sweet 16 and on their way to the most successful 10-year run in school history.

While it’s doubtful next year’s team will produce a once-in-a-generation talent like Smith, the potential is there for a formidable team in the ACC.

Next year will likely tell whether Williams can get Maryland back on a similar trek before his College Park story reaches its denouement. He likely won’t be around long enough to guide the Terps back to the same heights they reached in 2002, but that might never happen again in these parts, regardless of who’s employed as the next head coach.

Even the most loyal Maryland fans sometimes forget how truly special that championship was, bordering on the impossible considering the depths from which the program had to rise.

And it’s the exact reason why Gary Williams deserves every opportunity to try to put this program back on a similar path.

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