Bud Millikan won’t be remembered for Final Four appearances, national championships, or multiple ACC titles during his 17 seasons (1950-1967) as men’s basketball coach at the University of Maryland.
His 243-182 (.572) record and 1957-58 team’s ACC title and NCAA Elite Eight appearance is impressive but not overwhelming. Millikan helped usher in a new era of basketball in College Park as his Terrapins moved from Ritchie Coliseum to the legendary Cole Field House, but you won’t find a plethora of championship banners from his tenure hanging in the rafters.
Instead, the legacy of the late head coach can be found in the accomplishments of the players he coached.
Billy Franklin went on to coach Bowie High School.
Joe Harrington coached at George Mason, Long Beach State, Colorado, and currently serves as the director of men’s basketball student services at Maryland.
Terry Truax led Towson, and Billy Jones was the head man at UMBC.
And, of course, his point guard and team captain in 1967 was a young man named Gary Williams, currently in the midst of a Hall of Fame coaching career and 21-year tenure at Maryland that includes the school’s first and only national championship.
Coaches are ultimately—and understandably—judged by their win-loss records and number of championships won, but perhaps a more appropriate factor to consider is the impact left on the people they teach. Anyone who participated in a team sport at some point in their life can recall the influence a coach had—good or bad.
Most players take a coach’s lessons to improve their play in their respective sports and then move on with the rest of their lives, but a select few take these lessons with them to one day become coaches themselves.
That’s not to say the protege always becomes the carbon-copy of the mentor. Mike Krzyzewski will never be confused with the fiery Bobby Knight, but the lessons learned from his playing days at Army under the temperamental coach helped shape one of the finest coaches in the history of the college game.
Bill Walsh may always be defined by his three Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers, but isn’t it equally impressive to study the extensive coaching tree from his tutelage that has extended throughout the NFL over the last 20 years? Even former Ravens coach Brian Billick is a descendant and now finds his own former assistants making names for themselves as head coaches.
Millikan’s accomplishments as a head coach may not dazzle Terps fans of later generations, but his impact on Maryland basketball cannot be understated. To hear Williams speak about his college coach says it all.
“To have that many coaches come off one team shows that if you listened, you picked up a lot of good things. He was a tough coach and if you wanted to play, you did things his way.”
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
For any Maryland fan that’s savored the last 21 years under Gary Williams’ leadership that has lifted the program from the ashes of Len Bias’ death and NCAA probation to heights that once seemed unimaginable, Millikan deserves recognition for helping shape the coach that would one day guide a skinny underdog from Calvert Hall and a big kid from Silver Spring to the Georgia Dome in 2002.
And the rest was history.
In the final second, as Juan Dixon hurled the basketball toward the top of the Georgia Dome roof, Bud Millikan probably didn’t cross the mind of anyone watching except his former point guard—and the most important figure in the history of Maryland basketball.
When we reach the pinnacle of our respective careers, we cannot help but think of the people that helped us along the way. Undoubtedly, Williams had to be thinking back to the many lessons on man-to-man defense and tenacity acquired from his college coach in the mid-1960s.
And for that, Maryland fans should offer a few simple words to the late Millikan’s memory.
Thank you, Coach.