SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Former University of Maryland men’s basketball head coach Gary Williams was officially enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Friday night in Springfield, Mass.
“This is the biggest honor you can get as a coach,” Williams said during his induction speech. “I am truly honored to be a member of the [Naismith Memorial Basketball] Hall of Fame.”
Presented by Billy Cunningham, Williams acknowledged many of his former players and his longtime assistant coaches at Maryland: Dave Dickerson, Billy Hahn and Jimmy Patsos.
“Our fans at Maryland always stayed behind us,” Williams said. “I can’t thank our fans, alumni and students enough for all their support over the years. I thought I had a lifetime job at Ohio State, but Maryland called and gave me an education, a chance to play and an opportunity to coach.”
Also selected for induction into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame , Williams is the first coach in history to be selected to both institutions in the same year.
Joining Williams in the Class of 2014 is Immaculata University’s AIAW National Championship teams of the early 1970s, Alonzo Mourning, Nolan Richardson, Mitch Richmond, Bob Leonard, Nat Clifton, Sarunas Marciulionis, Guy Rodgers and David Stern.
To be elected, finalists required 18 of 24 votes from the Honors Committee for election into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The addition of the direct elect committees were incorporated into the election process to maintain a strong focus on keeping history on the forefront of the voting procedures and to preserve a balance between two eras of basketball.
Upon returning to the College Park campus in 1989, Gary Williams (Maryland ‘68) led his alma mater’s basketball program from a period of troubled times to an era of national prominence during his 22 seasons at the helm from 1993-2011.
With 14 NCAA Tournament berths in his final 18 seasons, Williams and his staff garnered seven Sweet Sixteen appearances, a pair of consecutive Final Four showings, and the 2002 National Championship – the first of its kind in Maryland basketball history.
After leading the Terrapins to the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season title in 2010, Williams was voted the league’s Coach of the Year by the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association. It was his second such award, as he was also honored in 2002.
With an all-time record of 461-252 (.646) as Maryland’s head coach, Williams stands as the Terrapins all-time winningest head basketball coach. He passed Charles “Lefty” Driesell, who amassed 348 victories in 18 seasons from 1969 to 1986.
The rise of the Maryland program ran parallel with Williams’ ascent among the most notable in the collegiate coaching fraternity. Williams was one of only five coaches to boast a string of 11 consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament from 1994-2004. He produced at least 20 wins in a school-record eight straight seasons from 1996-97 to 2003-04.
Williams was heralded as the national and Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year during the Terps’ 2002 championship run.
In 2001, Williams became just the sixth coach since 1980 to direct his alma mater to the Final Four. A year later, he became the first coach since 1974 to guide his alma mater to a national title.
A former Terrapin point guard and 1968 graduate, Williams was a starter under coach Bud Millikan during the 1965, 1966 and 1967 seasons. He was the team captain as a senior and still lists one of his most memorable basketball moments as his experience as a spectator at the 1966 national championship game conducted at Maryland’s legendary Cole Field House, between Texas Western and Kentucky.
Williams was hired by Maryland on June 13, 1989, inheriting a team that had won only nine games the year before and finished in last place in the ACC. Displaying his coaching abilities immediately, he helped the Terps to 19 wins while advancing to the second round of the National Invitation Tournament – and making him the first coach in school history to lead a team into the postseason in his first year.
Williams began his coaching career as a graduate student at Maryland under freshman coach Tom Davis. The 1969 freshman team finished with a 12-4 record as Williams bonded with Davis in a relationship that would serve him well as his coaching career progressed.
After earning a degree in business, he continued his coaching career as an assistant at Woodrow Wilson High School in Camden, N.J. After one year, he took over as the head coach and guided his first team to a perfect 27-0 record and the state title. Williams has called that season “the ultimate — there wasn’t another game to win.” Upon winning the NCAA West Region championship in 2001, he fondly recalled his championship at Camden as the “only other time I’ve ever got to cut down a net.”
Williams spent one more year at Woodrow Wilson before accepting an invitation from Davis in 1972 to become an assistant at Lafayette College. While an assistant at Lafayette, Williams also served as the head soccer coach. In 1978, Williams accompanied Davis to Boston College. After one year there, Williams became the head coach at American University.
Williams immediately began making his mark at American. His 1981 squad set the still-standing school record for victories with a 24-6 mark, won the East Coast Conference championship, and played in the NIT. Williams was named the district coach of the year.
American returned to postseason play the next season as the Williams-led Eagles went 21-9 and played in the NIT for the second consecutive year. Only once prior to Williams’ arrival had AU attended a postseason tournament, and the Eagles have not returned since. Williams’ four-year record at AU was 72-42.
In 1983, Williams succeeded Davis at Boston College. He was once again an instant success, posting a 25-7 record and leading the Eagles to the regular-season championship of the Big East in his first season. Making his first appearance in the NCAA Tournament, Williams directed the Eagles to the Sweet 16. He finished third in the balloting for national coach of the year, and was honored again as the Eastern Coach of the Year by his peers. He went on to duplicate that NCAA Tournament success again in 1985, leading B.C. back to the Sweet Sixteen.
In 1987, Williams accepted the head coaching job at Ohio State, becoming the 10th basketball coach in that school’s illustrious history. He succeeded Eldon Miller and once again enjoyed success. In three years, the Buckeyes made three postseason appearances. His first squad defeated then-No. 1 and unbeaten Iowa (coached by Tom Davis) in the regular season, in what would be the first of many giant-killings.
During Williams’ three-year term at Ohio State, the Buckeyes defeated a second-ranked Purdue team, perennial power Kansas and highly regarded Big Ten powers Michigan and Illinois. Each of Williams’ three Ohio State teams advanced to postseason play, and he laid the groundwork for the highly successful teams that followed when he left Columbus for College Park.