Maryland Must Move On: It's Time To Fire Gary Williams

Jim SmithContributor IJanuary 17, 2009

There is no doubt that University of Maryland men's basketball coach Gary Williams is a Hall of Famer. With 614 wins, Williams is one of only eight active coaches with over 600 wins. His 409 wins at UMD place him third in wins by an ACC coach, only behind Dean Smith and Coach K.

Williams status as a Hall-of-Famer, though, is about more than the numbers. Rather it is about what he has meant to Maryland since taking over as head basketball coach in 1989.

Leaving Ohio State to take over a basketball program marred by NCAA sanctions and still scarred by the 1986 death of star Len Bias from a cocaine overdose, Williams revived Maryland basketball, leading the program to new heights.

During a streak of 11 straight NCAA tournament appearances from 1993-2004, the Terps appeared in seven Sweet 16s and two Final Fours, capping it off with a National Championship in 2002.

But things have changed. Following a 2004 run to the ACC tournament championship, the Terps have settled for the NIT in three of the past four seasons. While I wish that I could say Williams has the ability to bring the Terps back again, key factors prevent that from happening.


Inconsistent play in the seasons directly preceding the 2002 championship was blamed mostly on the players, including highly touted recruits such as Nik Caner-Medley, Travis Garrison, and Mike Jones, who never quite lived up to expectations.

Those players were a big part of the core for an extremely inconsistent 2005 team which swept Duke, but lost all three games to the ACC bottom-feeder Clemson, preventing the Terps from being included in the Field of 64. 

Many predicted that once these players were gone from Maryland, the inconsistency would disappear. But that has simply not been the case. 

Last year's team upset No. 1 North Carolina on their home court, while also falling at home to "powerhouses" such as Ohio University and American. It also blew a double- digit second-half lead to Virginia Tech, and collapsed against Clemson, surrendering a 20-point lead in the final 10 minutes of a game in which a win would have almost certainly locked up an NCAA berth. 

But the Terps' maddening inconsistency reached a new low-point last week, as the team blew late-game double-digit leads to both Morgan State and Miami.

Inconsistent play can only be placed on the players for so long. As the players have moved in, the blown leads and the shocking losses have remained, leaving only one person to blame for them, the coach. Gary Williams. 

Gary Williams cannot, or will not, recruit

Since his highly ranked, yet disappointing 2002 and 2003 recruiting classes, Williams has failed to bring in any top-notch recruits. Despite being at a school located in Prince George's County, an area ripe with basketball talent, (Prince George's County), Williams has failed to bring in the areas top prospects (Michael Beasley, Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Roy Hibbert, Austin Freeman and Ty Lawson just to name a few).

While Williams has often had a knack for finding "hidden gems" and developing them into ACC-caliber players, programs relying on finding under-the-radar recruits no longer be successful.

In an era marked by AAU, multiple recruiting services and the recruiting of "prospects" as early as seventh grade, no longer are there any real "hidden gems." Anyone who is going to be an ACC-caliber player will almost certainly be discovered well before they graduate high school.

Whether he is too stubborn to adapt to the new-age of recruiting, or whether he is just not capable of doing so, it seems obvious that Gary Williams cannot improve his recruiting.

It will take a new coach to change the philosophy so that Maryland can once again reap the benefits of a fertile recruiting base. 

The Program has become "Irrelevant"

Sadly, the disappearance of the program from the national scene altogether has even been acknowledged by reporters such as CNNsi's Seth Davis. 

"As a Maryland native, it pains me to say that, yes, irrelevant is a pretty good word to describe Maryland these days," Davis wrote in his Jan. 14 mailbag. "Nor do I see a significant influx of talent on its way to College Park, either. So I'm sorry to say, Eddie, Maryland looks like it's going to be irrelevant for the foreseeable future."

While the Terps could certainly recover from Wednesday night's debacle in Miami and make the NCAA tournament, just making it to the Big Dance every few years is not enough.

Gary Williams, and his years of success, raised the expectations at Maryland to the point where tournament bids, Sweet 16s, and ACC contention should be the norm in College Park. Sadly, it does not appear that Williams, who once restored his Alma mater to glory, can once again meet the standards he set so high.