Is the Gary Williams Era Coming to an End at Maryland?

Marco RomanellCorrespondent IJanuary 26, 2009

After an embarrassing 41-point loss to Duke, Maryland fans are calling for Gary Williams' job, but does he deserve to get fired?

After the drug-induced death of superstar Len Bias, and amidst probation for recruiting violations, Maryland was looking for a change for its basketball program. The change was Gary Williams.

Returning to his alma mater, Williams took the coaching job, looking to return the program to the national prominence it had been used to during the '70s. After 397 wins, two Final Fours, and one National Title, Williams successfully completed the Maryland turnaround.

Despite this record, many people are calling for Williams’ job this season. The “what have you done for me lately?” culture in sports leads to the firing of many coaches and could spell the demise of Gary Williams.

Maryland went to two consecutive Final Fours (2001, 2002) and won a National Title in 2002, but the program has seen little prosperity since then. Maryland has only made the NCAA Tournament three times since then and failed to get past the Sweet 16 in each of its tournament appearances.

With three NIT bids in the last four years, Maryland is hardly a relevant program these days in college basketball. After a dismal 41-point loss at Duke, the Terps are looking like they will fail to make the “Big Dance” for the fourth time in their last five seasons. Maryland looks to be on a downward spiral, and it has many fans asking for the firing of legendary Coach Gary Williams.

In college sports, unlike professional sports, a team's lack of success can be attributed 100 percent to the coach. The coach has the choice of who he brings into a program, and if he does not bring in talent, he will not win.

Gary Williams is to blame for the state that Maryland basketball is currently in. His failure to recruit and bring in good talent is what has led to the downfall of the program. Williams is known as a “lazy recruiter” who sends his assistants to watch high school games while every other program sends its head coach.

The Baltimore/Washington area is a hotbed of high school basketball talent, but Williams has failed to keep these local players home.

Players like Rudy Gay (UConn), Carmelo Anthony (Syracuse), Donte Greene (Syracuse), Kevin Durant (Texas), Jack McClinton (Miami), DaJuan Summers (Georgetown), and Malcolm Delaney (Virginia Tech) are just some of the many local players who did not attend Maryland. These players, in most cases, were not even recruited by Williams and Maryland.

Donte Greene, who always dreamed of going to Maryland, said this as the reason he went to Syracuse: “When I looked in the stands at my high school games, I saw head coaches from all the schools except Maryland. They sent their assistant coach.”

Recruiting is the most important thing in college sports, and if Williams slacks in this department, the program will never rebound from it. If you cannot recruit, it does not matter how great of a coach you are; you will not win many basketball games.

Losing recruits to UConn and Syracuse is understandable, but losing recruits to the likes of Miami and Virginia Tech is unacceptable for a program like Maryland.

Gary Williams likes to recruit the unheralded, four-year type of player and tends to shy away from the McDonald's All-American. Players like Will Thomas and Jai Lewis both went to high school in Maryland and got little attention from the “big schools.” Both ended up at George Mason and led them to the Final Four, making Terps fans regret Williams not recruiting them.

Williams caught “lightning in a bottle” with the likes of Lonny Baxter and Juan Dixon, who led the Terps to a National Title. Neither were recruited by other schools than Maryland. Since then, Gary feels like he could bring in anyone and “coach them up” and make them successful players, which is not the case in today’s college basketball landscape.

Many “Gary supporters” say Maryland’s academic standards are too high and not all recruits can get in. Last time I checked, Duke and Georgetown had higher standards than Maryland, and they keep landing McDonald's All-Americans every season.

Before the season started, Tyree Evans was able to get into Maryland and signed a letter of intent. Evans was a 26-year-old JUCO player who has been in and out of jail his whole life. If he was able to get into Maryland, their “standards” might not be that unreasonable. Evans ended up asking out of his letter of intent and is now a walk-on a Kent State.

Maryland also brought in Sean Mosley from Baltimore and gave him three chances to meet the S.A.T. requirements to play basketball at Maryland, something they would not do for the non-athlete.

Using the “high standards” argument is one that is not supported by facts and is just another to try to justify Williams’ poor results as of late.

In my opinion, the main reason recruits do not play here is because of Williams’ personality. Williams is known as a “madman” on the sidelines and is often seen yelling at his starters and the bench players repeatedly during the game. Bob Knight and John Cheney were run out of their prospective schools for the same sort of behavior, and their programs suffered their last few years.

Many recruits are viewed as “gods” in high school, and they do not like to get yelled at. Many 18-year-old kids do not have skin thick enough to handle constant yelling and criticism.

The numbers prove this style USED to work for Williams, but the college basketball landscape is filled with 18-year-old “stars” who believe the world revolves around them. Some discipline is good, but until he tones it down a lot, players will continue to spurn Maryland and choose to play elsewhere.

I have been a Maryland basketball fan my whole life, and Gary Williams has always been an iconic figure to me, but his time is passed. Terps fans should be thankful for all Williams has done for the program, and he should be respected for that.

The Maryland boosters love Williams and might not contribute if he is fired. I believe Williams should go for the good of the program, but believe Maryland A.D. Debbie Yow should let him go in the right way to not make the boosters mad. Williams and Yow do not even speak to each other and have a very cold relationship.

I thank Gary Williams for bringing a National Title to College Park and for all he has done for the program. If Maryland wants to get back to national prominence, they need to say one thing: “Goodbye, Gary.”

It will be a tough offseason for Maryland fans and could signify the end of the "Gary Williams era."