March Madness 2011 Darlings: No Evidence Gary Williams Needs to Go

Matthew McNabContributor IMarch 22, 2011

March Madness is upon us, and there have been quite a few surprises in this year’s tournament.

Just two of the Big East’s 11 teams have made the Sweet 16, and tournament darlings VCU, Richmond, and Butler have all stuck around for the second weekend of the tournament.

However, some think the runs of Richmond and VCU are another reason why University of Maryland coach Gary Williams needs to be fired.

They are wrong.

Lost in the tournament hoopla is Maryland’s successful commitment from a top local recruit in next year’s class.

However, the author of another Bleacher Report post thinks that the successes of those teams and the make-up of those teams, as well as a local recruit committing to Georgetown, are all reasons why Williams needs to be fired tomorrow.

They are not, and I will again break down the evidence of the author’s article.

Before I delve into the author’s argument, never did I present a personal attack on the writer or his family, but I did say his grammar was lacking, and after taking a look at the follow-up article, it still mostly is.

Any accusation that I made personal attacks on you or your family are preposterous and the reason why bloggers, aspiring journalists, and journalism itself get a bad name.

As for that, I don’t see why bringing in the fact I support the Yankees has any relevance to this article. I’m not sure why my “moral high ground” is relevant either.

To finish, I can only name three players accused or who acknowledge they took steroids that contributed to championship teams (Andy Pettitte, Alex Rodriguez and Roger Clemens) and two others (Jason Giambi and Jose Canseco).

If you’d care to elaborate on the “many players” that have taken steroids on Yankees championship teams, feel free to post them in the comments.

To assert that the reason why I chose the school was because of the idea that Gary Williams has never broken NCAA rules is absurd.

It’s just nice to know that the years I attended school aren’t going to become a black hole of recruiting violations and scandals like at other schools. I chose Maryland because it had the best journalism program.

First off, I get the animosity Maryland fans feel towards Gary Williams and his recruiting style—it isn’t working, and something has to change. The point “fans” make is right—his recruiting hasn’t been good enough to compete in the ACC.

The problem is, the information to back that up evaporated about the time Greivis Vasquez won ACC Player of the Year, and any fan or writer who comes to Williams and the program’s defense instantly becomes a “homer” or “apologist.”

I don’t get it. How does one call himself a fan and then call for the coach to be fired after a season everyone knew was going to be tough (the ACC poll had the Terps finishing sixth in the standings)? It was a rebuilding season where Maryland had to replace its three most productive starters.

We’re watching Richmond and VCU dance their way to the Sweet 16 because they’re good teams—Richmond won the Atlantic 10, a conference that includes Xavier and Temple, both Top 25 teams, and knocked off Top 10 Purdue in a 27-7 season.

VCU didn’t have a big win like Purdue on their schedule, but they beat tournament teams UCLA, Wofford, Old Dominion and George Mason before their big tournament run.

We’re also watching these teams dance because of an overrated Big East Conference; Richmond’s trip to the Sweet 16 was made easier by Morehead State beating Louisville, George Mason beat a weak Villanova team, and VCU crushed Georgetown after the Hoyas were unable to make three-point shots.

While all the teams have pretty good players that Williams and other power conference teams might have wanted in retrospect, Williams probably would have looked at those players if they were local players for Maryland, as the article insinuates.

Richmond made the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1988 on the strength of three players—one from Richmond, one from Atlanta, and one from Pennsylvania—all far from the DC-Baltimore area.

George Mason beat Villanova before losing to top-seed Ohio State by 33 with three main players from Florida, New York, and Roanoke, Va.

Old Dominion’s three top players were from Chesapeake, Va., Portsmouth, Va. (both local cities near Norfolk, where Old Dominion is located), and North Carolina.

VCU’s top four players include two from the Richmond area, one from Florida, and one from Charlotte. Williams could drive a circle around these universities and be back in time for bed. It wouldn’t do him any good though.

So while it’s true these teams do have at least one local recruit each, it’s not a particularly pressing point to say Williams should be fired for it.

As for the other local players Williams missed on, none of the ones listed in the second article were failed recruits because of failed academics. The only recruit that did so was Shane Clark, who was not mentioned in the same section of the article as those players that were listed.

As for those players, I cannot speak to what the real issue was, but I’m sure most of it was the AAU coach steering them and the desire to play in the NBA that brought them to their respective schools for one or two seasons.

As for Richmond and VCU making the Sweet 16, while it’s true they don’t play at the ACC level of competition, the A10 and the CAA are two of the better “mid-major” conferences and are particularly underrated, like the West Coast Conference is.

The A-10, with Xavier and Temple, always has good teams, and although both have had down years, St. Joseph’s was the top overall seed in 2004 and Massachusetts had a Final Four run with John Calipari in the 90s. Dayton, Duquesne and La Salle are other good teams in the A-10.

The CAA is the same way; the top teams in the conference usually make the tournament regardless of whether or not they win the conference tournament.

While the disparity between top and bottom is larger than in the A-10 (from Towson’s 0-18 conference record to George Mason’s 16-2) the top six teams all won 20 games or more and had at least 10 conference wins. While it isn’t the ACC, it’s closer to the ACC than the Great West Conference.

These teams aren’t the Little Sisters of the Poor. They’re good teams, year-in and year-out.

As for Maryland losing to Morgan State in 2008, Morgan State won their conference and made the tournament that year. An uglier loss would have been the one against William and Mary a season ago—one that in the long run didn’t matter, just like Morgan State.

While an 8-13 record against Duke isn’t a crowning achievement, it’s about three more wins than the 24 percent win record insinuated in the article.

As for the margin of victory, especially this season, the games were close, until the Terrapins faded late and their lack of three-point shooting killed their attempts at overtaking Duke, problems Williams has addressed with his recruits for this season.

I don’t think we’ll see Chris Mooney at an ACC school in the near future. He’ll probably go the same route Brad Stevens did at Butler, and sign a long-term contract extension with Richmond.

The reason? Look no further than Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons fired Dino Gaudio a season ago after a 20-11 season and a second round exit in the NCAAs. This season, Wake was 8-24 with a 1-15 conference record.

Georgia Tech had its worst season in recent memory, and NC State has never been a team to exceed expectations in the last few years.

Why take over an ACC program that’s struggling when you can remain in control of a solid, 20-plus win tournament team that is now a household name?

Jim Larranaga is an interesting coach, though. I wouldn’t hire him to replace Williams because of his age (he’s 61) like I would hire Smart, Stevens, or Mooney, but before his Final Four run, Larranaga was on the hot seat at his school after missing the tournament for four straight seasons.

Maybe Williams could take a lesson from him about producing results when on the coaching hot seat.

I haven’t read or seen any indication that Jordan Williams is expected to jump into this season’s NBA draft. 2011 NBA mock draft don’t have him in any of their drafts, so adding Jordan Williams to the search does find him as a mid-round draft pick-in the 2012 mock draft.

Williams is raw, but to say he’ll jump to the NBA so he can develop in the NBDL is absurd—Williams will develop more in the college game at ACC level of play than on a development league team from South Dakota.

As for the 2004 ACC tournament team; you’re absolutely right about that—it’s something I pointed out in my article about why the team failed to live up to expectations in the years following the national championship win.

None of them, aside from D.J. Strawberry, panned out to be decent players. John Gilchrist left the team a season later, his potential never realized, and instead of Williams building successful teams based off of those players, he found himself starting from scratch again.

But to compare Nick Faust, Justin Anderson, Sterling Gibbs and Martin Breunig to those classes before they even play for the Terps is, again, absurd.

Faust and Anderson are star local guys, and Breunig and Gibbs are testaments to Williams’s ability to recruit nationally.

The only risk in taking a four-year player is that he might not pan out—Williams recruited a whole class of those type of guys. But to say Williams isn’t taking the right risks and is lazy is, once again, absurd.

Williams took risks on Greivis Vasquez, Eric Hayes, and Jordan Williams. It’s obvious to any fan that those were the right risks taken.

I can sum up the Greg Whittington point with two words: Martin Breunig. Williams and Maryland recruited Breunig and offered him a scholarship on Feb. 5 to play the same position that Whittington plays.

The reason why Whittington never got a call from Gary Williams on or before Feb. 23 is because Breunig was set to commit to Maryland about three days after.

As for Mikael Hopkins, there is no evidence Hopkins ever considered Maryland seriously, but Maryland did offer him a scholarship. Rivals says his interest was medium and he never made a visit; ESPN says Hopkins considered Ohio State, Kansas, Virginia Tech, and West Virginia, with no mention of the Terps, before committing to Georgetown.

Tell me this too—how do Whittington and Hopkins represent good players Williams missed on without playing college basketball yet, but Breunig and Faust represent the next Mike Jones or Nik Caner-Medley?

By the way, Tyler Adams didn’t just have Duke in his sights; he had committed to Duke last April before decommitting in October, then chose Georgetown over hometown Mississippi State. Adams sounds like a former Terps commit—Gus Gilchrist anyone?

I’m not sure you’re searching the right terms on Google if you can’t find anything on Desmond Hubert and Gary Williams. The first four search results all indicate Gary Williams went to see Hubert play a week before Roy Williams did.

As for Williams not traveling around the country to see recruits, there’s a laundry list of players to say otherwise—Terrell Stoglin of Arizona, Jordan Williams of Connecticut, and Pe’Shon Howard of California are just of few of the national recruits on Maryland this season.

I’m still not sure why people claim Williams is unable to recruit local talent.

Maryland just signed local four-star recruit Justin Anderson, who was considering Virginia, North Carolina and Texas. The Terps got ESPN100 recruit Nick Faust from Baltimore in this year’s class. Based on ESPN’s recruit rankings, both are the best players in the state in this year’s class.

Bryon Allen is a two-star recruit who averaged a whopping 1.7 points a game.

Arledge could pan out as a three star center, but this year he averaged 1.4 points and .9 rebounds a game.

Tate’s a George Mason senior that averaged 6.2 points a game.

Lindsay’s a Richmond freshman averaging 4.4 points a game.

For the record, that’s 13.7 points total—Terrell Stoglin, one of Maryland’s freshman recruits (but not a good enough recruit for Maryland fans it seems) averages 11.4 points a game.

Sure, Richmond and George Mason made the tournament this year, but because of those four players? Absolutely not. I’m not sure if any of these players or any of the top players at those four schools are talents Maryland needs to be built upon.

Again, the “time and resources” quote is taken out of context—Williams doesn’t ignore local talent, he just gets solid, less-heralded players, rather than top-flight ones, to build his program around.

Williams just signed two top recruits from the area. Why fire him now and get the “program going in the right direction”? So Faust and Anderson can de-commit and Williams can jump to the draft? Right now, those are the cornerstones, or future cornerstones of the team.

As for Baltimore being a black hole in recruiting, it was—read any article about Keith Booth and it will tell you that. Booth was one of a few Baltimore players who went to Maryland after the school cut ties with Bob Wade.

Williams was lucky enough to add Juan Dixon too, but Maryland never had a solid recruiting presence in Maryland until Booth was added to the staff.

Although Sean Mosley didn’t pan out into the player we expected, adding Nick Faust (a Baltimore local) establishes that Williams has had a recruiting presence in the city for the last few years.

The reason why Maryland fans are excited about next season and a possible chance to break through to the second round in the tournament is because of our experienced players, like Stoglin and Williams, and our needs being addressed, like three point shooting, in the form of Faust and Breunig.

Next year, if the team is middling and misses the tournament, Williams should be fired. It would be unacceptable with those pieces on the team.

Again, I see no personal attacks in my article, but when the current author mocks my article as a “Homer” piece and “Pulitzer Prize winning” I ask myself and the audience, is it not false and hypocritical to accuse someone of doing so while you yourself do it?

Bino Ranson and Keith Booth are the two assistants with big local ties and are Maryland’s big recruiters. However, I doubt those two would stay on in the program if Williams were canned tomorrow—they’d probably bolt, along with their recruiting prowess, to different schools.

I wasn’t around the Maryland basketball scene in 1999, so I don’t know how many critics Williams had, but I can tell you this: A quick Google search finds multiple articles that says Steve Francis was laboring over his decision to declare for the NBA draft, meaning Williams and the public never knew he was going to be a certain one-and-done, except 12 years after it happened.

As for Williams getting Francis, a JUCO transfer, I’m sure it had something to do with the fact he was from Takoma Park and went to Montgomery Blair High in the university’s neighboring county.

I still stand by what I say: Williams has never added a one-and-done player. Francis turned out that way, but public perception never had him going one year in college, like Durant and Beasley were certain to.

I’m sure the DC Assault coach had plenty to do with where his players end up, but I’m also sure Williams doesn’t have an interest in guys only looking for the payday at the end of their freshman season.

As for Williams grabbing a one-and-done player right now, it’s a foolish idea to follow that suit.

He has a point guard (Stoglin) and center (Williams) locked down, two incoming recruits to play shooting guard (Faust) and power forward (Breunig), and a trio of players to contribute at small forward (Parker, Palsson, Mosley).

Adding a one-and-done to that mix who certainly will expect many shots and touches will only limit the effectiveness of Jordan Williams.

Unfortunately, I feel the need to point out an inaccurate statement again. Len Bias died 25 years ago, in 1986, not 35-plus as the article says.

It’s not an excuse for Williams to stay around. Without Williams though, we probably don’t have this discussion. He built the program, which is why the athletic department is sticking with him for the short-term.

We’ve seen Kevin Anderson already make a big personnel move in forcing Friedgen to resign, so expect Williams to start getting results soon or Anderson will show him the door.

I’m not sure where I made personal attacks in my article as you insinuate, and if anyone can find any I implore you to post them in the comments on this article.

However, calling me a wannabe New Yorker because I am from New Jersey sounds like a decidedly personal attack. Again, I am unsure why a personal point, like where I am from, has any relevance to this or any of the other previous articles.

The next Maryland basketball rankings won’t be disrupted, I assure you. I have been taking a break from writing since the University is on spring break, and the next class will be posted sometime in the middle of the week.

The beauty of Bleacher Report and blogs is that everyone has a voice and point of view. What pains me is that bloggers and posters publish stories or articles with slanted, half-truth information to back up the stories.

I value the main point of the article—Williams doesn’t recruit on a high level that the program should recruit on.

I can’t deny that the point doesn’t carry weight. Williams has not recruited at an ACC level in seasons past, and Kevin Anderson and the athletics department needs to demand results from him on the recruiting scene.

Billy Packer was right—Maryland should be a top 25 team every year, and they should most certainly go deeper into the NCAA tournament than the second round after winning a national championship.

But this isn’t Ralph Friedgen; Friedgen won his ACC title with a team comprised primarily of a previous coach’s recruits and got his long-term contract based on that.

Williams built his team from scratch, but after several middling seasons, Maryland fans and the athletic department need to start asking what he has done lately.

What he has done is put together three solid recruiting classes from Jordan Williams to this year’s class. Right now he’s at 667 wins. Give him the next two seasons—Williams’s junior and senior years with the Terps—to turn their tournament woes around.

If the recruits these next two seasons don’t pan out, he’ll already be at 700 wins by that point.  By then, they can do what they did to Friedgen: force him to resign and accept a buyout, and bring in a young coach like Brad Stevens of Butler, Mooney, or Smart.

Maryland needs to show progress soon or Williams needs to be shown the door soon.

The door doesn’t need to be shown tomorrow though, and that’s the issue myself and other fans of Maryland disagree with.


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