Did Terps Basketball Coach Gary Williams Actually Retire...Or Was He Pushed Out?

Greg StarddardContributor IIIMay 6, 2011

COLLEGE PARK, MD - MAY 6:  University of Maryland basketball coach Gary WIlliams speaks while announcing his retirement on May 6, 2011 at the Comcast Center in College Park, Maryland.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

They've been trying to fire the guy for several years, and now at the 11th hour he resigns? I like Kool-Aid, but I'm not drinking this batch.  I've lived in the Washington D.C. area long enough to know that the last place Maryland Basketball Coach Gary Williams wants to be is off the sidelines.  Dude is part of the fabric of college basketball. 

Who else is gonna upset Duke and North Carolina in the ACC?

Williams has won way too many games to simply walk away.  He says his health is fine.  He says he still loves the game.  He says it was his decision.  But I have one question: Why now? If you were truly secure in the position and had a good recruiting class why would you abandon all of that?  Williams had some great young players on the team last season.  Were they the best in the ACC? Nope.  Did they have potential? Absolutely.  He had too much going for himself to roll out the way he did.

Is there more to the story? 

Are local media types in the Washington D.C. area drinking the Kool-Aid? Perhaps.  I know a lot of these reporters play golf with Williams.  A lot of journalists  in D.C. are good friends with Williams.  There's nothing wrong with that.  He's a great guy from what I'm told.  Very friendly. Smart. Reflective. Kind.  He's the kind of guy who you'd want to be your best friend—very loyal.  But are the right questions being asked about William's so called retirement?

I doubt it.

I'm not throwing my fellow journalism brothers and sisters under the bus, but you've got to admit:  It doesn't sound right.  It doesn't look right. Why?  Because the entire ordeal isn't right.  Something is missing here folks.  There's an underlying issue somewhere, some place. A guy with this much talent, experience, and skill simply doesn't turn in his coaches playbook while Coach K is gearing up for another national championship run.

It's well documented that former Maryland Athletic Director Debbie Yow wanted Williams out a couple of years ago.  It was a nasty experience that was never fully explained or resolved.  Yow wanted more from Williams.  She wanted another national championship.  She wanted CBS Sports crews roaming the campus in College Park reporting news about the Terps being back in the Final Four or the championship game.  But it wasn't to be.  Williams and his Terps had hit mediocrity.  They were no longer a factor in the chase for March Madness. They were no longer a a serious contender in the ACC. 

To put it bluntly, Williams' program was slipping.

Fortunately for Williams, Yow took another AD job in the Carolinas.  But the feud was well documented.  It got so bad that an assistant Athletic director under Yow also criticized Williams before Yow split. Williams defiantly asked Yow's deputy:  How many national championships have you won?  Good one Williams.  Score one for Gary.  Was she Yow's mouthpiece?  Perhaps. Good Cop, Bad Cop routine? Maybe. Yow never publicly trashed Williams.  She was smarter than that.

Heck, Williams is a basketball icon in the D.C. region.  He won a national championship in 2002 with current Lakers guard Steve Blake running the offense.  He resurrected the Terps Basketball program.  It was left in shambles following the death of Len Bias, the legendary Maryland basketball superstar who died of cocaine use shortly after being drafted by the Boston Celtics.

The line in the sand had been drawn, and even though Yow was history, the critics were already circling Comcast Center.  The doubters were present.  The vultures had set up shop in College Park, and they weren't leaving without some fresh or dead meat.  Williams didn't help his cause by not making the NCAA tournament field this past season.  He didn't help himself by refusing the recruit the talented "one and dones" who play one year of college basketball and then bolt for the NBA. 

He didn't play the game and that may have been another nail in his coffin.

More nails were soon to follow.  Anyone with a little sense could see the handwriting on the wall in College Park.  Long time football coach Ralph Friedgen was replaced by Yow.  It didn't sound like he wanted to go, but he was out.  Questions began swirling about whether Yow approved of the Fridges' coaching staff.  Should he hire this guy or that guy to bolster the staff? 

Next, Maryland took the unusual step of announcing Freidgen's replacement before he left.  You've heard it before: The coach in waiting.  I've always thought "the coach in waiting" must produce a lot of sleepless nights for the current coach.  But what's done was done. Unfortunately for the Terps the "coach in waiting" took another job, and Maryland was left hanging.  Lucky for the terps, they found former Connecticut Football Coach Randy Edsall waiting in the wings to accept the job.

Maryland AD Kevin Anderson never gave Williams a vote of confidence.  Call him Yow-light if you will.  Did he push Williams out?  Williams says no.  He says it was time to go. Too many years in one coaching job.  His tear-filled resignation speech carried "live" nationally was hard to watch.  Something didn't seem right.  Something seemed off.  I just didn't get the sense Williams was happy or in my humble opinion, happy about the way it ended on the Maryland Campus.  From where I sat, those joining him on the stage were simply going through the motions. His appointment as Asst. AD feels ceremonial.

Look, I don't know much about Anderson. But I respect the fact that he has to bring some national championships back to the basketball program.  I respect the fact that he has to make the Terps football team a national contender.  The Washington D.C area is too large not have a collegiate national contender in basketball and football. His plate is full.  The pressure is on.  He's made the changes. Now let's see if they were the right changes.

Despite what everyone is saying, including Williams, it feels like the Terps now former basketball coach was pushed.  Shown the door. Nudged out. 22 years at Maryland. 668 career victories at Maryland, American, Boston College, and Ohio State.  I'll tell you folks, 668 wins is a lot of wins.    Do you simply hold the plastic news conference, read a few citations, trot out some former players, and say thank you?

Gary Williams had fallen on hard times in College Park.  The landscape of college basketball was changing.  It's a slippery landscape.  Loaded with influential AAU coaches directing high school superstars to a handul of college powerhouses around the country.  But did Williams deserve better treatment at the end? I beleive so.  Was he ready to retire? I doubt it.  At 66 years old, it's not like he uses a walker to enter the arena.  Physically he looks good. He sounds good.

I have two words for you: Bobby Cremins.  Cremins shocked the basketball world when he abruptly resigned from Georgia Tech in 2000 after 22 years and more than 450 wins.  Six years later he resurfaced at the College of Charleston.  Still gettin' it done.  Still one of the best.

Have we truly seen the last of  Gary Williams?