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Grading Gary's history lesson

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One of the entertaining things about Gary Williams is his tendency to provide a revisionist history angle on things.

I’m not sure he can be blamed. Williams genuinely believes what he says is true, even if it doesn’t always square with reality. One of my favorites is how he sometimes peddles his 2000-01 team as an inexperienced one with low expectations.

It also began the year ranked No. 5 and started a senior, three juniors and a sophomore. The Terps lost only a walk-on off their team from a year earlier.

In short, Williams is wrong when he says that team was inexperienced and unheralded, but he does actually think what he’s saying is true – if that makes any sense.

So here’s a blow-by-blow account of his rundown of Maryland’s accomplishments under his stewardship:

1. “I’m sure in what I’ve done. The last 15 years, the only two teams not to finish last in the league in the regular season have Maryland and North Carolina.”

This is true, assuming you don’t count expansion schools Boston College and Virginia Tech. Duke finished last in 1995.

2. “This decade, Final Four, national championship…”

True. Just giving the 2001 and 2002 seasons their own due separately.

3. “… Sweet 16 losing to Michigan State on a Steve Blake jump shot to go to the Elite Eight.”

True. Blake’s buzzer-beating try hit the back iron.

4. “ACC champions”

True. Williams won his only ACC tournament in 2004.

5. “19 wins with [D.J.] Strawberry tearing his ACL, our best player.”

False. Going to have to contest the claim Strawberry was Maryland’s best player in 2005. He averaged 7.1 points and 1.6 rebounds while shooting 43.6 percent in 21.4 minutes a game. Strawberry might have been Maryland’s best defensive player, and his injury hurt a ton. But Nik Caner-Medley, Chris McCray and even a struggling John Gilchrist were probably better.

6. “19 wins with Chris McCray being ineligible the last 12, 13 games of the season, our leading scorer.”

True. Williams actually sells himself short. McCray missed the final 15 games, including the NIT loss to Manhattan.

7. “Next year we won 26, I think that tied the sixth-best mark in the school’s history. Winning an NCAA game against Davidson and losing to Butler who gave Florida the best game that year in the NCAA tournament, the closest game with the eventual national champions, Florida.”

Close enough to basically be true. The Terps won 25 games, but it was tied for fifth-best in school history. Florida’s closest game was a seven-point defeat of Purdue, though its eight-point victory over Butler was tighter throughout if memory serves.

8. “Then last year we won 19 and beat the No. 1 team on their court.”

True dat.

9. “So that’s been this decade for Maryland. I’ll compare that with anybody in the country. I haven’t felt threatened at all – logically, I think.”

That’s for someone else to decide, though my experience is logic doesn’t always have a place in College Park.

So a fair grade of Williams’ sense of history is probably a B. History doesn’t concur with his assessment of the 2004-05 team, and he does have some details that are fuzzy (but pretty much correct) on some other seasons.

All in all, not bad. It was a fairly accurate accounting, especially from someone who has a way of remembering things in a way that’s a bit different than how they actually unfolded.

Patrick Stevens

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