The initial reply? Classic Gary.
“Well, we’ve signed two players who will be in the top 50 in the country for next year,” Williams said.
Well, if by top 50 power forwards, Williams is right about Jordan Williams and James Padgett.
But that’s not the point.
Instead, the point is the twin issues facing Maryland’s program: Overall talent and coaching staff continuity.
The talent issue – and the recruiting matters that go with it – is obviously a factor. Maryland’s last legitimate, long-term NBA player was Steve Blake. That’s with all respect to D.J. Strawberry, who did play with Phoenix last season, and Chris McCray (whose cup of coffee with Milwaukee two seasons ago lasted all of 12 minutes).
But there is something quite glaring about the coaching turnover at Maryland. Between 1991-92 and 2000-01, four coaches – Dave Dickerson, Billy Hahn, Jimmy Patsos and Art Perry – worked on Williams’ staff. That’s remarkable continuity.
There hasn’t been anything like that since.
Hahn left for La Salle in 2001 and was replaced by Matt Kovarik.
Patsos took the Loyola job in 2004, and Kovarik joined him as an assistant. Mike Lonergan and Keith Booth replaced them.
Lonergan left in 2005 to take the Vermont gig. Dickerson departed a few weeks later for Tulane. They were replaced by Rob Moxley and Michael Adams.
Moxley bolted after a year in 2006, and Chuck Driesell took his spot.
Adams abruptly quit for personal reasons a few games into the 2007-08 season, and Joe Harrington took his place. In the offseason, Rob Ehsan was elevated to take the Adams/Harrington spot on the staff.
There is nothing inherently wrong with the current staff. Ehsan is young and energetic, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the hard-working Driesell running to his car in the Comcast Center loading dock and speeding off to watch a recruit right after practice ends. Booth is a program legend with Baltimore roots, and there’s a lot of value in both of those things.
But the constant change doesn’t help with recruiting, and (perhaps moreso, as someone pointed out to me today) it doesn’t help with setting up a program for helping guys get better once they arrive. It’s not that new voices are bad. They’re just different, and it disrupts continuity.
Maryland hasn’t maintained its staff of three assistants for more than 18 months at a clip since the end of the 2004 season. Three jobs have changed hands a combined seven times in those nearly five years.
Gary Williams always says it is important for him to see his assistants get head coaching jobs, and that’s certainly the right attitude to possess.
But it’s tough to argue the program’s slide into becoming an NIT regular hasn’t coincided with the loss of a lot of good assistants. If nothing else, the last five seasons have only enhanced the value Hahn, Dickerson and Patsos brought to the Terps throughout their time in College Park.