The Washington Times - June 30, 2011, 11:51AM

Nearly four years ago, then-Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt was asked at ACC media day who among the league’s other 11 coaches would be the most fun to be around for a day.

Hewitt didn’t hesitate, pointing to Maryland’s Gary Williams and approvingly calling him “the ultimate loose cannon.”

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So it seemed like a fun idea to ask Hewitt, now the coach at George Mason, about the retirement of his old conference rival.

“He would always kid with me at league meetings or when I’d see him on the road recruiting: ‘You know what, one of these days I’m going to give all this up and leave it to all you young guys,’” Hewitt said.

Indeed, that’s precisely what Williams did in early May, ending a 22-year run in College Park. Less than a week later, Mark Turgeon was hired to replace Williams.

Count Hewitt among those sad to see Williams departing the game (at least in a coaching capacity).

“I think it’s unfortunate for college basketball to lose a guy like that,” Hewitt said. “Gary’s a guy who is about coaches. I think there’s some coaches who get up in the morning hoping everybody else lost their game when they won. I don’t think Gary’s like that. I think Gary wants to beat you when he’s competing against you, but if he respects you – and I know he pulled for the league – he wants you to do well.”

So one last question, the one everyone was asking almost two months ago: Was there any surprise in Williams’ departure?

“I always got along great with him,” Hewitt said. “He was always really nice to me. He was a guy my first couple years who always extended himself: ‘Hey, if you have any questions, just give me a call.’ So I can’t say I was surprised with how he did it. The timing probably surprised me a little bit. But he always used to say ‘I’m just going to one day give all this up and leave it all to you guys.’ He would say ‘You know Paul, I’m old. I don’t need this anymore.’”

Patrick Stevens