Maryland’s Yow offers Williams ‘full support’

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Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow voiced support for basketball coach Gary Williams on Monday, less than a week after a public round of intradepartment bickering.

Sitting next to Williams at the usual day-before-a-game media session, Yow said the longtime coach’s job is safe after a tumultuous week and despite the lingering possibility the Terrapins could wind up in the National Invitation Tournament for the fourth time in five years.

“I really want to lay to rest any of these crazy rumors that are floating around related to the job security of Coach Williams,” Yow said. “He has my personal full support, as he does from the department and from the university.”

Tensions escalated last week when Williams said it was not his fault that recruits Tyree Evans and Gus Gilchrist are not playing for Maryland this season. Both were released from their scholarships last spring; Gilchrist landed at South Florida, and Evans walked on at Kent State.

Department officials responded by contacting media outlets to contradict Williams, prompting the frustrated coach to respond after a loss to Boston College last Tuesday.

The sniping at least broached the possibility that Williams might not last beyond his 20th season with the Terps (14-7, 3-4 ACC), who visit No. 3 North Carolina (19-2, 5-2) on Tuesday. Williams’ Terps won the 2002 national championship and have reached two Final Fours and 12 NCAA tournaments.

“It’s nice that she said those things,” Williams said. “I’ve never felt threatened by anything. I know what I’ve done just this decade alone. Very few programs have done what we’ve done this decade. There’s probably three or four, maybe. … I’ll compare that with anybody in the country. I haven’t felt threatened at all - logically, I think.

“She’s the athletic director. She wanted to make a statement. That’s certainly her prerogative. As for me, I’m the coach. I’m the basketball coach here at Maryland. I get measured by a lot of things, and you get compared to a lot of coaches around the country, so I think I’m in pretty good shape.”

Yow said she would have spoken with reporters Friday in advance of Maryland’s Saturday meeting with Miami. However, she was in North Carolina for the funeral of her sister Kay, the former N.C. State women’s coach who died Jan. 24 after a lengthy battle with cancer.

The subject that prompted Williams’ reply last week was recruiting, a sensitive subject to him. Much of the fan grumbling about the program fixates on the team’s talent level. Only two players from Maryland’s past five teams - Chris McCray and D.J. Strawberry - have appeared in NBA games.

Yow backed Williams’ efforts in that area.

“He and I communicate regularly, and a couple of things he’s communicated to me are pretty important,” Yow said. “One of those is he’s very optimistic about the future and he’s very focused on recruiting, and we all know that’s important. He’s after it with as much enthusiasm and passion as I’ve seen in my 15 years [at Maryland]. Our team is playing really hard.”

Williams has three years remaining on his contract after this year and is believed to be earning about $2 million a season. His contract includes a rollover clause that adds a year to his contract for a season when the Terps earn an NCAA tournament invitation as well as reach one of two academic benchmarks - either hitting the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate cut score or having their scholarship players average 27 credits.

“If we ever get to the place where [the length of the contract] isn’t enough and he needs more for recruiting, we’ll deal with it,” Yow said. “He’ll tell me what he needs, and we’ll take care of it then.”

Williams, who thanked Yow as she left the interview room, expressed optimism about the direction of the program. Two forwards are signed for next season to help the Terps’ glaring size problems, and Maryland’s roster includes only one senior.

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