Maryland coach Williams retiring after 22 seasons

Led Terps to 2002 NCAA championship

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For years, Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams swatted away questions about how he would depart his profession, insisting he would not cheat the game while indicating he would not be rushed into a decision.

Unconventional timing was almost assured with such an outlook. Thursday, a coach known for his penchant for surprise results produced one last stunning outcome in a potentially Hall of Fame career less than two months after he walked off the sideline for the final time.

Williams announced his retirement after 22 seasons at his alma mater. Maryland scheduled a 1 p.m. press conference Friday at Comcast Center to elaborate on the decision.

A source familiar with the situation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said assistant coach Robert Ehsan will serve as the Terrapins’ acting head coach while athletic director Kevin Anderson conducts a search for Williams‘ successor.

“It’s the right time,” Williams said in a statement released by the school. “My entire career has been an unbelievable blessing. I am fiercely proud of the program we have built here. I couldn’t have asked any more from my players, my assistant coaches, the great Maryland fans and this great university. Together, we did something very special here.”

Williams, whose career also included stops at American, Boston College and Ohio State, concludes his career with a 668-380 record. He was 461-252 at Maryland, making 14 NCAA tournament appearances and seven trips to the regional semifinals. His last team went 19-14 and missed the postseason for the first time since 1993.

The timing comes as a bit of surprise, which in its own way is unsurprising. Williams often said he admired the advice of former North Carolina coach Dean Smith to wait until well after a season was over to make a final conclusion. Smith himself retired just before practice began in the 1997-98 season.

Williams‘ decision also dovetails with two other significant developments. He announced his retirement a day after forward Jordan Williams declared he would sign with an agent and remain in the NBA draft. Williams averaged a double-double as a sophomore, and his departure was a blow to Maryland’s chances of returning to the NCAA tournament in 2012.

The 66-year-old Gary Williams also was married last month.

Williams ranked fifth among active coaches in victories. He is Maryland’s career coaching leader in victories, and ranks third behind Smith and Mike Krzyzewski in career wins at an ACC school and career wins in ACC games (209).

In College Park Thursday, students — most of whom weren’t born when Williams arrived more than two decades ago — were shocked at the departure of the sideline fixture.

“I was really surprised, that was my first reaction,” senior Nick Bonomo said. “I definitely didn’t see it coming. I can’t say I’m too happy about it. I’ve never seen a coach for Maryland besides Gary Williams.”

Added freshman Amalie Trentzsch: “He’s been here for so long that it’s heartbreaking to see him go.”

Williams‘ retirement is the latest domino in a massive personnel transformation of Maryland, a school noted for its stability if not its harmony for nearly a decade. Maryland had the same president, athletic director, football coach, men’s basketball coach, women’s basketball coach and men’s lacrosse coach from April 2002 — the month Williams won the school’s national title — to last May.

Yet in the last year, only the basketball coaches remained in place, and former football head coach-in-waiting James Franklin departed for Vanderbilt. As was so often the case, Williams remained a stable presence.

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