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Maryland coach Williams retiring after 22 seasons
Led Terps to 2002 NCAA championship
Question of the Day
Williams, a 1968 Maryland graduate, returned to his alma mater in June 1989 after the Terps’ program unraveled over a three-year period marred by star forward Len Bias’ death from a cocaine overdose in June 1986.
Williams agreed to take over in College Park despite knowing an NCAA investigation was ongoing. However, he didn’t anticipate penalties that included postseason and television bans being handed down as his first season came to a close.
The totality of the rebuilding project accentuated both the impressive and puzzling characteristics of Williams‘ personality. Proud and contentious, resolute and defensive, charismatic and volcanic, the New Jersey native came to see the program as an extension of himself. Many at the school felt the same way, dubbing Cole Field House and later Comcast Center “Garyland.”
“This is my team,” Williams said in a January 2008 interview. “I went to school here. I played here. I came here in ‘89 when it wasn’t a good situation. We had to work four or five years, and they were four or five years of my prime coaching time. I want people to remember that. That’s just me.”
The sanctions in the early 1990s extended a dark time in the program’s history, and the Terps did not reach the NCAA tournament in any of his first four seasons. However, a young team keyed by the additions of freshmen Joe Smith and Keith Booth opened the 1993-94 season with an overtime of upset of Georgetown at the old USAir Arena and eventually reached the Sweet 16.
Williams built gradually, finally reaching the Final Four for the first time in 2001 before many of the same players returned to post a 32-4 record and defeat Indiana in the national title game in Atlanta.
The championship coincided with the final year at Cole Field House, a venerable building Williams‘ teams often packed. The demand for tickets to see an elite team and the high cost necessary to renovate Cole, which was constructed in the mid-1950s, helped fuel the need for Maryland to build Comcast Center.
The national title was high tide for Williams, who returned to the round of 16 for the final time in 2003. His 2004 team won an improbable ACC tournament title as a No. 6 seed — the only one in Williams‘ tenure — and three of the next four seasons ended in the NIT.
Williams‘ latter seasons in College Park brought scrutiny as Maryland drifted away from its peak. He was criticized for lackluster recruiting in the years after winning a national title and often bristled when his efforts to attract top talent were questioned. While Maryland won at least 19 games in each of his last 15 seasons, the Terps were also 67-61 in ACC play in his last eight years. The Terps were 87-41 in conference in the eight seasons before that.
However, Williams made two last tournament appearances in 2009 and 2010 before a 17-year postseason streak — and, it turns out, his career — came to a close this spring.
• Ethan Rothstein contributed to this report.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Patrick Stevens has covered Maryland and other Mid-Atlantic college sports for more than a decade. You can reach him at email@example.com.
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