- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 6, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION

Gary Williams has been elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, a journey that began with sweat on the playgrounds of Camden, N.J., and was immortalized with sweat on the court at Cole Field House and the Comcast Center.

Williams sweated his way to fame, and those who watched him get the most out of his teams, from American University to the University of Maryland, admired and enjoyed every bead of sweat, because you knew it was devoted to winning.

He has a resume that certainly warrants a place in the Basketball Hall of Fame. He has a coaching record of 668-330, winning twice as many games as he lost over 32 years at four different colleges. In other words, losing came hard to Williams.

He won at American, going 72-42 from 1978 to 1982, then moved to Boston College – fitting right in with the Big East coaching personalities of John Thompson and Lou Carnasecca, with a 76-46 record over four seasons.

Williams moved to the Big Ten in 1986 at Ohio State, where he went 59-41 over three seasons.

Then his alma mater called, the place where he excelled as a point guard under Bud Millikan from 1964 to 1967, and begged for him.

Maryland basketball was in ruins, taking a severe blow from the tragic death of Len Bias 1986 and the subsequent tumultuous tenure of Bob Wade from 1986 to 1989. Williams took the job in 1989, and then the job became a nightmare.

Maryland got knee capped by the NCAA for several major Wade-related violations in 1990 – banned from postseason play for two years, as well as no live television, and losing several scholarships.

This is how Gary Williams got into the Basketball Hall of Fame – not with a whistle, but with a shovel, digging out a program that was buried deeper than we had ever seen before. Williams didn’t just win the national championship in 2002 – he performed a resurrection.

There is no greater triumph in sport to win when you are battered, bruised and seemingly beaten.

Other coaches – peers of Williams — who have won national titles are in the Hall of Fame, such as Roy Williams, Jim Boeheim and Mike Krzyzewski. But none of them has taken a program that was down so low at Maryland was to a national championship – the school’s first and only NCAA title.

This is the greatness of Gary Williams – he had his hands tied behind his back and didn’t cut and run. He didn’t whine, or quit. He battled. He sweated. He screamed. And he won, and did it in a way that Maryland fans could be proud of – not embarrassed.

That is hard to today in the world of big time college sports. We read headlines every day about corrupt programs and coaches.

It wasn’t good enough, though, for Maryland fans, who forgot the resurrection of Maryland basketball and criticized Williams for not doing more, not winning enough, not recruiting the kind of top talent that went to schools like Kentucky. They said Williams needed to relax his standards and wake up to the realities of college sports today. Start doing business with the AAU bosses and just forget about the bad taste it leaves in your mouth.

They got what they wanted when Williams retired after the 2011 season. A new coach came aboard, and a new way of doing business as well. They hired Dalonte Hill as an assistant coach, and Hill was supposed to be the guy with the AAU connections, who could do business with the likes of Curtis Malone, who ran the AAU powerhouse D.C. Assault.

Well, Hill had to resign after he racked up his third DUI arrest in five years, and Malone turned out to be a major drug dealer, recently pleading guilty to selling large amounts of heroin and cocaine.

These are the kind of associations and connections that put programs back in the cemetery. Maryland would be hard-pressed to find another Gary Williams to dig them out, a man who willed a college basketball program to greatness.

Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 radio and espn980.com.

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