- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 13, 2002

Just in time for the start of college basketball practice, three books have sprung forth related to Maryland's capture of its first NCAA tournament championship last spring in Atlanta. All are worth a read, at least for the school's hoops faithful.
"Sweet Redemption" by Gary Williams and David A. Vise ($24.95, Sports Publishing L.L.C., 254 pages, illus.) Williams, Maryland's long-denied but currently triumphant coach, and Vise, a veteran reporter for The Washington Post, have turned out a satisfying and comprehensive account of the school's re-emergence among the ranks of basketball's elite. The book's subtitle says it all, if somewhat melodramatically: "How Gary Williams and Maryland Beat Death and Despair to Win the NCAA Basketball Championship."
The narrative is told by Vise, with frequent italicized passages from Williams. Probably this device works more effectively than if the book were "written" by Williams in the first person because his personality is such a big part of the story that a touch of objectivity along the way is helpful.
It is startling to recall that soon after Williams became coach at his alma mater in 1989, he had cause to feel that "if I would have known what things would be like at Maryland, I would never have left Ohio State." That was because of the feeling among many on campus "that basketball was a bad thing" following the cocaine-related death of Terrapins star Len Bias three years earlier and subsequent suggestions that the program lacked discipline. Williams also was hamstrung in his early years by NCAA sanctions on the program because of violations committed during the brief reign of predecessor Bob Wade.
Fortunately, tenacity is one of Williams' strongest assets. "He wanted to win so badly, you could see it in his eyes and hear it in his tone of voice," former star guard Juan Dixon says in his introduction to the book. "Coach sees things in players that other coaches don't. He looks for people who have the same work ethic he does [meaning nonstop]."
Williams, noted for his intensity on the sideline during games, puts it this way: "I coach every game as if it was the most important game I have ever coached." (No kidding, Gary?)
Vise and Williams take us through the difficult early years at Maryland and then the ones when the Terps went to the NCAAs every year and suffered one first-round knockout after another. Finally, there came a trip to the Final Four and a licking by ACC rival Duke in the 2001 semifinals. Determined to avenge themselves, the veteran Terps went 32-4 last season and won their first national title by defeating Kansas in the semifinals and Indiana in the championship game.
Williams remained so intense that, with one minute to go and victory assured in the grand finale, he yowled at Dixon for a five-second violation. But right after the game, Dixon recalls, "he told me he loved me. How about that."
"From Rock to Jock" by Johnny Holliday with Stephen Moore ($22.95, Sports Publishing L.L.C., 243 pages, illus.)
As the play-by-play broadcaster of Maryland's football and basketball games for 23 years, Holliday has been around for many of the lean years as well as the recently successful ones in both sports.
Yet his book covers much more ground, starting with his early years as a disc jockey in Cleveland, New York and San Francisco before he came to Washington in the late '60s and became one of the market's premier radio personalities.
Even now, at 64, Holliday continues to report sports for ABC Radio and Comcast SportsNet and act in dinner theater productions as well as covering the Terps. His schedule and his energy are enough to shame people half his age.
The only problem, if that's what it is, with Holliday's book is that he likes almost everyone he meets, which produces a string of compliments that can get a trifle tiresome. Yet no one who knows Holliday would doubt his sincerity.
Holliday was born in Miami as John Holliday Bobbitt, and he uses this fact to get off a pretty good one-liner about infamous marital adversaries John and Lorena Bobbitt: "The only similarity between John Bobbitt and Johnny Holliday Bobbitt is that my 1960s New York radio career was also unexpectedly cut short."
"Maryland Basketball" by Paul McMullen ($29.95, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 192 pages, illus.) The author, a former Maryland beat writer for the Baltimore Sun, has contributed the definitive book on the Terps' basketball history.
His interviews with dozens of sources enable him to discuss the notable coaching tenures of Bud Millikan and Lefty Driesell as authoritatively as that of Gary Williams. To his credit, McMullen doesn't skimp over the school's often checkered roundball past in a rush to reach the glorious present.
Particularly moving is McMullen's account of Len Bias' death and the turmoil that followed and eventually cost Driesell his job. When it comes to discussing the Bias tragedy and other highs and lows of Lefty's 17-year reign, McMullen strives to be fair and objective.
I wish the production values for the book matched McMullen's writing in quality. Inexplicably, the type is too small, while the center of each two-page spread is blank except for a simple graphic that resembles a small child's attempt to draw a basketball court. Nonetheless, McMullen's writing and thoroughness make the book worthwhile.


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide