Friday, May 6, 2011

Maryland to name court after Williams

Maryland will name its basketball court after coach Gary Williams, school president Wallace Loh said today at a news conference to announce Williams' retirement.

Loh said Williams represents the heart and soul of the university and is a teacher who has maintained ethical standards and plays by the rules. Loh called Williams an "incredibly loyal alumnus" who displayed fierce competitiveness in 22 seasons as coach.

"You are a champion on the court and you are a champion in the community," Loh said. "Your legacy will live on forever."

Williams, 66, posted 668 career wins and a 461-252 record at Maryland with two Final Four trips and an NCAA title in 2002. He said he feels like he could still coach, but realizes there are other opportunities out there for him.

He will remain at Maryland as a special assistant to athletics director Kevin Anderson.

"Whatever he wants me to do to help, I'll help," Williams said. "I'm very confident that we can have a program we'll all be proud of in the future."

Williams had glassy eyes and a quivering lip through much of the news conference, which lasted about an hour. He said he briefly considered retiring in 2002 after Maryland won the NCAA title.

He thought about retiring again in 2010, after a team he thought was capable of making the Final Four lost a heartbreaker in the second round of the NCAA tournament to eventual national semifinalist Michigan State. But he stayed around one more season to coach a younger team last season partly because it gave him the opportunity to do something he loves to do - teach.

Now, he said, he has good people around him and good health, and he is ready to do something different.

"I've seen coaches where they just stayed too long," Williams said. "And if you leave a little early, it's better than staying too late."

One day before Williams' retirement was made public, forward Jordan Williams announced that he would stay in the NBA draft rather than return to Maryland for his junior season. Gary Williams said Jordan's departure had no impact on Gary's decision to step down as coach.

There was no mention of Williams' feud with his former boss, Debbie Yow, during the portion of the news conference televised on Maryland's official web site. Last month, Yow accused Williams of sabotaging the coaching search that Yow was leading as N.C. State's athletics director and resulted in the hiring of Mark Gottfried.

In 1989, Williams took over for Bob Wade with a team that had been crippled by scandal in a program haunted by the tragic death of Len Bias. Williams said the only thing he knew to do in that circumstance is work extremely hard.

He leaves his job proud that he took that team to the top of the college basketball world and confident that he will find something else worthwhile to do.

"Why now?" Williams asked. "It's just a gut feeling, more than anything else."

Ken Tysiac