Maryland Coach Gary Williams' Retirement: Snap Reactions

Do you believe it? Because I still don't. I'm still waiting for Jeff Goodman or Scott Van Pelt to pop out of Twitter and let loose one giant "PSYCH!" before revealing that Gary's really sticking around. (For the record, this has nothing to do with my opinion of the man. It's just...utterly shocking.)

I had about a few minutes to get a post up earlier, and Dave's since fleshed it out. But with the amount of stuff there is to go through, that doesn't suffice. This deserves more thought and more discussion. Then again, to fully explore all of these themes - something I will do eventually - would require a solid half-dozen posts, and that's something that no one has time for right now.

Instead, here's a stream of consciousness from the most unexpected, unbelievable decision seen around these parts in years.

  • First: why? It's none of our business, I know, but it's impossible to not be curious. There has to be a reason, and I still haven't seen one yet past it being "the right time." If there was any one coach I didn't think would walk away from the game A) before he has to, and B) after the season he just had, it had to be Gary, which makes me think maybe something else is happening. His intensity is famously unmatched, and you'd think that'd transfer. He's old enough for age and/or health to factor in, and I wouldn't be surprised if it did. If it didn't, maybe his recent marriage is playing a big role in it?
  • Maybe next year's team had an impact. The most sensical explanation in my mind, if he's telling the truth, was that Gary was feeling that he was losing the magic touch. He had the nice run with Greivis, but it was preceded by a few stinkers. Then came Jordan, one amazing year when they overlapped, and the ACC regular season championship. But last year was out of the NCAA and unquestionably a down year. Then Jordan went pro, and it looked like next year would hardly be any better. If Gary felt like next year's team had no chance of making the tournament, I can understand if he wanted to get out before the going got tough. Another bad year, and the FireGarys in the world would multiple by dozens. He probably didn't want it to become a farewell tour, or be forced out.
  • But why leave when things were finally turning around? That entire scenario above only makes sense if you don't include recruiting. Recruiting is Gary's bane, but with Justin Anderson committed and the Terrapins in good position for guys like Mitch McGary, Shaquille Cleare, and Amile Jefferson, you'd think he'd stick around until the game-changing class came in. Apparently not.
  • Speaking of: Faust and Gibbs are decommitting I'm guessing they'll wait around for the new coach, but it's still a disappointment. The new coach will have to do some serious work to keep them aboard, and it'll be Priority #1.
  • Gary's still on board as associate AD. Good. He certainly deserves some say in the athletic programs as a whole. It certainly wouldn't have happened with Yow still aboard.
  • Rob Ehsan is the new interim HC. Considering seniority, I really expected Booth to become the interim head man. Instead, Ehsan will be taking the reins. This is great for both parties - E$ is still really young, and this is great for his resume and his experience. He's also without a doubt the best coach on the team: he relates well to the players, knows the game, recruits very well, and is the face of the program. Glad to see him take the reins in the meantime.
  • The coaching search begins now. We'll have more time to talk Gary later, but no one is bigger than the program. Right now, the program is in a massive state of flux, and it needs unfluxing. It's late, but Maryland is a great job. Generally speaking, this is unbelievably late for coaching searches to begin. Some of the really attractive coaches in the game (Lon Kruger, Cuonzo Martin) have already been taken. But out of all of the open jobs in the offseason, Maryland is probably the best. It isn't elite, but it's darn close. Maryland has money; not a ton, but enough. They have great facilities. They have a winning tradition, both historically (Lefty) and recently (2002). They play in a top-notch conference. They're a basketball school. And they have a ridiculous recruiting ground. They'll have quite a few choices. Like:
  • Tubby Smith? Remember when a reporter said that Tubby would leave for one job and one job only? Yeah, it was Maryland. Tubby had a great run at Kentucky and has done well with Minnesota so far. He's not going to rock your socks off in recruiting, and he's definitely not the sexiest choice. He wins, though, and it's difficult to find a better pedigree.
  • Or maybe Mike Brey? Yuck, I know. But he's from Bethesda and went to DeMatha, which is a rare commodity. I know he looks/acts like a K protege (which he is), but he's done at least adequately at Notre Dame, in both recruiting and coaching. He's not a home run, but he's a safe hire.
  • Or one of the dream team hires? Jay Wright? Jamie Dixon? Brad Stevens? Maybe they're interested and they're a definite dream hire, but stop thinking about it until the rumors pop up. Especially Brad Stevens.
  • Or how 'bout a real dream hire? Two words: Sean Miller.
  • This has to get done fast. Recruiting is going full speed. Keeping Justin Anderson on board, keeping Shaquille Cleare and Mitch McGary interested, getting a foothold on 2013: they're all extremely important. Most coaching hires had been done months ago.
  • Let's be frank: we don't know if the next guy will be better or worse. This will offend both the FOG and the FGs among you, but it's the truth. In terms of the entire package (recruiting, coaching, teaching) Gary was inconsistent. Sometimes he was incredibly good, especially when he had the assistants (see: 2002). Other times, he was...mediocre (see: the past nine years, minus Greivis). You're a fool to think that Gary was so amazing that, say, Thad Matta (not an actual possibility, just a random example) couldn't do it better. You're also a fool if you think that any coach who comes in here will do it better than he has.
  • Regardless: thank you Gary. Even FG has to accept this one. Gary had his down years, but his value to the university has been immense, perhaps even immeasurable. He won us a national championship, for one, and that alone is a spot at the center of every Terrapin fan's heart. Consider where the program was when he came in. Consider where it is when he left it. Night and day. He built Comcast Center. He's been a financial windfall in many ways. He's put up with things that no one else would've, and he stayed at the program when no one else would've. He took Maryland from the death penalty to the pinnacle of the sport. They might've fallen back a little, but they're still on the doorstep of the elites. Thanks, Gary, for everything.
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