OK, I can finally react. This is a complete and utter shock. I am surprised, as we all are, that Gary is not staying for the coming upswing in recruiting. I am surprised that he is not staying and going out relatively on top in two years or so.
Reflecting, I am reminded how identified Gary was/is with the University of Maryland. There are more successful coaches and more well known coaches, but few coaches were/are as identified with their University as Gary. Coach K, Boeheim, maybe Calhoun. I always told myself that I would be much less of fan if the University forced him out (always unthinkable in my mind), but now that he retired on his own, I still think it will be tough for me to muster the same passion.
I didn't go to Maryland, I just grew up playing hoop in Baltimore without an NBA team to cheer for and started rooting for the Terps right when the sanctions were lifted and Smith/Booth made the Sweet Sixteen as freshmen. I think I was more of a Gary fan that a Maryland fan. I grew disinterested in the Orioles and Ravens and pro sports in general because the characters are always chagning and money governs all. I am not naive enough to think that the same isn't true in college sports, but Gary always represented the antithesis of all that. He was constant, he did things the right way, and he followed an ethos of how to win.
I don't blame him for leaving, I just wish he got to enjoy a few more years of success which seemed like they were coming. I am reminded of that image of Tarkanian from the recent HBO special (ironic I would think of that image considering how much controversary he got in when Gary was completely clean) where Tark kicked back with his hands on his head and watched his team dominate. Gary never got to enjoy it that way. But, maybe, he wasn't meant to and wouldn't have enjoyed it anyway. He was a worker, defiant and proud to the end.
Thank you, Gary. Thank you for staying true to yourself, leading the progam back to prominence, and most of all, thank you for wonderful 22 years of Terp basketball. Enjoy reteriment, you've earned it.