For a number of years, former Maryland basketball head coach Gary Williams has been passed over repeatedly for nomination in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Despite being 22nd in career wins in NCAA D-1 basketball, Williams' name has never come up for induction, almost forgotten as one of the great coaches in what was college one of basketball's elite conferences.
Gary Williams' head coaching career spanned 33 years and began in 1978 when he was hired at American. In four seasons at the helm, Williams guided American to a 72-42 record, which included winning the 1980-1981 East Coast Conference regular season title.
In 1982, Williams was hired as the head coach of Boston College, where he stayed for four years, He led the Eagles to a 76-45 record during his time there, winning the Big East regular season title in 1983. That season, his team lost to #1 seed Virginia in the West region semifinals, 95-92, and finished the season ranked 11th in the final AP Poll.
In 1986, Gary was hired by Ohio State, where he coached for three years, compiling a 59-41 overall record. He took the Buckeyes to the 1987 NCAA tournament and in 1989 was hired by his alma mater to try and revitalize a program that was both dealing with the aftermath of Len Bias' tragic drug related death, as well as getting out of the shadow of former head coach Bob Wade. But little did Gary know how much worse the situation at Maryland was about to become.
Following the 1989-1990 season, in which Maryland finished with a 19-14 record, the NCAA came down hard on the Maryland program, throwing the book at the school for NCAA violations committed under former head coach Bob Wade and citing the infamous "lack of institutional control" label on the school. The program was banned from post season play in 1991 and 1992, prohibited from playing on television during the 1990-1991 season (which prevented them from playing in the 1991 ACC Tournament), and docket two scholarships for two seasons. It was the basketball equivalent of the NCAA's "death penalty" and Gary Williams inherited it all, none of which resulted from anything he had done as a head coach.
He could have left the school he had graduated from and played for, not wanting to deal with the sanctions and circumstances that could potentially derail the career of a young, upcoming coach. But Gary stayed, choosing instead to rebuild the program back into a powerhouse he knew it was capable of becoming.
Gary dealt with all of the adversity, fought through some lean years and adverse circumstances, but was still able to recruit some of the top local talent to Maryland. A short time later, he again had Maryland competing at the high level he demanded. And nothing summed up Maryland being "back" more than a win against Georgetown in 1993.
Beginning in 1994, Maryland would appear in 11 straight NCAA tournament appearances, including back to back Final Fours and the National Championship in 2002.
Gary could have left Maryland at its weakest time and gone on to another school, where he undoubtedly would have been successful and not taken a hit to his win-loss record as a coach. But he unselfishly stayed and not only rebuilt Maryland basketball, but took them to the top of the college basketball world. In the process, he finished his career ranking third all-time in ACC wins with 461, trailing only Mike Krzyzewski (904) and Dean Smith (879).
Furthermore, Gary won most of his games in the ACC during a time when there wasn't parity in college basketball. He was constantly competing against schools like North Carolina and Duke, who were led by coaching legends and year in and year out produced some of the most talented teams in the nation.
Gary knew that in order to be considered the best, you had to play against and beat the best. And no coach was better at beating the best on a consistent basis than Gary Williams. His teams had 33 wins against top ten teams, including 20 against teams in the top 10 and seven wins against #1 ranked schools.
He won regular season conference titles with three different teams in three different conferences. He was the National Coach of the year in 2002 and was twice named ACC coach of the year (2002 & 2010). He guided Maryland to three regular season ACC titles and the 2004 ACC Tournament title. He compiled a 29-16 NCAA Tournament record during his career. He's a member of both the University of Maryland's Alumni and Sports Halls of Fame, the Greater Washington Sports Hall of Champions, and most recently, the Baltimore Sports Legends Museum Hall of Legends.
Now it's time to put Gary Williams in one more hall; the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, where he deserves to be enshrined with basketball's elite.
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