There's a subset of venerated basketball coaches who never won an NCAA championship, and it once looked as if Maryland's Gary Williams was fated to join Ray Meyer, Lefty Driesell, Gene Keady and Eddie Sutton in that club. That's why, in light of Williams's announcement last week that he's retiring after 33 seasons, 22 of them in College Park, the Terps' defeat of Indiana in the 2002 title game looks like a moment of grace. That night Williams capped his career at the school where he once played and where he'll now serve as an assistant athletic director. Maryland had hired him in 1989 still reeling from the death of Len Bias, only to suffer through an NCAA hide strapping not of his making (no postseason play or TV appearances for myriad recruiting violations). Williams was many things, including passionate, stubborn, even paranoid, but he never sank into self-pity. "I chose to be here," he recalled on Friday, "so I was going to make the best of it."
Williams eventually became the first coach to win a title without at least one McDonald's High School All-American. Just like their coach, the players who thrived under him—undersold kids like Joe Smith, Steve Francis and Juan Dixon—refused to look for excuses. Of picking over prospects unclaimed by ACC and Big East powers, Williams once said, "It's more fun. You're not dealing with a bunch of guys upset that they're still in college when they're juniors."
During his time in the Big East (Boston College, 1982--86) and the Big Ten (Ohio State, 1986--89), as well as the ACC, all the iconic coaches he faced—Thompson, Boeheim, Knight, Heathcote, Smith, Krzyzewski—were better for hearing Williams's insistent voice echoing down the sideline. Each would be quick to confirm that his rival, one of only 20 NCAA basketball coaches to exceed 650 victories (668--380), had made the best of it.
SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE
A Vancouver auto dealership was ordered by the NHL to remove a sign on its windows that read GO CANUCKS GO, HONK IF YOU'RE A FAN, along with a picture of a vintage team logo, on the basis that it represented a trademark infringement.
MITCH STRINGER/CAL SPORT MEDIA (WILLIAMS)
FEAR THE TURTLE Williams's 668 career wins, 461 at Maryland, rank 18th alltime.