Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Gary Williams - The Axe is Near

Gary Williams has been on the hot seat for a while. He won a National Title the year after reaching a Final Four (2001 and 2002 for the Terps), but has made the NCAA tournament just three of the past six seasons.

The hot seat. Fair or not, that's just what happens when you raise the bar of expectations, then fail to fulfill them.

The issue with Williams has been his inability to recruit one of the most fertile high school basketball areas in the country. College Park, where the University of Maryland is located, is a stone's throw from Washington DC (it actually has its own stop on the DC subway line) and Prince George's Country in Maryland (where all the "DC" players come from). It is also just a 15 minute ride up 95 from Baltimore.

As I was saying, the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia) produces as much high school basketball talent as any area in the country. Here is a quick peek at some of the guys Williams has whiffed on in his own back yard the last few years:

  • Kevin Durant
  • Michael Beasley
  • Carmelo Anthony
  • Scottie Reynolds
  • DaJuan Summers
  • Chris Wright
  • Austin Freeman
  • Donte Greene
  • Rudy Gay
  • Ty Lawson
  • Jerome Dyson
  • Marcus Ginyard
  • Malcolm Delaney
And that is only scratching the surface. You think having some of those guys could help the Terps this year?

I bet they wouldn't have blown as many big leads (17 to Miami? 16 to BC last night? 14 to Morgan State with under 12 minutes left?) as they have recently.

It is actually pretty amazing that Williams is such a poor recruiter. MD plays in a gorgeous arena (I know, I've been there), has a large and loyal fan base, and is in a location that is easily accessible to other basketball hot beds Philly, Jersey, and NYC.

Last year, it seemed as if Williams had finally landed some top tier, albeit troubled recruits. But neither Tyree Evans (community outrage over his past arrests and convictions) or Gus Gilchrist (extra year of eligibility) ended up at Maryland. Gilchrist went to South Florida, where he became eligible in December and is now averaging 10.8 ppg and 5 rpg, while Evans headed to Kent State, where he too became eligible in December (and really cleaned up his act) and has since averaged 13 ppg.

It isn't just recruiting, however. Word is that Williams has had a less than perfect relationship with the athletic director's at Maryland, and I'm sure yesterday's turn of events isn't going to help that much.

According to a Baltimore Sun article:
Kathleen Worthington, a senior associate athletic director, yesterday questioned Williams' statements about forward Gus Gilchrist and guard Tyree Evans, who were to have been integral parts of Maryland's recruiting class.

Williams had told reporters Monday: "It wasn't my fault that they're not here. That was somebody else's call."

But Worthington telephoned The Baltimore Sun yesterday and said: "I want to clarify the facts and the timing and the decision process of these situations. It was my recommendation that we not sign a release for Gus. I didn't want to release him. It was the head coach's decision. No one else released Gus."

"Gary made the final decision to withdraw an offer of aid to Tyree and personally called the Office of Student Affairs to inform them he was no longer recruiting Tyree Evans because Tyree had not disclosed all of the criminal issues he'd had in his past," she said. "Gary became upset that Tyree hadn't disclosed everything."
Williams, as I'm sure you would expect, had something to say in response. From the same article:
"He was going to leave. Me signing the release had nothing to do with it," Williams said after Maryland's 76-67 loss to Boston College. "He had made up his mind. Why not sign a release and let the kid go where he wants? Why am I bad for signing a release? .... Kathy Worthington doesn't speak for me, she has never won a national championship, she has never done anything. She's an associate AD. This is just giving you guys stuff to make me look bad."

"What had been in the paper for two straight weeks was you shouldn't make that kid come into that situation here. He would have had to go through so much just being a student on campus after everything that was said in the papers. ... I've run a clean program for 20 years. Check my record."
Yup, it looks like that relationship is reeeally starting to blossom.

Just for the record, by transferring to a school outside of the ACC (he originally was going to Virginia Tech before he signed with Maryland) Gilchrist was able to play for four years as opposed to two and a half. There was an enormous outrage over Evans criminal past when he signed with the Terps (he had misdemeanor convictions for selling weed and statutory rape from prep school, and also has an arrest for gun possession on his record, but charges were never brought against him), such that he decided to withdraw from his LOI instead of facing the Maryland judicial system.

In case that didn't make sense to you, Williams is getting thrown under the bus by his AD's office because he let two recruits out of their LOI's that wanted out. One because he wanted a chance to play an extra three semesters of basketball and the other because he knew he wouldn't be happy playing in College Park.

And that is wrong because..?

You know what they say. Nice guy's finish last.

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