March 15, 2009

A Few More Thoughts On Gary Williams

First of all, let me preface this by saying that I am writing this post with the assumption (a rather major assumption) that in about four hours, the Terps will appear on CBS in the NCAA Tournament brackets, after they showed up in a big way at the ACC Tournament in Atlanta.
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I think it's safe to say that the "Gary Williams Issue" is one of the biggest quandaries for Terp fans. Because, at the end of the day, we all still love Gary Williams.
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J-Red and I were talking this morning. I think the main reason that Terp fans love Gary so much is that he reflects the personality of the Maryland student and the Maryland alum.
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Most anybody who went to Maryland is damn proud to be a Terp. The reason that many of us hate Duke and hate UVA and hate Georgetown is because we have a huge chip on our collective shoulder at the collective sanctimony displayed by so many of the alums and students at those schools. I know, I know, there are exceptions to the rule - one of my best high school friends went to UVA. But by and large, there is truth to this stereotype. We're stubbornly proud to be Terps. We're angry. We're competitive. Our fans will do whatever it takes to get under our opponents skin to create the most hostile environment possible and we're actually damn proud that Comcast has such a horrible reputation. We feel like we've been wrongly singled out by the national media (like Outside the Lines and ESPN) for engaging in the exact same conduct that student fans of most major colleges engage in. We feel FIRE about our athletic teams (and as the stereotype goes, often times literally so when it comes to celebrating our victories). We're confident that we went to a great school and got the best bang for our buck when it came to education, no matter what anybody else has to say about it.

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When Gary comes out of that tunnel and rocks his fist towards the student section, it's Gary against the world. It's Gary against his own athletic administration. It's Gary against the opponent. It's Gary against anybody who dares to doubt him. It's Gary against those programs that buy wins and buy talent and dare do anything to decrease his legacy. It's Gary against the media who wants to write multi-part series about his recruiting failures and who want to write stories trying to dig up recruiting violations that, even if they did happen, are commonplace at Georgetown and Duke and Syracuse and UConn and Kansas.

In sum, Gary Williams embodies the spirit that Maryland students have. Gary embodies the spirit that Maryland alums have. We can't wait to say "screw you" to the NCAA selection committee and beat whatever team is seeded higher than us. We can't wait to say "screw you" to Jim Calhoun and Bob Huggins and John Thompson III and Mike Kzykzadfxsdkski and any player, coach, or program that likes to pretend to be sparkly clean, but that everyone knows in reality is dirty as hell.

And herein lies the problem. Gary's stubbornness to change is what Terp fans love about him. And what Terp fans hate about him. We know that we should never, ever, ever be in a situation where we're starting a 6'7" guy at center who would either be starting at the 3 or 4, or would be coming off the bench at most other schools. We know that we shouldn't be in a situation where we are so far behind when it comes to talent. Yet at the same time, we want to shake Gary's hand, buy him a beer (or 20), and thank him for his incredible job this season, because we'd take Gary over literally any other NCAA coach in the nation in light of how Gary has made the most with the least. I would bet that no other coach in the nation could have had the success that Gary has had with the talent that he's had at his disposal this year, in such a difficult conference. Very few other coaches in the nation could've had his players literally fighting and scrambling and scrounging for those two wins necessary in the ACC Tournament to sneak into the NCAAs.

Gary's coaching performance in Friday night's game against Wake made Terp fans everywhere awfully damn proud. We love Gary for who he is. And we love him for who he is not. But at the same time, sometimes we hate Gary for who he is. Because he's a lot like many of us in ways we're not necessarily happy about.

17 Responses:

Bill-DC said...

That and Belushi's "Let's do it!" in Animal House are two of the greatest speeches ever.

Grant said...

yeah, great post.

Anonymous said...

Since you love him so much, why don't you try and find a job working for him in his program (assistant coach, sports information, manager, trainer, basketball operations)? I guarantee you wouldn't last 2 weeks. I'm not talking about the players. Most of them love Gary. I mean the staff, including his own assistant coaches.

I love all the Terps fans who talk about Gary as if they have any clue what REALLY GOES ON behind the scenes. You guys don't know 10 percent of what really goes on behind the scenes. You cheer for him because you're Maryland fans and that's great. I love your passion. But don't tell me you know what goes on because most of you have never been there.

Consider this. His own former player Michael Adams, who played for Gary for 4 season at BC, quit after a year of being Gary's assitant.

I have it from a great source why he quit. He said "the way Gary talks to me, it's like I'm not even a human being".

Again Terps fans. You love your coach so much. I dare you to apply for a job next season with the program. Stick around for a month and let's see how you like him then.

Anonymous said...

Brien, those comments were NOT directed towards you or any member of ECB. They are directed towards a lot of people who talk like they know what goes on in the MD program when most of them don't. I did not mean those comments towards Brien, J-Red, Jeremy, or Russell.

Russell said...

We're in! I agree with the earlier comments by my fellow contributors that Gary deserves a ton of credit for leading this team to the tournament.

Cal isn't even that bad a matchup in the first round.

J-Red said...

Great post Jeremy. You took a throwaway comment from me this morning and turned it into great stuff.

"ben" said...

[email protected]'s Gary Williams love-fest after calling for his head all year.

I hope to see a Michigan-Maryland rematch, soon.

Lee said...

Chills down spine reading that post. All Hail Gary, All Hail Terp!!

Michael Adams (and anonymous), you aren't a human being. You're a guy that coached a WNBA team. You deserve to be talked down to like that. Deal with it and grow a pair.

Jeremy said...

To Anonymous:

You're right... unlike our frequent commenter Nikhil, we don't have inside access to the basketball program. But this post wasn't meant to talk about what goes on behind the scenes. In fact, I'd venture to say that what goes on behind the scenes has about 3% relevance to this post. Rather, the point of this post was to say that for as much as Terp fans get frustrated with Gary (myself included), at the same time as we're frustrated and pissed and wonder if it's time for fresh blood, we love Gary because our PERCEPTION (which may not be the inside story reality) is that he mirrors the mentality of us Terp alums. I mean, I'll be honest... days after I wrote the post talking about how it may be time for a change, I was at one of the Maryland games. When Gary came out of that tunnel and swung his fist, I was on my feet screaming... because you know what... when it's time to go to the mattresses, my perception is that I'd rather do that with Gary than most other coaches in the country. Now how people who deal with him on an insider basis feel may be very different. But 99% of Terp fans and alums don't have that experience. Myself included.

Nikhil said...

For the record, I was not the person who made that post about Gary, although I think I know the person who did.
I think Brien did a great job summing up the feelings of Maryland students, alumni, and fans have towards our program and our coach, Gary Williams. As one who has family who lives in Durham, I see how we never get the respect in the "Tarheel State" that we deserve. Wake Forest and NC State get more respect than we do. Other elite schools and their fans thumb their noses at Maryland.
At the same time, "anonymous" also summed up the feelings that some athletic department employees and other "insiders" may feel towards Coach Williams.
In my experience, most of the players love Coach Williams. Personally, I think Coach Williams can be a very generous, warm person at times.
I was actually pretty lucky. For my first 3 years (I was there for 4), he was much better to me than he was to a lot of other managers and assistants.
At the same time, he is also capable of being pissed at you for something you had nothing to do with. He is at times a very, very, very unfair and irrational person. This is especially true of managers and others outside of the athletic departments, especially his sports information people.
So to sum up, he is a complicated person. Someone who can be nice at times and a complete jerk others.
But he is one hell of a coach and strategist. He can flat out TEACH, which is something a lot of big time college coaches don't do very well. His recruiting? Well, that's another discussion, although we may get Lance Stephenson.
So while I have been critical of Coach Williams in many instances, I also believe credit must be given where credit is due. What he did this year was amazing. I am happy for the school, the fans, and for the players.

Nikhil

Nikhil said...

Sorry. I gave Brien credit for Jeremy's post. My bad, Jeremy;)

Anonymous said...

When you have to talk about it being you "against the world" there are two possible reasons - the world (usually relatively objective) is wrong or you (uninformed and biased) are. Oh yeah - don't forget - the world includes a lot of people who spend their careers at this and you spend your free time spouting off on message boards.

Lee said...

Have you seen 'the world' lately? Darfur? Jihad? American retaliation Crusade? Dick Vitale in the basketball hall of fame? The world baseball classic? 60% of Americans not believing in evolution? Tofurkey? The world IS wrong! We should be against it.

gpb said...

Have you seen 'the world' lately? Darfur? Jihad? American retaliation Crusade? Dick Vitale in the basketball hall of fame? The world baseball classic? 60% of Americans not believing in evolution? Tofurkey? The world IS wrong! We should be against it.

Can I buy drugs from you? I'd like a reason to not make sense too.

Lee said...

Darfur = genocide = wrong
Jihad = wrong
crusade in Iraq = wrong
Dick Vitale = suck
world baseball classic = worthless
evolution = happened
creationism = wrong
Tofurkey (tofu turkey) = EXTREMELY wrong

That's whats going on in the world without even referencing AIG or Bernie Madoff. The world has gone astray. Be against it. Viva la resistance!

Drug free since 2006....

Stephen Finley said...

What an awesome post! I didn't even go to the school and I was a big Terps fan during college because when I went to Midnight Madness with you guys, the energy and the excitement was so ramped up that I couldn't help but be caught in it. Now that I'm in AZ I can't catch most of the games, but when we took down UNC I was on my feet.

Coach Williams always struck me as a bit of a prick, but you know what? He doesn't have to be a nice guy to be good at what he does. He's not running for office, he's coaching a basketball team. Doing things his way led the Terps to a national championship a few years ago. My roommate in college was a Duke fan, and he claimed that we won because we were lucky. Luck can get you a win, perhaps two, but winning that title took talent, skill and excellent coaching.

Gary should have his job for as long as he wants it. If anything, watching him have a heart attack on the court every game is entertaining as hell.

Crazy Gary said...

Earlier this year, I was at the Maryland-Duke game at Cameron. I was sitting about three feet behind the MD bench. Crazy Gary was not happy with one of his players, so he yanked him and wanted to talk to him (yell at him), but the seats where Gary wanted him to sit on the bench were occupied by two of his assistant coaches. So Gary looks right at his coaches and yells: "MOVE OVER, AS$HOLES!"

To his own coaches! Unbelievable.

Seriously, the guy is nuts.

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