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After 22 seasons at his alma mater, Gary Williams is retiring as head basketball coach at Maryland. Williams leaves College Park, MD with 461 wins (668 career wins), three ACC regular season titles, a pair of Final Four appearances and a National Title.
While the Terrapins did win 20+ games in both ’08-’09 and ’09-’10, the program hasn’t been at elite level since winning Williams’ Nat’l Title in ’02. But make no mistake, when Williams officially announces his retirement today, he leaves a premiere job opening. And that should scare A&M Athletic Director Bill Byrne, among others.
Maryland has great facilities – the Comcast Center which replaced legendary Cole Fieldhouse in ’04 seats 17,500, a great recruiting base – the local AAU circuit is loaded with NBA caliber talent but Williams found the AAU scene too filthy to bother with, and the ACC conference to recruit to.
Why wouldn’t Aggie coach Mark Turgeon take the call when the Turtle dials him up – and Maryland will call. Like the last “up-and-coming” great hoops coach in College Station, Billy Gillispie found the grass greener – or should we say blue-er[?] when Kentucky came calling. While Gillispie flamed out miserably in Lexington, Turgeon has guided A&M hoops to four straight NCAA Tournament appearances. If asked today, Gillispie would probably tell his successor in Aggieland that jumping for the brass ring could be a big mistake. Let’s face it, the grease fire that was his brief tenure at UK will be a cautionary tale for coaches and athletic directors for years to come.
That said if offered the advice, Turgeon should politely dismiss the biased information. Maryland can compete on Kentucky’s level, but it’s not Kentucky basketball. All the support is there in College Park – and basketball is the alpha-program, but the ignorant, unrealistic fanaticism that smothers UK hoops is not as pervasive at Maryland. The simple fact is, if Turgeon wants to win a National Title the path is significantly easier for a Terrapin than an Aggie.
Turgeon will have competition for Williams’ office. You can expect Maryland AD Kevin Anderson will call Butler’s Brad Stevens, Gonzaga’s Mark Few, Villanova’s Jay Wright and Pitt’s Jamie Dixon among others. Remember Williams returned to his alma matter by leaving Ohio State, not a mid-major.
Turgeon is a great coach, and under his guidance A&M is making a serious run at passing Texas for second in the Big 12 pecking order – behind Kansas. But when Maryland calls, fear the Turtle A&M. Fear the Turtle.