The story of his odyssey from AU to Boston College to Ohio State to Maryland and the rebuilding there is a familiar one. Now, with the championship won, with all the questions about winning The Big One behind him, Williams wonders what will come next.
“I still don’t think I’ve quite figured it out,” he said. “I mean, I’m still waiting for it to really hit me. I haven’t stopped moving, it seems like, since we won Monday, doing one thing or another. I haven’t been alone, had a chance to sort of take a deep breath and enjoy what we accomplished. It’s as if I still have work to do right now, and the time to really sit back and enjoy it will come later.”
Even so, Williams is starting to savor everything that is going on in his life at the moment. He sat up until the early hours of the morning Tuesday with Kristen — “surrounded by 4,000 of my best friends,” he said — reveling in the feeling of complete satisfaction that he hadn’t felt at the end of a season since 1971, when he won the New Jersey state championship at Wilson.
“You know when you have success in coaching, you’re going to be in tournament play at the end of a season,” he said. “That means, almost every year you coach, your last game is going to be a loss. At the end of the game Monday, I wasn’t quite sure what to do next because it had been so long since I won a game at the end of the season, and there was nothing else left to do. My instincts were telling me there must be another game to prepare for, something else I needed to work on even though what was going on around me was telling me different.
“Now though, I’m just looking at my desk and thinking, ‘How am I going to call all these people back?’ I don’t feel like I’m any different today than I was a couple days ago, but there’s no doubt that my life is different.”
Different can be good. Since the birth of his grandson 2 1/2 years ago, Williams has been determined to enjoy that presence in his life as often as possible. Looking back at his early coaching days,Williams often said he wished he could have another chance as a father to spend more time at home with Kristen.
“You don’t get do-overs,” he said. “But spending time with David has been a great thing for me, and I’m planning to chase him as long as my knees hold up.” He paused. “Did you watch him running around the court Monday night? He’s got some quicks.”
The instinct to think like a coach never leaves, at least not for long.Williams knows it won’t be long before he is bombarded by questions about next year and the future. He’s okay with that. But he wants very much to have the chance sometime soon to step back and appreciate what has just taken place.
“Tom Davis was a great basketball coach,” he said. “He was successful in the Big East, the Pac-10 and the Big 10. But he never made the Final Four. Some people will say that means he wasn’t a great coach. I don’t agree. There’s so much luck involved in the whole thing. If Juan doesn’t hit the shot against Connecticut and we lose, am I a failure as a coach? What if one of our key guys steps off a curb Sunday and sprains an ankle. You think about all those things and then, when it’s finally over and you’ve won, you understand what’s gone into it, that it’s a very hard thing to do.”
He paused again as if the notion of what he and his team had accomplished was sinking in a little bit more as he spoke. “I’d like to think we’ll have the chance to do this again,” he said. “But we may not, who knows? What I do know is, when the chance was there, right in front of us, we got the job done. I can feel good about that for a long time.”
A very long time. Forever.