It came as a shock to Terrapins fans and even to many close to him, including the team’s graduating seniors, who posed with their coach earlier in the day without any idea his retirement was at hand.
Washington area sports fans barely had time to digest the fact that the Capitals had been swept from yet another National Hockey League playoff series when sports talk radio was interrupted by news that Williams, the region’s longest-tenured coach of any sport, was stepping down. Williams noted simply, in a statement released by the university, “It’s the right time.”
In an interview, Williams, 66, explained that he started thinking about retiring in March 2010, after Maryland upset Duke at Comcast Center to clinch a share of the ACC’s regular season championship. But after the departure of then-Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow, with whom he’d had a strained relationship, Williams decided to stay another year and see if his zeal for the job didn’t return.
Though he said he enjoyed working with the Terps’ new athletic director, Kevin Anderson, Williams said: “I think I’d been worn down by the previous 15 years. It grinds on you.”
Williams is expected to elaborate on his decision Friday, when he’ll meet with reporters at a news conference that’s being staged at 17,950-seat Comcast Center, with Terrapin alumni, fans and supporters invited to attend.
Within minutes of Williams’s resignation, speculation began about his successor. His departure comes less than six months after Maryland ousted its football coach, Ralph Friedgen, who was also a Maryland graduate. But it’s doubtful the Terps’ next basketball coach will be a product of the university.
Villanova Coach Jay Wright is high on Maryland’s list to replace Williams, according to an individual familiar with the situation. Wright is a widely respected former Big East coach of the year with ties to the area. Notre Dame Coach Mike Brey, a Bethesda native who attended DeMatha, is reportedly interested. Maryland officials contacted Brey, this past season’s Big East coach of the year, on Thursday, according to the Chicago Tribune, but he may be working on a contract extension at Notre Dame.
A source also cited Arizona Coach Sean Miller as a potential candidate.
Williams, for his part, doesn’t plan to stray far from College Park. He’ll stay on with the university as an assistant athletic director and special assistant to Anderson, working closely with the Terrapin Club to raise money for scholarships and the athletic department in general.