Maryland begins the search for Gary Williams’s successor as head coach

May 5, 2011

Pittsburgh’s Jamie Dixon, Arizona’s Sean Miller, Notre Dame’s Mike Brey and Villanova’s Jay Wright are expected to be high on Maryland’s target list as the school looks to replace Gary Williams, Maryland’s winningest coach who unveiled his plans to retire Thursday.

Thanks in large part to Maryland’s impressive facilities and the Washington area’s deep pool of high school basketball talent, the school’s head coaching position is widely considered among the nation’s top 15 to 20 college basketball jobs, a vacancy that will attract a strong pool of candidates. And Maryland is expected aim for a high-profile successor to Williams.

College basketball sources across the country and those close to Maryland’s athletic department said the focus of first-year Athletic Director Kevin Anderson should initially center on Dixon, Miller, Brey and Wright.

Dixon and Anderson have a strong relationship that stems from Anderson’s tenure as athletic director at Army. Dixon’s sister, Maggie Dixon, was the women’s basketball coach at Army before dying from heart failure in 2006.

Dixon has amassed a 216-60 record in eight seasons at Pittsburgh, and the Panthers went 31-5 in 2009.

Sources said there is mutual interest between Maryland and Brey, who has deep roots in the area. One source close to the Maryland athletic department and to Brey said Brey wants the Maryland job.

Maryland already has reached out to representatives for Brey, the Chicago Tribune reported Thursday afternoon, and Brey has a contract extension in the works to remain with the Irish, a source told the newspaper.

Brey, this past season’s Big East coach of the year, has a 238-120 record in 11 seasons at Notre Dame. But Brey has made just one round-of-16 appearance (2003) during his tenure, and the Fighting Irish were upset by Florida State in the second round of this year’s tournament.

Born in Bethesda, Brey graduated from DeMatha and George Washington, and later returned to the area as an assistant for five seasons under Morgan Wootten.

Two years ago, Miller, then Xavier’s head coach, was expected to be a top candidate for the Maryland job had then-Athletic Director Debbie Yow fired Williams after the 2009 season, according to a source with knowledge of the relationship between Yow and Williams.

After the 2009 season, Miller went to Arizona, where he has quickly rebuilt one of the premier basketball programs in the nation. Under Miller, unheralded recruit Derrick Williams blossomed into one of the nation’s best players, and Arizona was a three-pointer away from reaching the Final Four this March.

Maryland is also expected to target Villanova’s Wright, who has led the Wildcats to seven NCAA tournament appearances in 10 seasons, including a Final Four appearance in 2009. Williams is expected to be involved in the hiring of the new coach to some extent, a source said.

Others who could be in the mix include Gonzaga Coach Mark Few, who has been a friend of Gary Williams for some time, Minnesota Coach Tubby Smith and Virginia Commonwealth Coach Shaka Smart.

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