If Maryland can’t have a winning team with Williams within a couple of years, then there’s a jinx at work and the school might as well turn Cole Field House into a handball court.
“There’s no reason we can’t be competitive with anyone in the country,” said Williams, setting the same high standards that Maryland always imposes on itself where basketball is concerned. “We’re in a great location in that corridor of talent from Washington to New York. We play in the ACC against great schools. We’re on TV a lot. Put that together with the academics I’ve always stressed. It’s a good package.”
To hear Williams’s enthusiasm, you could almost forget Maryland’s suffering for the past four years. “I think we can be a great program. The potential for that is there . . . I look at the future and see the kind of things Maryland deserves,” gushed Williams. “I don’t anticipate going to another job. It’s about time I established some roots.”
Part of the charm of Williams’s arrival is that this is not a man returning to coach UCLA or Kentucky. This is just a three-points-a-game guard coming back home to Maryland, a school that’s never won an NCAA title or been to the Final Four. This is no dynasty. Just a nice alma mater with untapped promise.
That’s the way all romantic revivals start. With memories of an idealized past which, often, never really existed. Williams got basketball in his blood back in the ‘70s when he was beginning his coaching career and, at Maryland, Len Elmore, Tom McMillen and John Lucas stood for much that was best in college basketball. That was early Lefty, the best Lefty. McMillen was a Rhodes Scholar, Elmore got a law degree from Harvard and, for a while, until his admitted involvement with cocaine, Lucas looked like he might go further than any of them.
Many don’t remember that Maryland. Then, Terrapins basketball did not stand for Len Bias’s death or Driesell’s howling exodus or Wade’s bitter departure.
But Gary Williams remembers.
“I will remind them,” he says of that rich past. “But we must look ahead too . . . Right now I could say a lot of things. But I won’t. I have to do them.”