Williams Isn't Fans' Favorite Sweater

By John Feinstein
Saturday, February 11, 2006

I was in the locker room at the health club last Sunday morning when I happened to overhear a conversation between two guys wearing Maryland sweat shirts.

"You going to watch the game today?"

"Yeah, I guess I'll turn it on and watch the worst-coached team in America lose another one."

Like everyone, I overhear guys talking sports in the locker room all the time. Most of the time, I'm smart enough to ignore what's being said -- no matter how ridiculous -- because it just doesn't pay for me to try to explain to people why they don't know what they're talking about.

This time, though, I reacted before I thought.

"Worst-coached team in America?" I said to the guy. "Please tell me you're just trying to be funny."

No, the guy insisted, he wasn't being funny. Gary Williams yells too much. The players aren't responding to him. Just look at the North Carolina game.

Before I go on, I should give the usual Kornheiser, "I'm in the tank for Gary," disclaimer. I've known him since his early days at American and consider him a friend. Having said that, I don't think one has to be in the tank for him to be amazed at how quickly Maryland fans turn on him. I know memories in sports are short, but some of us are old enough to remember the complete mess Maryland basketball was in when Williams took over in 1989. Probation loomed, and in 1991, Maryland couldn't even take part in the ACC tournament. Three years later, Maryland was in the Sweet 16, and Williams was a hero. Maryland reached the round of 16 four of the next six years -- but didn't go further.

Midway through the 2000 season, I was at a game at Cole Field House when a friend of mine, a Maryland graduate, walked up to me and said, "Mike Brey."

I looked to see if Brey, then coaching at Delaware, was standing behind me. He wasn't.

"That's who we need coaching here," my friend continued. "Gary's nothing but a Sweet 16 coach."

I had never heard the term "nothing but a Sweet 16 coach." Let's put some perspective on what it means. There are two hot young coaches in town right now: Georgetown's John Thompson III and George Washington's Karl Hobbs. Everyone is raving -- justifiably -- about the work each is doing. Each has been a head coach for about five years. Let's add up their combined trips to the Sweet 16:


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