By Steve Yanda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Maryland Athletic Director Debbie Yow joined men's basketball coach Gary Williams yesterday in an attempt to quiet rampant speculation surrounding the program following an uneven start to the conference season and last week's public infighting.
Yow said she attended the team's normal pregame media session to emphasize two points: She expressed gratitude for the support she has received in the wake of the recent death of her sister, Kay, and she then lavished public support on the man seated to her right.
"I really want to lay to rest any of these crazy rumors that are floating around related to the job security of Coach Williams," Yow said. "He has my personal full support, as he does from the department and from the university."
A week ago, Williams made comments at a similar media session that initiated a public dispute between him and members of the Maryland athletic department over the recruitment of two players who ended up attending other schools. The back-and-forth, which included Williams's pointed criticisms of a specific athletic department official following last Tuesday's loss to Boston College, appeared to illuminate a relationship between Williams and Yow that multiple sources have described as adversarial.
Yow said yesterday that she would have preferred to have dealt with the situation Friday during Williams's news conference in advance of Saturday night's home game against Miami, but she was in North Carolina for the funeral of her sister, the longtime N.C. State women's basketball coach who passed away Jan. 24 after a two-decade battle with cancer.
"You know, he and I communicate regularly, and a couple of the things he's communicated to me are pretty important," said Yow, who alternated her glance from the cameras in front of her to Williams at her side. "One of those is he is very optimistic about the future, and he's very focused on recruiting. We all know that's important, and he's after it with as much enthusiasm and passion as I've seen in my 15 years."
After pointing out that 3 1/2 years remain on Williams's 10-year contract, in addition to the one-year rollover option should the Terrapins earn an NCAA tournament berth this season, Yow expressed a willingness to afford Williams additional support, should he need it.
"If we ever get to the place where it's not enough and he needs more in recruiting, we'll deal with it," Yow said. "He'll tell me what he needs, and we'll take care of it then."
Yow spoke for three minutes and left immediately afterward, but not before providing Williams a brief handshake and a few pats on the back.
Williams, who decreed last Friday that he would speak only of his team and its next opponent for the rest of the season, then scooted his chair closer to the microphones.
"Any questions?" he asked.
With perhaps the season's greatest challenge looming in tonight's game at North Carolina, Williams broke from his pledge to acknowledge Yow's comments.
"It's nice that, uh, she said those things," Williams said. "I've never felt threatened by anything. I know what I've done, just this decade. Very few programs have done what we've done this decade. . . . I'm secure in what I've done."
Williams spent the next 75 seconds listing his teams' accomplishments over the past nine seasons.
"So that's been this decade, and I'll compare that with anybody in the country," Williams said. "So, I haven't felt threatened at all. Logically, I think."
Though yesterday's joint appearance likely won't put an end to questions regarding the future of the program, it appeared to bring some closure to the public bickering of the past week.
"All I'm focused on is supporting him and supporting the staff and the team and winning more basketball games this year, which we're going to do -- that's it," Yow said, before turning once more to Williams. "You've got a lot to do right now getting ready to go on a big trip down to North Carolina."