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It's a Whole New Ballgame, and Maryland's Williams Isn't Playing
That many AAU coaches possess significant power and influence despite sometimes questionable coaching credentials is a source of consternation for some college coaches, but they are reluctant to speak out against them because it might hurt their ability to sign players. A friendship with an elite player and a shoe sponsorship, usually in that order, is enough to make one a power broker. Three years ago, multiple coaches grumbled about a former sanitation worker with no college degree who had become a somewhat influential figure in recruiting because of his ties with players.
As for Malone, who began his coaching career at the Columbia Park Recreation Center in Hyattsville two decades ago, he said he would not criticize Williams because he believes he should "respect my elders," adding that he considers Williams one of the best coaches in the country.
"If these are the things Gary is telling you about me, there is no telling what he is telling his assistants," Malone said. "I can bet you there are 50 other coaches who wouldn't say that about Curtis Malone. I'm going down to Duke; Coach K loves Curtis Malone. I went up to Villanova; me and [Coach] Jay Wright have a great relationship."
Damon Handon, the general manager of D.C. Assault, said he is not aware of any friction between Williams and D.C. Assault but said Williams "is not the most personable guy. He is not as comfortable as [Florida Coach] Billy Donovan" or Georgetown's Thompson.
Handon said Maryland's assistants might have watched some of his team's games this season, but he did not recall Williams watching even one.
"I found that a little strange," Handon said. "I look at [Purdue Coach] Matt Painter and [Ohio State Coach] Thad Matta and when I see them on the circuit, they are very, very aggressive and they also put a lot of time into watching the younger kids play so they can get involved at a younger age. That is not what I see from Gary. He is a Hall of Fame coach, but his recruiting leaves a lot to be desired."
Williams called Handon's comments "a lie," and said he watched at least one D.C. Assault game this summer and that he attended events on all the days it was allowed under NCAA rules. A Washington Post reporter saw Williams at several multi-team summer events.
When asked to characterize his relationship with D.C. Assault, Williams said: "Whatever. We like to get really good players, without a doubt. I would like to get players from D.C. Assault. . . . D.C. Assault is a nationally known program. People from all over the country don't go to high school, they go to D.C. Assault to recruit players."
It appears Williams could have established a recruiting pipeline to D.C. Assault in the spring of 2005. Williams had a coaching opening, and a former player and coach for D.C. Assault, Dalonte Hill, then an assistant at Charlotte, was looking for a new job.
Hill maintained a strong relationship with Malone and D.C. Assault's players, most notably Michael Beasley, a top-rated high school sophomore whom Hill had known for years.
Hill was very interested in Maryland's opening, and a former associate talked to Williams about the possibility. But Williams hired Michael Adams, who had played under him at Boston College. Hill was never interviewed; Williams said he could not afford him.
A year later, Hill was hired at Kansas State, reportedly for $420,000 a year, to work under Coach Bob Huggins, who acknowledged later that he knew Beasley would follow Hill. Beasley signed with Kansas State, led the nation in rebounding and was third in scoring, and was picked second overall in the 2008 NBA draft.