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College Basketball: Maryland Suffers Historic Loss

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Steve Yanda and Eric Prisbell
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, January 26, 2009; 2:00 PM

Post college basketball reporter and Press Break blogger Eric Prisbell and staff writer Steve Yanda discussed Maryland's 85-44 loss to Duke and other local and national hoops news.

The transcript follows.

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Eric Prisbell: Hello, everyone. You are looking LIVE at the Comcast Center media room in College Park, Md.

Lots to talk about. The issue is now the direction of the program and the future of the coach.

Should Gary Williams get a lifetime pass at Maryland?

If no, who would you want to take over the program?

Fire away, and don't hold back. We'll answer everything.

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Burke, Va.: Steve/Eric,

Shouldn't Maryland's men's basketball program achievements be better than they are SINCE winning the national championship? I think so. And when all is said and done, the results shortfall falls at the feet of Gary Williams. Isn't it time for Maryland to "go in a different direction" with a new coach? Gary certainly isn't taking the program forward anymore.

Steve Yanda: Well, here's the deal: It's not that simple. It's just not. By "go in a different direction" I assume you think that Gary should be fired or let go or resign or retire or any other way to describe it. But this is not a simple, clear cut matter. First of all, Gary has done a lot for this program since he came here 20 years ago, including winning a bunch of games and a national title. In doing that, he has established himself as the figurehead of this program, one to which many high-end donors have attached their allegiances. Do fans have a right to be upset? Absolutely. The program's decline since 2002 has been swift and obvious. The responsibility lies with Gary, as you said. But the solution to what ails the Terps is not a simple one.

Eric Prisbell: As Steve said, this is a complex and unique situation. What Gary has done for the school as a whole is well known. Does he deserve a lifetime pass?

The question I always ask is: Do you have a reasonable chance to get a different coach for next season who would do better?

Who would you want? A Sean Miller? Frank Haith? Oliver Purnell? Jay Wright? Mike Brey? Anthony Grant?

I love the dude on the Maryland message board who mentioned John Calipari the other day. I also love the OU grad who mentioned Jeff Capel in the Baltimore Examiner. There is some wild stuff on the Net.

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Maryland's House: How bad do the comments about Cameron being "their house" look after that game. Even the ESPN commentators were taking shots at the statement, saying that MD must have gone into foreclosure.

Steve Yanda: Well, it's not as if Maryland released a collective statement before the game stating that it was "their house." It was one player -- Greivis Vasquez -- who said Cameron was "his house," and he made that comment in the heat of the moment after a much-needed win over Virginia. I think the only reason those comments got blown up like they did was because it came from a player with a history of agitating Duke fans. Had Eric Hayes or Adrian Bowie made those comments, I'm not sure it would have resonated like they did coming out of Vasquez's mouth.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Is it that the Maryland athletic department is having a negative effect on Gary's ability to recruit? Or is Gary's hyperness not going over well with young players? Or some other explanation?

Eric Prisbell: I have certainly heard that sentiment from people.

Personally, I don't buy it.

I was surprised that Maryland recruited the likes of Terrence Jennings, Bobby Maze, Evans and Herb Pope.

One coach with Final Four experience told me that Pope would not have lasted one semester in Gary's program.

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Rockville, Md.: Steve/Eric -

Two questions, if I may:

1. Worst loss in Gary's career at Maryland aside, was that the worst performance you have seen from a major Division 1 program? I can't recall seeing an ACC team be so thoroughly dominated from tip-off to final horn. Maryland quit about 10 minutes into the game. Dave Neal is no more an ACC starter than Wilbon. Maryland just does not have any player that can consistently beat his man and get the rim. Exree Hipp is not walking through that door.

2. Predictions for Duke this year? Pretty much the same roster as last year, minus a DeMarcus Nelson, but Singler, Scheyer and Henderson are much better, and Smith is a much better defender and scorer than Paulus, who has developed into a nice 3 point shooter and relief pitcher. Final Four?

Steve Yanda: 1. In person, yes, that was the worst performance I have ever seen from a Division I program. But I won't go so far as to say it was the worst performance in the history of D1 basketball. UNC beat Michigan State by about 30 earlier this season. Oregon State lost to Howard earlier this season. Kentucky lost to VMI. I could go on. It was bad, to be sure. But let's not get carried away.

2. Henderson is a flat-out stud. This guy is versatile and plays well on both ends of the court. I think Duke definitely has the talent to get to a Final Four. But in order to do that, they'll need Zoubek to play like he did on Saturday and I can't help but wonder how much better he looked because of the competition he was facing.

Eric Prisbell: It was the worst performance I have seen in person in 12 years covering college basketball, off the top of my head. Oregon State's loss to Howard this season -- i was there -- was no prize either.

As for Duke, great job by K. Blue Devils are in strong position for a No. 1 seed. Would not shock me if they reach the Final Four. But i won't pick it. I think Duke's margin for error on the floor is smaller than that of Carolina's. Teams like Gonzaga, UNC have more talent. But Duke's coach is pretty good, if you haven't heard. And Duke's defense has been outstanding.

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Rockville, Md.: I don't even know where to begin. I guess I at least have to give Landon Milbourne his due, since he appears to be the only one trying out there despite playing out of position.

What can be done to fix this so that the season doesn't spiral totally out of control? And the question that I know everyone is asking: We know Gary can coach, but has the recruiting game passed him by?

Eric Prisbell: Coaching is not the issue. Recruiting is.

An ACC coach told me that, aside from Greivis Vasquez, Morgan State had more talent than Maryland. That is a problem.

Gary does not like to get knee deep into the muddy AAU world. Okay, but there is a price to pay for that.

The pool of talent in this area is deep. VT, WV, PItt, Georgetown -- they are all benefiting from a deep DC-area talent pool.

Losing talented assistants certainly hurt as well.

My question: Would you be okay if another coach was brought in who was a better recruiter but not as good of a coach?

Do you want a guy like Leonard Hamilton (not that he would be an option)?

Steve Yanda: The order of your questions is important.

To fix this season, I'm not sure you would want any other coach in charge of this team. The talent on this squad is not great. That much is apparent. But Gary is known for getting his teams to overacheive. I'm not saying they're going to go on a run and make the NCAA tournament. But if you're looking for someone determined to fix the many flaws currently plaguing this team, that's an Xs and Os issue. And Gary might be the best option in that regard.

Your second question comes into play after the season ends, when Xs and Os take a backseat to endearing onesself and one's program to kids with at least a dozen other voices in their ear. Recruiting has certainly become an issue in recent seasons and as head coach, Gary must take the blame for the lack of talent with which he has to work when it comes time to play the games.

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Springfield, Va.: A lot has been written about Maryland's inability to land blue chip recruits, especially local talent. What is Maryland missing that makes these players want to go to other schools? On the surface Maryland seems to have everything - top-notch facilities, playing in the ACC, National Championship coach. What are some of the intangibles that causes Maryland to lose big time recruits?

Eric Prisbell: In short, your assistants need to consistently outwork people. You need to cultivate strong relationships with AAU people. At times, you may need to work in the so-called gray area and push the envelope to get recruits.

Look, not all programs cheat. But a few dozen engage in schemes that help them land elite players.

A few years ago, I wrote about how boosters contribute thousands of dollars each year to non-profit foundations run by AAU coaches in order to get players. That practice is more popular than ever now. Gary will not do it. And who can blame him?

Some schools hire relatives of players, get them to speak at camps, etc. I can go on and on. Gary won't do it.

It hurts him. But another factor is simply being outworked and not cultivating relationships with AAU guys. Hard to defend that.

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Morgan State AD's Office: Steve -- We are concerned that Maryland's performance is going to hurt our chances for an at-large berth to the tourney. We need to stop scheduling such terrible teams. I think Jeff Jones and American may be a better option.

Steve Yanda: Well, the easy option for you, MorganState AD's Office, is for your mbball team to win its league title. Then it won't matter if Maryland doesn't win another game all season.

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Arlington, Va.: Fans of the George Washington University Colonials, lossers of nine straight games including one that they lost for having too many men on the court, feel that Maryland should hire Karl Hobbs and know what real suffering is like.

Eric Prisbell: Uh, very true. Enough said.

Steve Yanda: Right, but can Hobbs recruit? That seems to be the thing everyone is concerned about.

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Arlington, Va.: Eric, could you explain your comment about recruiting a bit more? Why would someone like Pope not last in Gary's program? Are you surprised he was recruited because he didn't seem like a good fit, or was there some other reason? Thanks.

Eric Prisbell: I was surprised he was recruited because he carried plenty of baggage. I still remember the day when one of my recruiting guru friends called me from a Florida tournament and said Herb got into an altercation with one of his coaches. I never talked to Herb about it, and Herb is a nice enough kid, so it is alleged. But Herb's issues have been long documented and were widely known on the recruiting trail.

And the coach who told me this was someone who had historically had little issue with taking guys with some baggage.

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Washington, D.C.: Based on the last 4 to 5 years, Gary Williams should be fired. Based on his total time at Maryland, he should keep the job for as long as he wants it. Which of these statements is closer to the thinking out at College Park? Thanks.

Eric Prisbell: My guess is it is closer to your second statement. But this is modern day college sports, and you never say never anymore. And Maryland could finish 7-9 or it could finish 5-11. There is no telling which way this goes. That is why there is high intrigue in College Park right now.

Would fans be happy with a guy who is a better recruiter but not as good of a coach? Maybe. Maybe not. You tell me.

Steve Yanda: Because of what Gary has accomplished, as well as the many donor friends he has accumulated over the years, I would say the latter is more toward the truth, as well.

Unless Maryland completely tanks it the rest of the way (finishing 4-12 in ACC play or worse), I would say the choice will be Gary's on whether he will return next season.

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Nashville: If you were picking the Final Four teams today, who would they be? (And please say Louisville is one of them after taking it to Syracuse yesterday at the Carrier Dome...)

Thanks!

Eric Prisbell: Before the season I picked UNC, Louisville, Pittsburgh and Gonzaga.

I'm sticking with that.

I sort of wouldn't be surprised if Louisville won the national title, but I am not quite ready to pick against UNC.

Steve Yanda: UNC, UConn, Pittsburgh and Michigan State.

To clarify something I wrote earlier, I believe Duke has Final Four talent. I do not, however, believe Duke is a Final Four team. They looked good (ok, really, really good) on Saturday, but part of that had to do with who they were playing.

And as far as my Final Four picks go, yes, I am well aware of Michigan State's shortcomings, but I still believe they have the talent and coaching acumen necessary to make it to Detroit.

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Seattle: Clearly, Gary can't be pushed out. Not only would it irk the boosters, but we would likely lose incoming recruits and some current players. That doesn't sound too bad until I envision a scenario like in Indiana this year or next year at Arizona. Games like the one on Saturday would become common for a season or more. Seemingly, the best course would seem to be to have Gary leave "on his own terms" and perhaps name a successor. It's not likely that we can draw a big name to come here. Perhaps getting a younger up and comer (possibly with local roots) might be the best option. Can you think of any such candidates?

Eric Prisbell: When Gary Williams chooses to retire, whenever that may be, I would call coaches like Sean Miller or Frank Haith.

Steve Yanda: Miller and Haith would top my list, as well. Maybe tack on Jeff Capel or Mike Brey. Though Brey's stock is falling right along with the fortunes of his team these days.

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Bethesda, Md. Gentlemen,

Steinberg was nice enough to link to my blog yesterday where I polled Terrapin Club members to sum up the current Maryland basketball program in just one word (shameless plug - Change has come to Washington... maybe to College Park? ). Which one word would each of you use to sum up the state of the program right now? Is it printable?

Eric Prisbell: Great question.

Let me give you a few words that immediately come to mind:

Nationally irrelevant

Quagmire

Steve Yanda: Confounding.

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Chantilly Va.: Is it now safe to say that Morgan State is more deserving of an NCAA tourney bid than Maryland?

George Mason has a tougher row to hoe but with John Vaughan back in the lineup they have a great shot at another CAA championship. That guy Maynor of VCU is quite the pest, though, I have to say.

Eric Prisbell: Well, I always think the smaller schools get a raw deal. Morgan State has a far better chance than Maryland does to make the tourney.

I would give Morgan a 15 seed and not a 16 seed. This is an athletic Morgan State team that is fun to watch.

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College Park: N-I-T! N-I-T! N-I-T!

Um, N-I-T?

Eric Prisbell: Yes, Maryland's headed to the NIT barring a dramatic turn of events over the next several weeks. Maryland can still make the NCAAs, but it will take a 9-7 record in the ACC. And considering that five opponents are ranked around the top 10 in the country, and that Maryland has yet to win a road game, it is an unlikely scenario.

So if it's four NITs in five years, what should happen with Gary Williams?

Steve Yanda: Right now, the NIT is looking more and more likely. Like Eric said, it's going to take 9 ACC wins, most likely, for the Terps to have even a chance at earning an NCAA tourney bid.

And put it this way, would the NCAA tournament selection committee consider accepting a team that got beat by 41 points?

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Crofton, Md.: How badly does Gary miss Dave Dickerson, Billy Hahn, and Jimmy Patsos? They seemed to be good at recruiting, something Gary is not comfortable/interested in doing these days. He is still a great coach, but it appears that he would rather work hard at coaching rather than working hard at recruiting. The assistant coaches Gary has had recently seemed to want to be at Maryland so they could say they coached with Gary, rather than be there to HELP Gary. I hope Chuck Driesel can say "Ah can recruit" as well as his dad could say "Ah can coach".

Eric Prisbell: Gary misses them badly, particularly Patsos. But all of them, really.

There has just been so much turnover in recent years. Moxley was good, but gone too soon. Lonergan in and out. Michael Adams, not sure he truly embraced recruiting, from what I have been told. Chuck works hard.

The other thing is, the recruiting landscape has changed a great deal over the past 10 years. You go to Las Vegas events and runners for agents can get into some events before coaches. I saw that at the Mayo-Gordon matchup a few years ago.

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College Park: Guys, how many players on the Terps roster would even be at least the 12th man on Duke's bench? I count 5 - Vasquez, Bowie, Gregory, Milbourne and Mosley.

The difference in talent is simply staggering, and it was only 2 years ago when the Terps were blowing Duke out. What a shame.

Steve Yanda: Well, since we got to see Duke's 12th man up close and personal Saturday (Steve Johnson finished with one personal foul in three minutes of action) I would say more than five Terps would be a better option.

Your list is fine -- Vasquez, Bowie, Milbourne, Gregory and Mosley -- but I also would say Eric Hayes, Dave Neal and Cliff Tucker would be better options than the guy currently occupying that 12th man spot.

The difference in talent absolutely was staggering, but saying that Hayes, Neal and Tucker are 12th men-type players is a bit much. They're not the cream of the crop, but they're horrible by any means.

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Rockville, Md.: Is Maryland a women's basketball school now? I'm asking this seriously.

Eric Prisbell: C'mon. After the victory in the Humanitarian Bowl, it is clearly known as a football school.

Steve Yanda: Hello? Isn't there a men's soccer team at College Park that wasn't too shabby this season. Where's the love for the guys on the pitch?

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Silver Spring, Md.: So do you think that Gary would ever reach a point when he would not want the job any longer? Do you think he would want to coach anywhere else?? Thanks.

Eric Prisbell: Great questions.

I think Gary, at this stage of his career, would do great at a top level A-10 school. Gary likes to coach. He can coach there and win.

That said, I am not sure when he should step down. Only he knows. And he probably deserves to step down when he sees fit, but let's see how this very important season unfolds the rest of the way.

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Baltimore: Would Bruce Pearl fall under your "wild stuff" category? Let's face it: the guy is never going to be top banana at a football school like UT (and with Summitt around, he's not even second). I have to think he'd love to get top billing, at an ACC school, in a big market like this one, and he'd recruit this area like crazy. Not to mention, he'd be a godsend to the media. Is that too big of a name for Debbie to pursue, though?

Steve Yanda: Pearl is a showman, maybe the best showman in the business. The guy painted his chest and cheered from the student section during a women's bball game, for crying out loud. He's a great recruiter and gets his players to compete very hard for him. But in terms of coaching, is he the best option?

This seems to be the crucial question, one we already have discussed today. Obviously, Maryland fans would prefer a top-flight recruiter and a top-flight coaching genius all rolled into one smiling face. But that likelihood of that happening is slim. So which do you want? A great recruiter who is an average coach? Or a great coach who is an average recruiter?

If you're looking for a big splash, Pearl would not be a bad name to chase after. I'm not sure he's a guy Debbie would pursue, though.

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College Park, Md.: Any idea when Gary will publicly apologize to Terps fans? Will he ever admit he's the reason Maryland didn't show up in Durham?

Eric Prisbell: I honestly credit Duke's defense more than most people.

But Maryland has an issue with talent, as we have said for a while.

Steve Yanda: There's a media availability with Gary in about a half hour ...

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New York, N.Y.: Anyone who wants to fire Gary Williams has not been following Maryland Basketball for the past 20 years. When Gary decided to come here, he left a position at OSU with a successful program to come to his alma mater that was under some of the most severe sanctions in NCAA history(no TV, no possibility of NCAA tournaments, many players had left the program, etc). He did this out of LOYALTY to his school. After this, he not only rejuvenated the program but won the only championship in school history. So for those that ask if he should have a lifetime pass, the answer is YES. How about some loyalty from the fans!

Eric Prisbell: Great points.

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Germantown, Md.: Gents -

How 'bout dem Hokies? I would appreciate your views on how you see them doing down the road this season. Can they finish in the top 3-4 in the ACC?

Eric Prisbell: Great turnaround by Tech after losing those heartbreakers. If the season ended today, Tech is in. And with the impressive wins recently, 9-7 should be enough this year.

But with the schedule ahead, I don't see Tech doing much better than 9-7.

Duke, Wake, UNC and perhaps Clemson should finish ahead of Tech.

Steve Yanda: Top 3 or 4 in the ACC? Eh. It's possible, but I wouldn't consider it likely. Where's Zach Berman when this chat needs him? Gotta get him on one of these.

I would say Virginia Tech could finish fifth in the ACC, at best.

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Arlington, Va.: Any comments on Georgetown's recent skid? We're not ready to run our coach out of town, but are two straight ugly losses cause for concern?

Thank you.

Steve Yanda: It's cause for concern any time any team loses three straight. It doesn't help that G-Town plays in the Big East, arguably the best conference in the country. But, really, you have only one loss that should be overly worrisome. Duke? You can take that. West Virginia? They're an underrated team. You can take that one, as well.

But Seton Hall? Seriously? Yikes.

Georgetown the pieces in place to recover, but you wonder if at some point, its lack of depth won't catch up to it and pose serious problems down the stretch.

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Question: How did Maryland beat Michigan (who beat Duke) and Michigan State again?

Steve Yanda: The Michigan State win came on a neutral court with the Spartans missing one of their best players (Goran Suton was out with a foot injury).

The Michigan win came at home at a time when Maryland was playing inspired basketball. The Terps played well that night.

I absolutely do not buy into the theory that because team A beat team B, and team B beat team C, that must mean that team A surely would defeat team C. It just doesn't work like that.

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Odenton, Md.: I'm more proud of the Nobel laureates and the cutting-edge research Maryland does in science than in the basketball team. We do a better job there than Duke. All their faculty seems to do is accuse jocks unfairly. However, you can't give an over-under for scientific papers. Duke has a better basketball team. We take the beating like men and figure out how to do better, without whining or fingerpointing.

Eric Prisbell: Good point.

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San Diego: Did Coach K apologize after the game for running up the score and if he did not, should he be fired for poor sportsmanship? Seriously, what has happened to the Maryland program? They were national champions less than 7 years ago, sit in the middle of a basketball hotbed (Kevin Durant and Michael Beasley, where have you gone?) and have a highly regarded coach....

Eric Prisbell: No, i don't think this was quite on the level of the Texas high school women's 100-0 game. But it was bad.

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Bethesda, Md.: What is the source of the tension between Debbie Yow and Gary? Is she the cause of the lack of recruiting? Or does she hate Gary?

Eric Prisbell: The communication between the two of them is very poor and has been for a long time.

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Wheaton, Md.: My concern with replacing Gary is this - the Terps aren't quite a top-25 program anymore. So, if a new coach comes in and makes a couple of Sweet 16s, don't they try to move up to a better program? And Maryland is left doing the coaching carousel every few years -- either someone succeeds and leaves, or fails (because they won't have the long leash that Gary has).

Steve Yanda: I think it would depend a lot on who Maryland chose to be its next coach. If you turned around Maryland in a few seasons and returned it to national prominence, wouldn't the tradition of the program reinforce its place as one of the nation's top programs. And if that's true, then there would be no moving up to a better program.

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Navy Yard: Why are Maryland fans so obsessed with Duke? It's not like it's a rivalry game. Duke students don't sleep out for weeks to get tickets to the Maryland game. Is it because Maryland doesn't really have a rival?

Steve Yanda: Choice of verbs is important here.

Maryland-Duke is not currently a rivalry game.

However, it was a rivalry game not too long ago. I would guess that's why Maryland fans are so enamored of Duke. They long for the days when the Terps and the Blue Devils were on a level plane.

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Terp in Massachusetts: Your discussion is titled 'Maryland Suffers Historic Loss' I thought Maryland beat North Carolina yesterday in quite an exciting game in College Park? I saw the Carolina players were outfitted in pink special for the occasion. This is the only basketball team in Maryland worth any mention at all.

We have stopped caring about the other team that occupies the building, as it appears they have stopped caring, and could care less about their reputation and the ability for their coaches to sign any more recruits.

washingtonpost.com: We're setting up a Maryland Women's chat for later in the week.

Eric Prisbell: Great job by the women's team. I thought they would have a great chance to win that game over a slumping UNC team.

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Springfield, Va.: Recruiting also seems to be a complaint with the football team. I find it disturbing that both big time programs from a major university cannot land local talent.

Eric Prisbell: Yes, Mike Locksley does well in this area. Terps football has been mediocre of late and Ralph does not have a national title

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Billy Hahn, Dave Dickerson, Jimmy Patsos: See, now do you all appreciate the job that we did??????

Eric Prisbell: Hahn must have been a blast to cover. I arrived a little too late for him. But he is one of my all-time favorite. All-time favorites.

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Anonymous: I've heard stories that Gary does not even go see some kids play. He's more excited by a Dave Neal than a Carmelo Anthony. When i was in high school Lefty was recruiting a kid from my school. When Lefty walked in it was like the whole gym went silent.

Eric Prisbell: I don't take issue with not landing Carmelo, Durant or Beasley. But there is a deep pool of talent from this area. And most choose to play elsewhere.

Gary has made a career of getting a lot out of under the radar players and finding diamonds in the rough. It is hard to do that year after year.

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Re; Loyalty: How much does loyalty get you? It's one thing to stick by Gary when the team missed the tournament despite a 9-7 record and 5th place ACC finish.

It's another when you're likely headed to a 10th or 11th place finish, are frequently blowing double-digit second half leads and being completely dominated by the league's elite.

Does loyalty allow you to completely undue everything you have achieved?

Eric Prisbell: That is the question that will linger over the remainder of the season.

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Eric Prisbell: Ok, thanks a lot, everyone. Should be an interesting couple months in College Park. See everyone next time.

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