Friday, Feb. 13 at 2 p.m. ET

Discuss Missed Shots: Maryland's Fall From the Top

The Washington Post's Eric Prisbell talks about his latest series in The Post examining University of Maryland Men's Basketball coach Gary Williams' recruiting problems over the past years and what it means to the future of the team. Video by Comcast SportsNet
Steve Yanda and Eric Prisbell
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, February 13, 2009; 1:00 PM

Post college basketball reporter and blogger Eric Prisbell and staff writer Steve Yanda discussed why the Maryland men's basketball teams has fallen from the ranks of national powers since its 2002 championship season.

The transcript follows.

Read the series: Part 1 -- A Shell of Its Former Self


Eric Prisbell: Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us today for a much anticipated online chat about our three-part series on Maryland's recruiting. I encourage you to ask any and all questions about our reporting, the content of the series or the future of the program. Fire away. Somehow, someway, we will get to each and every one. First, I want to thank everyone for the many, many emails, most of which have been positive. Second, I am sorry to say that I will not be able to post a large portion of my hour-long interview with Gary Williams until Part III hits the Web. But I think you will find the Williams interview fascinating. And I think you will find Part III very interesting as well. Steve Yanda, who does not believe in sleeping, and I are sitting in the media room at Comcast Center right now. Let's start it up.


Washington, D.C.: Assuming Gary's contract is too expensive to buy him out for any part of the duration, do you see Gary getting a new contract to stay longer? Does it still depend on performance over the next couple of years?

Steve Yanda: Williams' contract runs through 2012 with a rollover clause, should the team earn an NCAA berth this season. So, the more the Terps win, the better off Williams' job security will be. As to any sort of contract extension, I have no information that would indicate either way.

Eric Prisbell: Debbie Yow did suggest that if an extension would help with recruiting she would be open to talking about it.

But the biggest issue here is winning. It is very important for this team to make the NCAA tournament this season. If it does not make a strong run, the questions about Gary's future will grow very loud.


Arlington, Va.: Eric/Steve:

When are you going to do a three part series about UVA's annual basketball struggles...about Gtown's losing streak despite Top 5 talent?

Steve Yanda: Maryland is the team Eric and I have been assigned to cover. Therefore, we will stick to matters on the Maryland front. Should the time come when one or both of us are moved to different beats, then we will look into all aspects of that given program at that time.

Eric Prisbell: To be honest, Maryland matters more than Virginia locally and nationally. Gary is a Hall of Fame caliber coach who won a national title in 2002. He is a great coach. But no national title team in 18 years has declined this quickly.

As for G-town, they have talent and went to the Final Four two years ago. The timing is off. I would love to do a series on how Georgetown has recruited so well in recent years.


Rockville, Md.: How much longer do you think Gary is interested in working in an athletic department with Debbie Yow as AD? That they're not that fond of each other has been an open secret for a decade or more. Who do you think leaves College Park first?

Eric Prisbell: What was once a private dispute has now turned public. For years i heard stories from Gary supporters and from Debbie supporters. Now that it is out in the open, it hurts everyone.

Hard to say who leaves first. But I will say that if Gary misses the NCAA tournament for the fourth time in five years, the calls for him to retire will grow.

That said, most believe he has done a very impressive job with a team that has the talent level of a good A-10 team. One coach told me, aside from Vasquez, Morgan State had more talent.

Gary can coach, always could. And you may be able to get a better recruiter in here. I am not sure if you can get a better coach in here next season. Many people agree with that.


Rockville, Md.: Your article mentions that Gary Williams does not engage in "under the table recruiting tactics" to get top flight recruits. Does that mean all coaches who get top flight recuits are cheating? There has to be something more than just "Gary won't cheat" to the reasoning behind lack of recruiting.

Steve Yanda: Certainly, that does not mean that all coaches who get top flight recruits are cheating. We simply meant to point out that the recruiting world is constantly evolving and that there have been several cases when cheating appears to have taken place. There are many other reasons beside the fact Gary won't cheat that have contributed to his recruiting struggles -- high turnover rate of assistant coaches, complacency after winning the national championship, etc.

Eric Prisbell: You are right, all schools don't cheat. Most do not outright cheat. Some bend the rules. Some operate in a gray area. Some don't do anything. Some pay players. Gary told me he has been offered players for payment in the past and mentioned a few cases to me.

And there are other reasons for the recruiting struggles. Steve and I spelled those out in Part I of the series. There were mistakes made in talent evaluation and Gary has been very hands-off in recruiting.

We have talked to nearly 60 people for these stories, including many people today, to try to get the clearest picture we can about what is going on. We want to be as fair as we can. Gary has not been hands-off in the recruitment of Lance Stephenson. It is clear that Gary would really like Lance to suit up next season, if only for one season.


Centreville, Va.: Do you believe that Coach Williams believes he can contend for a national championship every year without have any "great" players? Also, do you believe Coach Williams thinks that programs who recruit top-notch players are doing it illegally?

Steve Yanda: Gary Williams is very confident in his coaching abilities, as he should be. He's a Hall of Fame coach who has won many, many games, including a national title. He has every right to believe he can win without having "great" players, as you termed it. At the same time, Williams has stated his desire to accumulate the best talent possible. His ability to do that is what has come into question.

As for your second question, I think Williams understands the reality of the situation: Do all coaches cheat to get top-notch players? Absolutely not. Do some? Absolutely. He knows that in some cases, he is up against programs who will resort to any measure to obtain a recruit's services. To his credit, he has not joined the fray.

Eric Prisbell: Good question. I think Gary is realistic. He understands you need players and told me last night, in fact, that he must be doing something right if they won for 15 years or so. He is right. But i also think he is selling himself short on the coaching end of it.

There are great recruiters. There are great coaches. Only a few schools have both. Gary is a great coach, even his critics say as much. Curtis Malone, the co-founder of DC Assault, wanted to make sure I included that in the story.

I wanted to know this from Gary: To win like you used to win, is it still possible to do that without bending the rules? He wouldn't really go there. I will post a lot of the transcript of our interview later on tonight, whenever PArt III runs. Thanks.


Atlanta: What do you make of Williams landing Jordan Williams and the active courting of Lance Stephenson? Is this a change of pace for him or what he's been doing all along?

Steve Yanda: I think the Jordan Williams signing is a step forward. Williams has size (6-foot-10), which the Terps are in apparent need of. And he has been a prolific scorer at the high school level. Sometimes, that can be misleading due to the quality of high school opposition, but 40 and 50 points are a lot no matter who you're playing.

As for Stephenson, Williams' pursuit of him is interesting to say the least. Maryland only began recruiting Stephenson four months ago. Stephenson, undoubtedly, is a top prospect. He possesses superior physical and offensive skills. Several sources have questioned Stephenson's attitude toward accepting instruction, however, which makes a potential pairing with Williams even more intriguing.

Eric Prisbell: Neither Williams nor Padgett are ranked in the top 50, as Gary had said. But both can play and both will be significant upgrades. They are good, just not top 50 good.

Lance could change everything. I have watched him since he was in 8th grade. Today i talked to a scout who met him when Lance was in 4th grade and was ranked No. 4 in NYC. He can play. Sure, there have been questions about his attitude.

But if you have Lance and Vasquez, a freshman and senior, you are talking about a reaching the tournament and most likely winning a few games.

And, even if they miss the tournament this season, how do you get rid of a coach who brings in a top 10 recruit? It would be much harder.


Baltimore: I don't understand the "Gary can't recruit" criticism. It seems to me that the problems of the past five years boil down to:

1. Gary's highest rated recruiting classes ever (featuring Garrison, Caner Medley, McCray, Gilchrest, M. Jones, etc.) just not panning out as expected as a result of a wide variety of bad breaks, which happens to almost everyone.

2. Assistant coaches leaving because of head coaching opportunities (isn't that to Gary's credit?).

3. The emergence of Roy Williams at UNC

The irony of this whole mess is that people complain that Gary can't recruit, but it's his highest rated recruiting classes led to the program's dip over the past few years. . .

Steve Yanda: You raise some interesting points.

In regards to No. 1, I agree. Every coach has highly touted recruiting classes that simply don't pan out. Williams, though, prided himself for a long time on his ability to win with the "under-the-radar" recruits. In recent seasons he has struggled to properly evaluate similar-type recruits. In addition to the players he brought in that didn't work out, there also is the matter of those whom he let slip away (Scottie Reynolds, Deron Williams, Josh Boone, etc.)

No.2 -- Again, a valid point. But not all of Gary's assistants left for head coaching jobs, and not all of the ones that did were successful.

No. 3 -- I suppose you can use him as an example, but I would say limiting it to Roy Williams is insufficient. Georgetown has risen as a recruiting rival to Maryland for local talent. And many other schools have reached into PG county to pluck recruits Maryland at least stood a chance of nabbing.

Eric Prisbell: Great points. The Gilchrist class did hurt Maryland considerably, even though it won the 2004 acc tourney.

But, we have talked to 60 people, the list of top players from this area that have gone elsewhere is very long. It's hard to blame Gary for not getting Rudy, Durant, Carmelo, Beasley, Dyson.

But Gary has always won, and won big, with under the radar guys. Players like JOe Alexander and JOsh Boone wanted to come to Maryland. Many schools missed on them, but when you add up case after case, even Gary supporters say he has not capitalized on the title as much as he should have.


Recruiting: How often do the big-time head coaches make the recruiting trips themselves? Are they mostly there to be "closers" after assistants have lined up the deals?

Steve Yanda: It largely depends on the program. I would say it is common for coaches to make recruiting trips fairly regularly and certainly try to make their presence known to the recruits they most desire. Very few head coaches oversee programs that are elite enough to where they only have to serve as "closers." Most recruits want to see a coach -- the head coach, to be specific -- show them some attention to let them know they care.

Eric Prisbell: I do think it depends. But take the case of Deron Williams. I understand that Gary was recruiting John Gilchrist for point guard as well. But Deron's mother, Denise Smith, told me Gary was the only head coach who did not talk to her, did not talk to Deron. Patsos was the guy involved. Even schools that were already somewhat out of the mix still communicated with Deron with the head coach. The mom found it strange.


Wheaton, Md.: Was the John Gilchrist, Nik Caner-Medley, Chris McCray, and Travis Garrison team bad karma or is there some other explanation?

Steve Yanda: I'm not sure what you mean by karma, and to be clear, I was not covering the team during that time. However, from the research I have done and from the many sources I have spoken with who were involved with or close to that team, I will say that team chemistry -- among the coaching staff, as well as the players -- was not good. There were questions over how the offense should be run. There were questions over which recruits should be looked at more closely. There did not seem to be a whole lot of cohesiveness on the team at that time.

Eric Prisbell: I did cover that team. garrison had his moments, but did not nearly live up to the hype. Caner-Medley, I recall, was a very effective scorer his senior season. Chris mcCray was a good player who did not tend to academics as he should have. That was a strange situation with McCray. Gilchrist and Gary just did not see eye to eye. Gilchrist had his eye on the NBA for much of his final season. He told me he thought he was as good as Raymond Felton or Chris Paul. He was not.


Raleigh, NC: Hey Guys. Thanks for the informative piece you are writing. I think that many people are uninformed about the world of recruiting and frankly I think it muddies the coaching hierarchy to a certain degree. I have adjusted my expectations some as a Maryland fan and I think the 2002 championship is even more amazing in hindsight. Especially considering how cheats have been excelling in the world to all of our peril, I have Gary's back and always will. Thank You.

Eric Prisbell: Thanks a lot for reading. There is nothing I like to do more than shine a light on the AAU world. I have covered the high-profile summer circuit since 1997, and it has gotten worse. No question.

Sonny Vaccaro, the godfather of youth basketball who helped create the current sustem, called me last night. He really liked part two. Sonny will be speaking at MIT soon if anyone wants to go, It's worth it.


Nashville: I fully support the position espoused by Gary Williams. I can be proud of the fact that my University adheres to the tradition of the "student-athlete." I wish the media would take a more positive slant on this story, and give Williams and the University credit for taking the high road.

Eric Prisbell: One of our goals was to shine a light on the AAU world so readers can see clearly that Gary does not play the game and that he pays a price for it at times.

(PART III WILL BE POSTED ON THE WEB SITE VERY SOON.I am very interested what everyone thinks of it. Please email at or Thanks.


Washington, DC: Thanks for the great work. The inner workings of the shady side of recruitment is something you often hear about but don't see detailed. My question is: what role do they actual recruits play in these shady dealings? Surely 18 year old men are not so naive as to not realize that their AAU coaches are making gobs of money off of them. Is the common perception that some of this money makes it back to the players?

Eric Prisbell: Thank you. Yes, some of the money in some cases, winds up with players, relatives, many people. It is a tangled web at times. Hard to prove.

Let me just run through a few things:

At one point, I was told by a coach that a mom of a local player got a car through money funneled through the AAU coach. I checked the plates on the car and they were not registered to anyone. No records. Theses are the things you deal with.

Even in some recruitments where college boosters donate to AAU programs in violation of NCAA rules, it is uncertain how much, if any, of the money winds up in the hands of players. Sometimes it does, sometimes it does not.

But not all AAU coaches or college coaches cheat. Let me say that once more.


Washington, DC: Rudy Gay, Kevin Durant, Michael Beasley? Yeah, I guess Gary didn't get those guys. As long as we're talking about impossible things, I guess we could point out that Gary didn't sign bigfoot too.

Eric Prisbell: Not sure how Bigfoot was ranked in 8th grade, but he has a nice jumper from the top of the key.

Rudy is the one that bothered Gary more than most.


Washington, D.C.: I know you guys are probably getting a lot of heat over this series, but how much of this is simply Gary Williams personality? Dude is a throwback, and just comes across as a non-people person.

Eric Prisbell: Most of the emails, calls and feedback have been positive. Some people said Gary is standoff-ish. But other factors loomed larger, I think.


College Park, Md.: Before Maryland won the national championship folks, weren't folks growing critical of Williams approach to recruiting? I always felt Jaun Dixon saved his job and bought him another 10-years. Williams has never really gotten stud players. He has always been a coach that has overcome shortcomings with players working hard and solid coaching. That's admirable, but a school with a 20K seat arena with a hotbed of talent literally in it's backyard should aspire for more than the just making the round of 64, or the NIT.

Steve Yanda: It does seem as though Williams has created a monster he no longer can control. Success has a tendency to do that. The year after Maryland won the national title, the Terps lost to Michigan State in the NCAA tournament, and here is what Williams said afterward when asked about the hieghtened expectations placed on his program:

"I hope so. That was my goal coming to Maryland, to make this one of the best programs in the country. I think we had the most wins, as of (that night) the last three years in the NCAA tournament, a national championship and a Final Four, so yeah, the bar has been raised pretty damn high and I'm proud of that. I'm going to try to raise it higher."

Williams' success in doing so may eventually serve as his undoing.


Arlington: Doesn't the total lack of regulation for AAU hurts the game of basketball?

Why doesn't the NCAA create an AAU-esque travel circuit with rules that prohibit "grey recruiting" and all of the potentially unethical payments.

Then the NCAA could say, to play for us, you have to play in our our approved league for high schoolers. We won't accept players from an unregulated league.

When Michael Beasley follows a coach who suddenly gets about a $400,000 raise, it's laughable to say Beasley still has "amateur status."

Eric Prisbell: Great points. If you are going to get me going on the NCAA vs. AAU we will be here until dawn. The NCAA is several steps behind these very smart and creative AAU coaches.

I'm so excited with this question I can't type.

The NCAA, from my understanding, only has a limited understanding of Worldwide Wes, one of the most powerful figures in college basketball.

When the NCAA passed that rule about the exhibition games -- the Rudy Rule, if you'd like -- one West Coast AAU coach told me that he will then just become a middle man and request a finder's fee from college coaches.

They are several steps ahead.

The shoe company sponsored events do need to be restructured for many reasons. But if that happens, what will i write about??

Renardo Sidney thumb sucking, nonprofit foundations, 8 year old national tournaments. I like writing about that stuff.


Alexandria, Va.: Is there a little bit of hindsight 20/20 going on here?

When you call Deron William's mom and say "we are doing a story on Maryland's struggles with recruiting", doesn't that invite a response like "you know, I always thought it was a little strange that he never talked directly to my son..."

Was any sentiment that she is currently expressing documented at the time?

In the scientific community it's called "recall bias."

Eric Prisbell: Please, with all due respect, that is not how I conduct my interviews. We talked to many, many, many more people than were even quoted in this story.

I talked to Deron's high school coach. I talked to two other people very close to that recruitment. Not everyone wants to be quoted, even if you twist their arm. But I reached out to everyone who could help steer me in the right direction. I bounced theories and thoughts and reasons and cases and allegations and specifics about cheating, I bounced all that off many people. I have never in my career been someone to make careless calls to people. I do my research and call people for a specific reason.


Oakton, Va.: The whole concept of doing a better job recruiting and navigating back channels really does beg the question: why are these high school athletes handled and allowed to be treated like mere pawns?

Basically, the premise of your series is that many of these kids can be manipulated into going to one school or another.

Steve Yanda: The answer to your first question could be the topic of a master's thesis, but since we don't have that kind of time, I'll say that modern recruiting has grown incredibly complex in the past few years. As you mentioned, high school athletes -- the highly touted ones, anyway -- have many voices in their ear. Some of those voices come from people they've known their entire lives, people who they feel they can trust, people who they want to trust. Some of those voices are from people who the kids haven't known that long, but who can make big promises which often are very enticing. And almost always, those diverse voices are telling the kid to go in different ways. Which makes their decisions increasingly difficult to make.

In regards to being manipulated, high school athletes are no different than most other kids who are 16, 17, 18 years old. They listen to the opinions of those they trust, even if the basis of that trust is unwarranted.


S. Rockville, Md.: Great series so far. One comment and a question: I think you underplay the effect of the Rudy Gay recruiting/exhibition game and the subsequent NCAA rule change. I think once Gary brought the situation up in public, he affected the change.

Do you think the women's game is headed this way as well, or is it already there for programs that try to crack the Tennessee/UConn hegemony?

Eric Prisbell: Thanks a lot for the kind words. That's a good point. It is hard for me to know exactly how much of what Gary said after his exhibition game played a role in the rule being changed. The sense at the time was that it needed to be changed. These things were taking place across the country and becoming increasingly more common.

The Gay recruitment bothered Gay for a long time. I am glad we were able to shed more light on the AAu world, which is a very complex world and an ever changing world.

Someone once told me that the women's game will truly be big time when more schools cheat. Take that for what it is worth.


Silver Sprng, Md.: It's kind of unthinkable that people are calling for Gary's ouster. The man can still coach. Who would they replace him with? Mike Brey? Please. ND would just snap Gary up the next day. People need to chill. Gary won a championship doing it the "Right Way" with no NCAA infractions. That's to be commended.

Steve Yanda: True, there are very few people who would question or challenge Williams' coaching acumen. He always has been a remarkable Xs and Os coach. But coaching and recruiting require two different skill sets. And in the current state of college basketball, head coaches simply do not survive very long if they cannot do both. Williams is a unique case, because he's led the program for two decades, out of considerable depths to the peak before experiencing a recent decline. He has gotten more slack than most would be afforded, and deservedly so. But recruiting is a long-term issue. The relationships built -- or not built -- now can affect a program for years down the road. That is why some are grousing about Williams' recent performance on the recruiting trail. Because it's a long-term issue, one that extends beyond the skills he may still possess coaching on the court.

Eric Prisbell: Not sure Mike BRey would be the man at this point. What does everyone think about Jay Wright or Sean Miller, whenever Gary happens to retire.


Washington, D.C.: For some time I've heard about Gary's unwillingness to play the AAU game. How does this compare to other coaches in the ACC? Also, did Coach K decline comment for the article?

Eric Prisbell: Did Coach K decline comment about what specifically?

There are some ACC coaches who have strong relationships with AAU coaches. And there is nothing wrong with having a strong relationship with anybody. I am not suggesting that any specific school bends or breaks the rules, let me be clear.


Player Development?: What about player development? You keep saying that a player didn't work out or didn't live up to expectations. Doesn't Gary bear some of that? As the head coach it's also his job to develop his players.

Eric Prisbell: Sure, to an extent. Assistants share in that responsibility. Again, it is a complex issue. And no one is saying Gary cannot coach.


Bethesda, Md.: Your article is excellent and it hits on values and issues that far transcend the immediate context of college basketball recruiting. Coach Williams should be applauded for holding the line against the invasion of the cheats and scoundrels that now control the talent for their own financial gain.

He seems to me to understand what the college experience is supposed to be about and cares about integrity and dignity in ways that I perhaps am surprised to hear other big time coaches who are well respected (Roy Williams, Coach K come to mind) have compromised.

I would suggest your next article in this series might beneficially explore how Roy and Coach K maintain their programs' aura of integrity while dipping into the swill that this AAU phenomenon has apparently become. Perhaps that is my question to you: how is it that those "quality" programs have avoided the taint that Gary is fearful of being stuck with if he deals with the AAU bandits? How do they get people from the AAU without selling their souls and their integrity to do it?

Eric Prisbell: Thank you. Great point.

I do remember that Roy Williams had to deal with some characters in the DeShawn Stevenson recruitment. And if my memory serves me right, he was not thrilled with having to deal with them. But don't quote me on that. I love going off the record in an online chat!


Mechanicsville, Va.: Has Gary's graduation rate gotten any was Bob Huggins like for a number of years...0000000000000

Eric Prisbell: I believe it has gotten a little better.

Why pick on Huggins!?!?!?!


RE: Top 50: Was Juan Dixon top 50? Steve Blake?

I don't have the rankings from back then so I'm curious.

Eric Prisbell: Off the top of my head, i would be surprised if Blake was top 50. He may have been top 100, but it is hard to remember. Dixon was not.


College Park, Md.: I have read your two pieces so far and I have really enjoyed them, but I do have a couple concerns.

1) Can you really blame Gary for the development of Deron Williams? Gilchrist was a higher rated prospect than Williams according to all the major recruiting sites (Rivals, Scout)? Back then, you could argue Gary actually got the better prospect.

2) I am very familiar with the Mount Airy region as I grew up there and you bring up two prospects from that area: Josh Boone and Joe Alexander. Neither were heavily recruited coming out of high school. On the Alexander front, he did not get any Division 1 offers out of high school so he decided to go to prep school. After receiving few minutes there, the main reason he got a scholarship was because of the relationship he built with a West Virginia assistant. He didn't blossom under former-coach Beilein's system. He did however thrive under Huggins toughness and teachings and that is the main reason he is in the NBA right now.

All I am really saying is that Gary shouldn't be held accountable for the success of Joe Alexander, because in reality no one really thought he would be in a position that he currently is.

Steve Yanda: 1) No, we cannot blame Gary for the development of Deron Williams. I do not believe we attempted to do so. We attempted to point out that Deron was a player who was interested in coming to Maryland, but was a recruit Maryland decided to opt against. Gilchrist was a highly rated recruit, but talent evaluation goes far beyond what the folks at Rivals and Scout and all the others think. I'm not bashing the recruiting analysts at those places. I'm just saying most coaches don't go by how many stars some recruit has posted next to their online profile.

2) Alexander was not highly sought after, as you point out. But finding those types of talents was what Williams prided himself on for a long time. You can't boast about being able to unearth hidden talent and then shrug your shoulders when the same types of talent get away later on. No one thought Juan Dixon would ever be in the situation he ended up in, either.


Wheaton, Md.: Walt Williams from Crossland High School was the key recruit in getting Maryland back on track earlier in Gary's career. How was he recruited?

Eric Prisbell: For this series, we looked at the past seven years. So anything I say about specifics in Walt's recruitment would be speculation and not based on interviews of those involved.


Baltimore: How has Keith Booth faired in Baltimore, recruting wise? Also, I would understand a previous commenteors post, as an alum, if Gary really cared about "student-athlete," but isn't Maryland's graduation rate one of the worst in the country? That has to count for somthing.

Steve Yanda: Keith Booth has faired very well in Baltimore with the high school and AAU coaches. His roots in that area have served as a significant advantage for him and he has done well to rekindle relationships with valuable resources. Many of the AAU coaches I have spoken to in recent months rave about Booth. That would seem to bode well for Maryland in the future.


Howard County, Md.: I don't know how it was intended to be received, but the second part of this series gave me a much greater respect for Gary Williams. There is a lot to be said for running a clean recruiting program and not associating with the sleazebags controlling these AAU kids or paying a king's ransom to some loser as an assistant to pull in some kid who's only going to stay a year anyway.

That being said, regarding these guys like Malone that run these "programs," is this basketball stuff their sole occupation? If so, where exactly does their income come from? What kind of cars are these guys driving around? I would be curious to see a closer look at these guys, because it seems to me that a lot of them are probably too dumb to not flaunt the payoffs they get.

Eric Prisbell: Great question.


Many of the AAU coaches I know don't have any other jobs. Now, these are some of the big time guys and I am not talking about Malone because I do not know him well.

But I have good relationships with a handful of elite AAU coaches, including one or two who do accept money from college boosters through their nonprofit foundations. They have been helpful in explaining to me how it works.

I would love to write more and more about AAU and the new recruiting landscape. Thanks for the question.


Anonymous: As an avid Maryland basketball fan (and avid Williams supporter) I thoroughly enjoyed the insight into Maryland's recent troubles. There is one area that seemed a bit lacking. Where were the interviews with players who Williams successfully recruited? In the first part, many players who did not end up coming to Maryland cited Williams' supposed distance and lack of effort as factors, with one saying that it seemed like Williams was basically banking on the national championship to get players to come here. I would like to have heard some of the players who DID come to Maryland's perspectives about Williams' effort and involvement in recruiting them.

Steve Yanda: The first part of the series focussed on the players who got away, because we were attempting to create a contrast with those who ended up at Maryland. Clearly, there were some players who were amenable to Maryland's recruiting efforts, but those players -- for the most part -- have not lived up to expectations.


Anonymous: How attractive is Gary Williams as a coach to play for? His outward personality matches all this criticism. I know most coaches have a level of intensity, but this guy carries that tightly wound personality everywhere he's seen. I've seen the guy interviewed at summer golf tournaments and he still looks like he is only 10-percent relaxed. Most coaches can laugh at themselves or speak beyond basketball.

Eric Prisbell: I just talked to one prominent former Terps player who loved playing for him. We got off the phone about an hour ago. He liked his intensity. He is wound tight, at times. That's who he is. He won't change now.


Atlanta: I think that your article places too great an emphasis on the rankings of prospects and Williams's ability to secure highly ranked ones. Just look at Mike Jones. High rank didn't translate to success. Do you think there is another way to evaluate Williams's success without using rankings?

Eric Prisbell: Good point.

On the other hand, guys like Josh Boone and Joe Alexander were not highly rated. And they later turned out to be pretty good. lots of schools missed on them. But they did want to come to Maryland.


But not all of Gary's assistants left for head coaching jobs, and not all of the ones that did were successful. : What's relevance does this have? The point is they left. Billy Hahn leaving hurt Maryland's recruiting. The fact that he didn't have success of LaSalle is irrelevant.

Eric Prisbell: Fair point.


Huh?: Eric Prisbell: Sure, to an extent. Assistants share in that responsibility. Again, it is a complex issue. And no one is saying Gary cannot coach.

That's exactly what you're saying. If coaching is defined as bringing together good talent, nurturing talent, and winning games, your article makes it very clear that Williams is lagging on all of those fronts.

If there's a different definition of coaching, I'm all ears.

Eric Prisbell: I'd have to look at a specific player and his situation. You have a fair point, but to be honest, we have just spent two weeks working around the clock talking to 60 people, and most pointed to the recruiting issues much more than player development. Some may disagree.


Germantown, Md.: Great series so far, but I don't think I've heard any mention of this: What parent wants to send a kid to play for a coach (Gary) that incessantly screams at the players on the bench the entire game? And for that matter most of the players during timeouts. This is 2009, and the Bob Knight era in college basketball is long over. As a parent, I certainly wouldn't send my basketball-playing kid to MD for this very reason. Coaches - successful or not - just do not operate this way any more.

Steve Yanda: Well, that's not entirely true. There are coaches who operate in that manner. Gary Williams certainly is not alone in that category. It does not look (or sound) pretty when Williams is shown yelling and screaming at anyone within close range during games, but Williams feels that is the best way to communicate his points. He has said he feels that's just who he is and that he would not be as effective a teacher if he tried to change his approach. Disagree with that notion if you'd like. But that's just the way he is.


anti-Maryland bias: There were a lot of comments after part I of your series alleging an anti-Maryland bias. As a huge Hoyas fan, I wanted to think you were being objective until I considered the following:

- There was never a piece as critical as this about John "Pops" Thompson, even when his grip was slipping (i.e. when Iverson stayed around only for a year).

- There was never a piece on how bad Esherick was at the end.

- There hasn't been a piece about G'town's awful season this year. Indeed, Prisbell wrote a very favorable piece last Sunday about how the Hoyas could still make the field of 64.

- Georgetown hasn't won a champtionship for 25 years...a much longer stretch than the Terps. And a trip to the Final Four doesn't count. We're talking championships here.

It just seems that a case for bias can be made.

Eric Prisbell: I will write a large piece on whatever team I am covering if it is warranted. I have done it in Fresno with Fresno State and will do it here with whatever team I am covering.


Eric Prisbell: Thanks a lot for coming everyone. I am interested in what everyone thinks of Part III. Take care.


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