Plus, Williams rallied students and fans. At the Duke game earlier this year, students wore bright yellow t-shirts reading “Garyland” instead of ”Maryland.”
"My phone was just exploding with text messages: 'Have you heard about Gary? Have you heard about Gary?'" said Debbie Kobrin, 21, a U-Md. senior government and politics major.
“I texted half my phone book: ‘OMG, what are we going to do?’” said Alyssa Perrone, 22, who graduated last year and is now in law school.
The news shocked many students, recent grads and fans of all sorts. But once nearly all of devoted Terps had heard the news, the fervent texting gave way to Facebook reflections and GChat conversations.
Some shared memories. Others wondered what this meant for the team. Others wished Williams well.
"You can't blame the guy for wanting to have a life outside of basketball," said Jacob Berman, 22, who graduated last year and now works as a research assistant for a D.C. think tank.
But, Berman lamented, Maryland basketball won't be the same: “When I say Maryland basketball, the first thing you think of is Gary Williams. Ask anyone. It's the first thing that comes to mind.”
Graduation is scheduled for next week, so the news was bittersweet for seniors (and super seniors) already emotional about leaving campus.
Doron Tamari, a senior marketing major, said Williams was the reason he decided to attend Maryland. Tamari said he liked the coach’s hard-work ethic and how that set a positive tone on campus.
"I said, that's somebody I want to root for," said Tamari, 21, who is from New Jersey.
In his four years on campus, Tamari said he can count the number of games he missed on one hand. At a fraternity fundraiser earlier this semester, Tamari said he met Williams and thanked him "for a great four years."
"He was as nice as he could be" and asked the senior about his post-graduation plans, Tamari said. "That's Gary Williams. He's the school."
Tamari was working at the front desk at the business school Thursday afternoon when a friend texted him the news. He texted friends and checked Twitter to see if it was true. Then he logged onto You Tube to watch clips from big games and a tribute that was produced after Williams' 600th game.
"What he did, what he brought to the program..." Tamari said, looking for the right words. "It will be difficult to see someone else on the sidelines."
Who should replace Williams? Weigh in on our Terps Insider poll.