DURHAM, N.C. – Gary Williams was busy working at the Comcast SportsNet studios on Friday when he learned he was named a finalist for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. More than five decades of coaching had taught him to stay in the moment, to focus on the next game or the next practice or the next recruit. Honors like this rarely crossed his mind. “All those things aren’t something you really think about,” Williams said. “You get that call now, that’s a great feeling.”
His retirement following the 2010-11 season allowed Williams to step back from the grind, to settle down and begin reflecting. Players he coached. Games he won. Moments that will never be forgotten.
But to think about the Hall of Fame – not even the college basketball one, but the real deal? That didn’t come until Friday.
“You get a chance to do that for the first time,” Williams said Saturday by telephone, five hours before tip-off of the final Maryland-Duke regular season matchup in ACC history. “I’m just really grateful that they picked me to be nominated.”
Williams was one of eight finalists chosen by the North American Screening Committee and will require 18 of 24 votes from the Honors Committee to be elected when the class is announced on April 7 before the national title game in Texas.
It could be a double-dip year for Williams, too, as the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame inducts its class of 2014 in November. The Maryland men’s basketball team plays in Kansas City at the CBE Hall of Fame Classic, which is paired with the induction ceremony. This year, former Maryland all-American Tom McMillen was enshrined and Williams could be next.
“That’s down the road,” he said. “We’ll see how that works. I’m just reacting to this right now.”
Williams said he’s gotten “a lot” of calls from former players, fellow coaches and old assistants, and expressed admiration for his fellow nominees, which includes legendary college coach Eddie Sutton, against whom Williams once coached during the NCAA tournament.
“When you start out as a JV high school coach, it’s a big thrill for me to gradually work my way into this type of consideration,” Williams said.
>> According to the Under Armour Twitter account, the Terrapins will debut the black version of their “Heritage” uniforms.
>> Some of the biggest Maryland-Duke games in recent memory featured a current Terps assistant running the show, and Coach Mark Turgeon said he planned to have Juan Dixon address the players before tip-off Saturday night.
“He will,” Turgeon said. “It’s been a strange week because of the snow. I was kind of sick but we had some other ideas. We’ll have them ready. They understand. Our guys know. You play in this building last year against Duke, most of the guys did or were here, they realize it’s a little bit different than the rest of the games. Our guys know. They understand.”
Asked what he might offer, Dixon, now a special assistant to Turgeon, seemed to indicate a motivational speech might not be needed.
“They know about it,” Dixon said. “They know the history of the Maryland-Duke rivalry over the years. We don’t talk about it much. We pretty much focus on what we need to do this week to prepare for the game. I’m sure we’ll have a couple meetings before the game tomorrow. Guys are well prepared. Coach is ready. We’re ready to compete against Duke for the last time.”
>> Center Shaquille Cleare and forward Jake Layman are both healthy and ready to go, Turgeon said. Cleare suffered a shoulder injury at Virginia last Monday while Layman was poked in the eye during the same game. Both received treatment on the sidelines – Layman, at one point, was experiencing blurry vision – but neither experienced any setbacks and will play versus Duke.
>> Turgeon didn’t offer much when asked about forward Evan Smotrycz, who missed two key three-pointers against Virginia on Monday. The junior has scored just 12 points over the past two games and is shooting 3 for 18 from the field during that span and 2 for 12 on three-pointers.
“Evan’s been great,” Turgeon said. “Whole team’s been great.”
Smotrycz faced the Blue Devils twice while he was at Michigan, once in the Maui Invitational as a sophomore and in the NCAA tournament’s round of 32 as a freshman. He scored 18 total points in those two games but fouled out in each.