Gary Williams laid the foundation for his Hall of Fame career at American University, which gave him his first college head coaching job as a 33-year-old in 1978. Nearly a half-century later, the legacy of Williams’s four seasons in Northwest Washington and the friendships he forged there live on, in the form of an entertaining and informative basketball podcast with a devoted following.
For the past six years, Williams, who retired from coaching in 2011 after winning 461 games and a national title over 22 seasons at Maryland, has co-hosted the “DC Coaches Basketball Podcast” with Gordon Austin, Chris Knoche and longtime NBA executive Ed Tapscott. Austin and Knoche both played for Williams at American; Tapscott was on Williams’s staff while studying for his law degree. Jimmy Patsos, an assistant to Williams at Maryland for 13 seasons before coaching at Loyola (Md.) and Siena, joined the show in 2020.
“This reminds me of a bunch of guys that meet every Friday for lunch,” Williams said of the freewheeling nature of the podcast, which features the quintet’s takes on local and national (as well as college and pro) basketball topics du jour. “That’s basically what we do. There’s some technical basketball [talk] once in a while, which is good, but it’s also for fans of the game that aren’t really into that but love basketball.”
The show, which releases a new episode every week from October to April, was conceived by radio veteran Bob Snyder, the former general manager at D.C.’s WTEM-AM and Chicago’s ESPN Radio. Snyder, who founded the podcast publishing company Hometown Podcasts in 2017, was a freshman at American in the fall of 1981, Williams’s final season at the school before he was hired by Boston College. Snyder got to know Williams, Austin, Knoche and Tapscott as the student play-by-play announcer for American basketball games on WAMU.
The coaches recorded the first episode of the podcast in October 2017 at Chatter, the Friendship Heights restaurant formerly known as Chadwick’s, which Tony Kornheiser and a group of partners, including Maury Povich, Alan Bubes and Williams, had purchased earlier that year. Chatter closed in 2019, but the show continued and recently surpassed 100 episodes.
Most episodes these days are recorded via Zoom to accommodate the hosts’ varied travel schedules. A recent show featured Knoche, who was the head coach at American from 1990 to 1997 and has served as the color analyst on Maryland men’s basketball broadcasts alongside Johnny Holliday since 1999, on location with the Terrapins at the Big Ten tournament in Chicago. Patsos checked in from the SEC tournament in Nashville, and Tapscott, who succeeded Williams as coach at American before becoming a coach and executive in the NBA, was on a scouting assignment for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The format of the podcast hasn’t changed much in six years. Thanks in large part to Williams’s involvement and the connections he made throughout his career, the lineup of high-profile coaches to appear since the show introduced a guest interview segment in 2021 includes Tom Izzo, Roy Williams, Jay Wright, Bob Huggins, Tommy Amaker and Chris Collins.
Knoche serves as the podcast’s point guard. He deftly maneuvers the conversation when necessary but also knows when to let one of his co-hosts or a guest go off on a tangent, which often leads to the most interesting material. Preparation for each show is minimal.
“You don’t overthink it,” Knoche said. “None of these guys are shrinking violets. All have great stories; all have their own perspectives. Sometimes I just feel like I’ll throw up a jump ball and see who grabs it or where it lands. … We’re not afraid to go down a rabbit hole.”
With more than 100 seasons of basketball coaching experience among them, there’s no shortage of opinions to go around on any topic.
“Everybody brings something a little different, but Gary’s the one who makes it work,” Knoche said. “In the very few shows that he’s missed, it’s complete anarchy when he’s gone. It’s like there’s a substitute teacher in charge and that’s me. It can be bedlam.”
Case in point: When Williams missed the recording of an episode last month because he was in Ohio to watch his granddaughter play for Wright State, Patsos, who is more often than not the target of his fellow former coaches’ ribbing, did an impression of his friend and mentor admonishing him for not paying enough attention to the action at a recent Maryland game.
What is it like to watch a basketball game next to Gary Williams? @CoachPatsos did his best Gary impression, and we think he nailed it— DC Coaches Basketball Podcast (@CoachesDCPod) February 28, 2023
Listen to our latest episode, featuring this + a conversation with @JamesJones_Yale https://t.co/rqKyNsWZ6u pic.twitter.com/N5BecX8tgU
“It’s a great way to stay current, for me, as I get older,” Williams, 78, said of the podcast, which is available on all the usual platforms and also airs on ESPN 630 on Friday nights. “Hopefully I don’t repeat the same story too many times, which I’m sure these guys would remind me of. When you hear current coaches talk about NIL or the transfer portal, it’s great for me, because I have my own views of it but I’m not in it.”
The podcast averages roughly 2,500 downloads per episode, according to Snyder, whose company also published Steve Buckhantz and Phil Chenier’s podcast “On the Road With Buck and Phil.”
“I can’t say that I listen to every podcast or network basketball show across the country, but if there is one that’s more insightful than this — particularly about the college game but also the pro game because of Ed’s opinions — I’d like to listen to it, because it must be pretty good,” he said.