I'm going to preface my remarks by saying that I'm not a real writer. I just pretend to be one on the Internet. I'm a fan. Whatever success this blog has had in gaining an audience has been due to the passion I have for Terps basketball. For the most part, my entries over the last 6 years have been easy for me to write because they are simple expressions of how I feel at that moment as a fan. Today is different. This is the hardest post I've ever had to make. I've only met Gary Williams once; yet he feels like a member of my family. I know his personality. I know his quirks. I know his strengths. I know his faults. I understand why he gets emotional after big wins.
I can't believe he is leaving.
Who could forget his first press conference after accepting the job? Watch this video and try not get choked up.
Being the head coach at Maryland was Gary's dream and it wasn't just because he played basketball there. You see, Gary did not grow up in a loving family. His childhood was difficult. His early struggles helped to formulate the famous hard-scrabble demeanor that became his signature. It was as a student/athlete at Maryland where Gary first felt what it was like to be part of a family. Gary got choked up at that press conference in 1989 because becoming the Head Coach of Maryland Basketball was not just the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. He was coming home to help at a time when his family needed him the most.
Gary Williams saved Maryland Terrapins basketball. Period. This cannot be argued by anyone who has remotely paid attention over the last 25 years. The story is familiar. Len Bias' ignominious death left the program in shambles and Gary rode in on a white horse and resurrected it. But Gary did more than just rebuild Maryland. He crafted the program in his own image. Terps basketball was not just synonymous with name Gary Williams; Terps basketball was Gary Williams.
Williams stood in stark contrast to the stately icons of the ACC: Dean Smith and Mike Krzyzewski. Gary relished the role of the scrappy upstart. The Terps did not land the top recruits, but instead became known for doing more with less. Sure, it would have been nice to land some of those big names over the years; but the Terps achieved against the giants of the sport anyway. The common thread through it all was Gary's will and determination. Maryland dominated with no-names like Joe Smith, Juan Dixon and Greivis Vasquez and looking back; I wouldn't have wanted to win any other way. What fun is it to win with a roster of 5-star recruits? (Alright, winning is fun no matter what). The Terps won with Gary's guys. Players who were always underestimated and overlooked. Just like Gary Williams. In fact, being disrespected motivated Gary more than anything else. It's what made him great. It's what made me and millions of others love Maryland Basketball.
Today, President Loh announced that he will "recommend" that the floor at the Comcast Center be renamed in Gary's honor. That should have happened 10 years ago, but in retrospect, I'm glad that it will happen now because it will serve as a the perfect coda to Gary's career. His imprint on the University is as indelible as the paint will be on the Comcast Center floorboards.
In the end, I'll remember all the joy Gary's teams have brought me over the years. I'll remember how he famously sweat for his Alma Mater, but more importantly, I'll remember how he not so famously shed tears for Maryland. I'll remember Gary for making me proud to be a Terp. Ultimately, I'm simply thankful that I got to root for a coach that embodied everything that I love about sports.
Whenever a public figure steps off the stage; I'm reminded of the famous speech General MacArthur gave before Congress upon his dismissal in 1951. It's probably not appropriate here, but it is my site and I'll do what I want:
I am closing my 52 years of military service. When I joined the Army, even before the turn of the century, it was the fulfillment of all of my boyish hopes and dreams. The world has turned over many times since I took the oath on the plain at West Point, and the hopes and dreams have long since vanished, but I still remember the refrain of one of the most popular barrack ballads of that day which proclaimed most proudly that "old soldiers never die; they just fade away."
I'll leave you with the video montage that played before Gary's presser this afternoon. If you don't get chills watching Gary's reaction to Duane Simpkins sinking the game-winner against Georgetown; then I don't know what to tell you: