Terps coach Gary Williams to retire
Gary Williams considered retiring after Maryland stunned Duke and the rest of the ACC in 2010 to earn a share of the conference regular-season title.
But the competitor in Williams saw another challenge, trying to coach the Terrapins up after losing his senior starting backcourt of Greivis Vasquez and Eric Hayes.
The Terps weren't able to reach the postseason this past March, finishing in the middle of the ACC.
As late as early evening Wednesday, Williams was talking about big men he had to replace, like sophomore Jordan Williams, who had decided to remain in the NBA draft.
But in a stunning move, Williams announced Thursday he is retiring. A news conference will be held at 1 p.m. ET Friday at the Comcast Center, a building that is a testament to the program he built.
The D.C.-area location, the ACC and the history of the program make this a job that could command interest from Gonzaga's Mark Few, Notre Dame's Mike Brey, Pitt's Jamie Dixon, Butler's Brad Stevens, Minnesota's Tubby Smith, Texas A&M's Mark Turgeon and Arizona's Sean Miller. Most if not all will pause to at least think about the potential. Of course, a number of them are quite happy in their current situations like Brey, Dixon, Stevens and Few. But it is a significant enough job to cause someone to pause.
Villanova's Jay Wright has no intention of leaving the Wildcats program, a source told ESPN.com's Dana O'Neil on Friday. Wright recruits heavily in the D.C.-Maryland area and was thought to be a good fit for the Terrapins.
The drive and fire that had defined Williams throughout his 33 years as a coach at American University, Boston College, Ohio State, and the last 22 at his alma mater at Maryland, has diminished, he said. He added that his health is fine and was not a part of his decision.
"I just want to do other things," Williams told ESPN.com Thursday afternoon. "I'm 66. How many other coaches are coaching beyond 66? Maybe only [Connecticut's] Jim Calhoun and [Syracuse's] Jim Boeheim. You get to be a certain age and I know I can do other things."
Williams said he considered retiring at the end of the 2011 season. But he wanted to see how he felt.
"I took six weeks," Williams said. "I just look at all the other coaches out there, look at all the coaches that have been in the [ACC] since I've been coaching at Maryland. There have been five [actually four] at North Carolina [Dean Smith, Bill Guthridge, Matt Doherty and Roy Williams]."
Williams said he made his final decision within the past few days after changing his mind a year ago "once we tied Duke for the championship with Greivis."
"The most enjoyable thing I do is teach and I had a great teaching class, a 12-person class to work with," Williams said. "I will miss that. I won't miss a lot of the other stuff."
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Williams' greatest achievement was resurrecting Maryland from NCAA sanctions that came after he replaced Bob Wade in 1989.
Williams led the Terps out of historic Cole Field House to the Comcast Center, to the Final Four in 2001 and to the national title in 2002. His teams were defined by his work ethic. Williams was a tireless performer on the sidelines. He was demonstrative and at times verbally berated assistants. But the assistants knew Williams would always be intense during games and were incredibly loyal to him. So, too, were his players.
During the earlier part of the 2000s, Williams made the ACC as much about Duke-Maryland as Duke-North Carolina.
"I never thought all of this would happen," said Williams, who worked for former Boston College coach Tom Davis before replacing him at the Heights. "I had a lot of breaks. We were in the Big East with teams like Villanova and Georgetown [in the mid-'80s] winning national titles and then Ohio State in the Big Ten with Michigan [winning the national title in 1989 before he left for Maryland] and then won a championship in this league with Duke and North Carolina.
"We could compete against anybody and I always felt that we competed," Williams said. "It's been a big thrill to be in the Big East, the Big Ten and the ACC. If I coach two more years then what?"
Williams said he knew at some point in his 60s he would have to call it quits and do something else.
"I will be around, I will do things here [at Maryland]," said Williams, who will be an assistant athletic director for the school. "I think the thing I'm most proud of is in the post-Len Bias time, we had sanctions and we put the program back in the best shape of any program. We got it back and we won a championship. That's the biggest thing we accomplished."
Williams has Hall of Fame numbers, coaching against Hall of Famers in his own league in UNC's Williams and Duke's Mike Krzyzewski. Williams won 668 games, 461 at Maryland. He went to 14 NCAA tournaments, won three ACC regular-season titles and had seven Sweet 16 appearances, two Elite Eights and two Final Fours. Williams was the national coach of the year in 2002 and the ACC coach of the year in 2002 and 2010.
Williams outlasted a contentious relationship with former athletic director Debbie Yow, who is now at NC State. He said he has grown closer to current boss, athletic director Kevin Anderson, the former Army AD.
Anderson said in a statement Williams' legacy goes beyond his tenure as a basketball coach. The school said in a release that Williams helped raise over $240 million for scholarships at Maryland. Williams will stay on as a special assistant to Anderson and serve as an ambassador for the university.
ACC commissioner John Swofford issued a statement saying that "[Williams'] accomplishments are of Hall of Fame caliber."
"I am shocked but yet there comes a time for everyone to make their own decision and move on with their life," Roy Williams said in a statement. "Gary is a great friend, a great coach and one that I will miss immensely in the ACC and in college basketball. He has truly done an outstanding job at every school he's coached at and has done it well for many, many years. I am happy he is leaving on his terms but very sad that he will no longer be a colleague on the sidelines."
Anderson has to fill one of the premier jobs in the country. Williams wasn't as keen on working the AAU circuit locally, rather going with tough-minded players without the all-star credentials. He produced plenty of NBA players, some with high profiles and some without.
Andy Katz is a senior college basketball writer for ESPN.com.