Bonne Chance, Gary Williams…

Gary Williams surprisingly announced his retirement as head coach of the Maryland basketball team yesterday. As you read about his tenure at Maryland – – his alma mater – – you will likely read some positive and negative things about him. As someone who has lived in the DC area for the last 40 years, allow me to inform you about a couple of things that ought to be “front and center” in any biographical summary of Gary Williams’ career.

    He saved Maryland basketball from relegation to ineptitude.

    When Len Bias overdosed, that spelled the end of the Lefty Driesell Era at College Park. Lefty was a good coach, but he had about run his course there; his leaving was not the catastrophic event that could have killed the program.

    Maryland hired Bob Wade – a hugely successful high school coach in Baltimore – to replace Lefty. Bob Wade put Maryland on the brink of disaster.

    Wade was over his head on the sidelines plus he broke enough NCAA rules recruiting players who were only good enough to get him a 36-50 record overall to bring the wrath of the NCAA down on College Park, MD. His “resignation” came when Maryland was in deep trouble with sanctions to include one year with no appearances on live national TV and two years with no post-season slots.

    Gary Williams left a solid job at THE Ohio State University to come home to his alma mater even under those restrictions to put the program back together. Read about his record and his accomplishments and realize from whence he started…

I do not mean to imply that Gary Williams is a saintly man without flaws. That is certainly not the case. However, the collegiate coaching ranks are collectively less honorable today than they were yesterday. In basketball, the likes of John Calipari, Bob Huggins, Jim Calhoun and that ilk remain in their positions making a mockery of the “college” portion of “collegiate athletics”. In football, the Sanctimonious Twit of the Year – – Jim Tressel – – remains in his job at THE Ohio State University because THE Ohio State University has all the commitment to education, honor and righteousness as a garden slug. If you think I am being harsh on Tressel, let me simply quote for you something from Tressel’s own book, The Winner’s Manual:

“The reputation of a thousand years may be determined by the conduct of one hour.”

Coach Tressel, you got it right. In that hour when you chose your conduct, you consigned your reputation to the file marked “Pond Scum”.

By the way, I am not the only person who thinks Jim Tressel is a less than fully honorable hominid. Here is a comment from Scott Ostler in the SF Chronicle:

“And then there’s Jim Tressel, who NCAA investigators say ‘failed to deport himself … (with) honesty and integrity,’ that he lied and knowingly played ineligible players. That’s the kind of leadership and example being provided for college athletes.”

I read a report that said the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes lost $36M this year. That is not a loss based on accounting legerdemain; that is supposedly the operating loss for the team. If that is even close to correct, then anyone thinking about owning the Coyotes and keeping them in the Southwestern US is a goofball. The Coyotes made the playoffs this year; they won 43 games. If that performance could not get the home attendance up above 90%, what would it take?

The Coyotes played to about 75% attendance in a year that they made the playoffs. Why are they still there? Imagine what might happen if they finished 40 points out of the playoffs next season; the arena would look as if they were holding a William Hung Concert Tour event there.

Consider that if all 30 NHL teams lost $36M, that would be a net loss for a single year of $1.08B. I suspect that the NHL would disappear entirely if all the teams performed financially the way the Coyotes have reportedly performed for the 2010-1011 season.

John Rocker is about to publish a memoir. Just pause here for a moment and let those eight words wash over you and sink in… Let me say this unequivocally:

    The ONLY way that I would purchase this oeuvre would be as a present for my grandson – – and then only if the book came with its own set of crayons.

    If everyone who had been waiting for John Rocker’s memoir were to shout at the top of their lungs in unison, that would replicate Simon and Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence.

As I suggested yesterday, Rashard Mendenhall might suffer some economic consequences from his exercise of his freedom of expression on Twitter. USA Today reports that Champion sports apparel has dropped Mendenahll as an endorser on the basis of his “controversial Tweets”. Here is part of what Champion said about this decision and what I meant yesterday when I said that free speech brought with it societal burdens that Rashard Mendenhall might have to bear:

“While we respect Mr. Mendenhall’s right to express sincere thoughts regarding potentially controversial topics, we no longer believe that Mr. Mendenhall can appropriately represent Champion and we have notified Mr. Mendenhall that we are ending our business relationship.”

Finally, consider this observation by Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times:

“Pirates catcher Chris Snyder — roughly 2,100 plate appearances into his career without stealing a base — is just a good dry year or two from surpassing baseball’s all-time mark of 2,714 held by Russ Nixon.

“Just don’t call Snyder the hare-apparent.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…

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  • Steve  On May 6, 2011 at 8:31 am

    I’m going to miss Gary Williams.

    I’ve had season basketball tickets at another ACC school for a little better than 20 years now and have always enjoyed the Maryland games a little more because (and I’m not trying to be snarky) Gary definitely brought some added value from a spectator’s standpoint.

    This is a huge loss for what is, absent UNC and Duke, an increasingly irrelevant Atlantic Coast Conference.

  • Ed  On May 6, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    IIRC Lefty was better known as a great recruiter than coach – excellent recruiting classes coming in, but not nearly as many deep NCAA runs. Sort of thing that makes some men better college coaches than NBA guys. Or NFL guys (Carrell? Holtz?)

  • The Sports Curmudgeon  On May 8, 2011 at 8:27 pm


    I agree with you on all counts. Gary Williams made it exciting to root for Maryland and to root against them. You are also spot-on in saying that the ACC has lost a LOT of its luster in recent years as a great conference from top to bottom.


    Lefty was a great recruiter indeed. He was not a bad coach but was certainly not a great one either. My problem with Lefty’s teams/players was that those super-talented freshmen he brought in rarely got significantly better after playing for him for 3 or 4 seasons.

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