One of the hardest parts about being a fan of college basketball is growing attached to a player on your team, because no matter how good they are or how much they personify your school and its fan base, you know that in a few shorts years, they’ll be gone. The NCAA grants us just a brief, four-year window to form a bond with a player in college and once that window of eligibility closes, you’re forced to move on, whether you want to or not. But as a Maryland fan, there has always been one thing that’s made the departure of some of my favorite Terps’ players sting a little less; you knew Gary Williams would still be on the sideline the following season. Knowing that gave most Maryland basketball fans a sense of comfort and ease, even after losing some of the program’s most accomplished players to graduation and careers in the NBA; fear not, for we have Gary Williams at the helm! With each new season and the new players and coaches that came with it, the one face that didn’t change was that of Gary Williams.
Since I started following college basketball, Gary Williams has been the only coach I’ve known. Aside from Coach K at Duke and Jim Calhoun at UConn, few coaches today are as associated with their programs as Gary Williams is to Maryland. When someone says Maryland basketball, Gary’s antics on the sideline and sweat-soaked suits are some of the first things that pop into your mind. You think of a man who left a great job at Ohio State to return to his dream job at his alma mater in June of 1989. You also remember the hardships and struggles he endured when the dark clouds of NCAA sanctions resided over College Park for several years, shaking both his coaching abilities and desires to the core. Who could forget that despite those sanctions, despite the ban from playing on TV and appearing in the post season, Gary stuck it out. He didn’t bolt; he didn’t make excuses; he quietly rebuilt this basketball program from the shadows of Len Bias’ death and the NCAA’s "death penalty" into one that annually achieved national prominence, culminating in a National Championship in 2002.