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Q&A With WaPo Columnist Liz Clarke On Md. Basketball Coach Retiring

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University of Maryland Coach Gary Williams is retiring.
University of Maryland Coach Gary Williams is retiring.

WAMU: This seemed to come about pretty abruptly. What do we know so far about why Gary Williams made this decision?

LC: Yes, it did take long-time supporters and fans quite by surprise. Even though he is 66 years old and had been there 22 years, he said in his statement "it's time." And then in an interview with John Feinstein, he elaborated a bit and acknowledged that the past years doing this job – essentially for more than four decades – just had taken a toll.

WAMU: What do you see as Gary Williams' legacy?

LC: Surely, he'll be remembered for the national championship in 2002. But what really sets him apart is the fight that he got his teams to play with – his passion for basketball, the way he plays the game, the way he loves teaching the game. And the fact that he's really a remarkable amount without the blue-chip players that really dictate the fortune of so many teams today. He basically got castoffs or kids likely regarded to play, as well as the blue-chip guys. He loved taking the fight to more heralded teams. He loved the upset, he loved the competition.

WAMU: His teams really did seem to reflect his feisty character and showed a lot of heart over the years. Is there any sense who potential candidates might be to fill the job in the future?

LC: Oh sure, the names started bubbling up within five minutes – Villanova's Jay Wright is someone who's done incredibly well in the Big East, as has Notre Dame's Mike Brey. Those are two big former Big East coaches of the year, each with ties to the region that would be terrific catches for Maryland. And then the coach at Arizona, Sean Miller is believed in their spotlights. Also, of course the young coach at Virginia Commonwealth Shaka Smart who anybody would love to have, as well as Brad Stevens who has been to two national championships. So, they're shooting pretty high; the wish list is pretty lofty, but it's a very, very good job. And Gary has left it in good hands.

WAMU: What's it going to mean for College Park and the team and the school to lose Gary Williams?

LC: Oh, I don't think people really realize. You know, with Gary they lose also an alum, just like they did in their football coach last fall. You know someone who really read the Terrapins' colors. They lose great passion, tremendous loyalty. Even before the ball was tipped off, one of the most exciting things at Comcast was Gary marching out and raising that right fist of defiance. He was 66, but he really resonated with college kids. It's amazing how that persona… there was nothing about him that seemed old school except really his love of the fundamentals of the game. He was incredibly youthful – he IS incredibly youthful – but it'll be great to find someone whose heart beats with that passion.


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