If there was any doubt about Gary Williams deserving the Atlantic Coast Conference basketball Coach of the Year Award, it should have been dispelled in the final week of the regular season.
Within the space of seven days, Williams' Maryland team beat North Carolina, went to Winston-Salem and defeated Wake Forest and, Saturday, lost by two (76-74) in the final 1.9 seconds to Virginia.
The amazing thing is that Gary Williams has done this with but one outstanding player -- Walt Williams.
The word around the ACC is that Florida State's Pat Kennedy will get Coach of the Year in his school's first season in the conference. Florida State has had a great year, finishing 11-5 in the league.
Williams' Terps wound up 5-11 in the ACC, 14-12 overall, which is unimpressive on the surface. Kennedy, however, has a lot more talent to work with than Williams.
Williams' recruiting since he came back to his alma mater three years ago has been hampered by NCAA penalties -- the last of them to be lifted after this season.
Coach of the Year, theoretically, is the one who gets the most out of what he has. On that basis, Williams has to win it.
Coaches around this town marvel at what he has achieved.
Nap Doherty, who coached for 20 years at Loyola College and Johns Hopkins, watched Maryland-Virginia and came away shaking his head.
"What Gary Williams has done is almost unbelievable," Doherty said. "The only player I've ever seen improve as much in one year as Evers Burns has for Maryland this year was Bob Riley at Mount St. Mary's -- and that was 20 years ago. Gary has Burns believing he's a genuine ACC ballplayer. Vincent Broadnax, a walk-on, goes up to the line now with the pressure on and makes free throws. Give Gary Williams credit for that."
In truth, both Williams and Kennedy could be passed up for Coach of the Year. The majority of the voters in the balloting live and work in the Carolinas and tend to vote for coaches in their own area.
* The basketball season ended in disappointment Saturday for Loyola and Navy.
Loyola had won six straight, nine of 11, and had beaten every team in its Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference this year. The Greyhounds had reason to be optimistic going into the MAAC tournament. People were saying coach Tom Schneider had gotten Loyola over the proverbial hump.
But, alas, Loyola was beaten in the first round by Iona, 59-53, and the career of senior Kevin Green ended with 2,154 career points -- 45 short of Jim Lacy's school record set 44 years ago.
Tom Mooney, a Baltimore lawyer who attended Loyola in Lacy's time, put the Lacy-Green race in an interesting perspective yesterday.
"It's a shame the Green kid didn't get to play two more games," Mooney said. "He might have broken Lacy's record. But people forget there was no three-point play in Lacy's time and Jim was a great outside shooter. There's no telling how many points he would have scored shooting threes."
Navy was bounced from the Patriot League tourney by a first-round, 77-59 loss to Fordham. No one was surprised. Navy finished 6-22, its fifth straight losing season.
Rumors abound that Pete Herrmann will be replaced as Navy's coach. Again, no one would be surprised. Since David Robinson's graduation from Navy five years ago, Herrmann has had a 37-103 record.
All of which reminds me of a conversation I had with David Robinson when he was in his first class year at Annapolis and the team went 22-6.
"We need a new field house here," Robinson said after having seen places like the Carrier Dome at Syracuse.
"No you don't," I told him. "After you graduate, Navy will go right back to being a .500 team the way it was before you came here. The field house you have will be big enough."
Navy built its new Alumni Hall anyway, although, with a seating capacity of 5,710, it was not exactly what Robinson had in mind.
Alumni Hall should satisfy Navy's spectator needs nicely. Until another David Robinson comes along -- and there has been only one in the academy's history -- Navy, it seems to me, has no shot at scaling any basketball heights. But the Middies are likely to be attempting it with a new coach next year.