Run for cover: Same old Gary is rarin' to go! West doesn't look wild to Terps

March 13, 1995|By KEN ROSENTHAL

COLLEGE PARK -- Gary Williams visits his doctors tonight.

"I'm sure they'll tell me I can coach," Williams said. "If they don't, it doesn't matter."

He's back!

Same old spunk.

Same old fire.

Same old Gary Williams.

What did you expect, Mr. Mellow?

Williams is going to yell. Williams is going to scream. Williams is going to coach his team.

"I'm over 21," he said last night. "What are they going to do?"

All right, he's still not 100 percent. He needs to gain back 10-12 pounds. And he needs to take this day by day, lest he get run down again.

But slow down?

Change his ways?

Forget it.

"That wouldn't be fair to the team," Williams said.

Cheat his players?

Never!

"I know he's going to yell at us," senior guard Wayne Bristol said, smiling. "I'm looking forward to him being back."

Heck, he doesn't only yell at players.

"Lenny Wirtz and Dick Paparo, they're always looking at our bench, telling him to calm down, calm down," forward Exree Hipp said, referring to two ACC officials.

"He can kind of work 'em. I think he can definitely get us some of the calls, make sure the game is called right."

But enough good news.

"We've got to have a good practice [today]," Williams said. "We play Thursday. We have to travel. There's not a lot of time."

Same old urgency.

Same old Gary.

The way Williams sees it, he has coached 27 years, and pneumonia got him once, so he's 26-1.

The Terps are in trouble.

Hell hath no fury like Williams after a defeat.

"I was scared," he said. "But at the same time, I wasn't going to let this put me away."

So now he's back, back for the NCAAs, back to lead the third-seeded Terps in the West Regional, back for a first-round matchup against Gonzaga in Salt Lake City.

He's thinner. He's weaker. But he's ready.

The short week? Long flight? High altitude?

Williams couldn't care less.

"Perfect," he said. "Sounds good to me."

Everything sounds good, now that he's back in Garyland. Williams spoke at length with reporters at Cole Field House last night, then sat down for 11 separate television interviews.

It's tournament time.

This is what he lives for.

The pneumonia frustrated him, angered him, knocked him flat on his back. That's how Williams watched his team in the ACC tournament. Doctor's orders. Lying down.

"It was kind of weird," he said. "That's your team out there playing, and you're over in Prince George's County somewhere.

"I never want to do that again. Hopefully, you learn some things about yourself. Maybe it'll make me a better coach."

Then again, maybe not.

Will Williams know when to step back this week? In College Park, they're keeping their fingers crossed.

This is a special team, and Williams knows it. Joe Smith probably is headed to the NBA. This could be Williams' best chance at the Final Four.

Gonzaga, then the Texas-Oregon winner, then maybe Connecticut and UCLA. One game at a time, Williams said. But so much is before him, and the worst is behind.

Williams, 50, never missed a practice before, let alone a game. He said his only other hospital stay came when he was 6 years old, and had his appendix removed.

"It was a new experience, a humbling experience," he said. "You think you can always suck it up, get through anything. You learn.

Hopefully next year I can do a better job taking care of myself."

Hopefully.

The truth is, Williams always feels awful during the season, expects to feel awful. He runs a major-college program. It's part of the job.

Still, this was different. In the past, he'd get a cold, get rid of it, get the flu, get rid of it. That's how it was for about a month before he got pneumonia.

Same old exhaustion.

"I felt like I was fine," Williams said.

Of course, he wasn't fine. Williams said his doctor told him that if he had waited another 18 hours before seeking care, it might have been "bad."

How bad?

"He said some things I'd rather not get into," Williams said. "It was just a matter of me being stubborn. I probably should have seen the doctor sooner."

So, what happens next season, when it's midnight on the eve of a game and there's one more film to watch?

Williams knows.

He'll watch that film.

"I'm not going to change," he said. "It's too late to change."

Pneumonia, he don't know ya.

Look out, world.

Gary Williams is back.

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