Winning Personality

Since we checked them last month, Gary Williams and the Terps have shown signs of overcoming what ailed them. The key will be avoiding a relapse with `March Madness.'

March 13, 2001|By GARY DORSEY | GARY DORSEY,Sun Staff



Final Assessment for subject: Gary Williams

Evaluation: Seasonal Affective Pessimism (S.A.P.)

Diagnostics: S.A.P. Testing For Coaches

Background: As stated in initial assessment Feb. 17, the subject, a 56-year-old white male, presented mid-season following a sequence of unfavorable life events with severe anxiety, insomnia, deficits in executive control function and psychiatric symptomatology whose etiological basis appeared to have developed over years of stress. Under observation, his profile seemed consistent with other middle-aged men in professions directing college youth with genetic height anomalies.

A considerable body of documentary evidence also indicated that the subject had been plagued for several years with an acute hyper-active response disorder (H.A.R.D.) during stressful situations, evidenced by histrionic behavior, which resulted in periodic ejection from his work site, and obsessional shouting, shuffling and pacing in public places.

Interviews earlier this season reflected progressive symptoms, showing that even in December the subject was losing capacity to distinguish between pleasant and unpleasant experiences and appeared to have difficulty assigning appropriate emotional valence to wins and losses.

According to one interviewer's assessment: "Typical of Williams is to watch one of his players make a mental mistake on the court, then stalk down the sideline and scream at the only Terps who had nothing to do with it - the ones on the bench."

Even during the first half of the season, following a successful stint of winning performances, the subject often complained about the youngsters' deficiencies and his own internalized fears: "There is no safety net ... our technique isn't very good ... we weren't real sharp ... we need to grow up."

It was the opinion of Sunny's evaluators that these symptoms were developmental precursors to the narcissistic disruption that caused the subject to take stock of his condition, self-assess and seek counseling on Feb. 14, following a loss at home against Florida State.

Risk assessment suggested continued failure unless, as subject later said, he "faced the abyss."

A vigorous wellness plan of cognitive therapy was recommended to restore balance. Optimism training, pro-active occupational therapy, and a course in anger management were also suggested for short-term treatment. Sunny encouraged the subject, over the longer term, to set more realistic expectations, give voice to feelings of remorse, and reflect on the value of discordant vs. harmonious relationships among intimates.

Given subject's prior history, stated prognosis at the time was "fair to hopeless."

Updated Status: Subject has met developmental milestones. Empirical evidence using the S.A.P. diagnostic tool (see accompanying summary) demonstrates subject has bounced back. S.A.P. appears to be in remission.

Narrative Summary: Following initial assessment, the subject returned to work, telling his young men: "I'm not talking anymore, I'm not giving anymore speeches." Instead of reverting to previous obsessions, he vowed to "have fun," and suggested that they do the same.

The subject reflected on his previous behaviors: "I try to be as positive as possible, but I'm sure I was not as positive as you usually are after a win. Your job as the coach is, you have to bring the team back and get them back. ... I wanted to make sure they knew I was behind them. If they did make mistakes, they were trying. That's what I kept saying, `We're trying. We're trying hard.' "

The youth, having developed a sequence of positive outcomes since, have noted the change in the subject and remarked on its effect: "Coach wanted us to have fun again," said Maryland guard Juan Dixon after a win against Wake Forest University. "He has been saying it the whole week: Just go out there and have fun like we did last year."

"Oh, my God," said Maryland center Lonny Baxter. "It feels like a dark cloud is gone from over our head."

In mood and effect, the subject has shown remarkable improvement. People comment that he appears calmer during working days, and report seeing him laughing after hours. There have been no further evictions from the workplace, and he expresses joy in his vocation: "Hey, I get paid good," he said recently. "Everything is good with me. I feel happiness for these guys."

Notably, the subject remained positive following a loss on Saturday, and recent interviews suggest he has achieved an optimistic self-awareness that will sustain the recent term of wellness.

"It's a pretty good lesson for us all," he said in an interview. "You have to work through things sometimes, whether it's basketball or something else. That's part of being a person. You can't let adverse situations determine how you live the rest of your life, or how our season's going to go the rest of the way."

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