Williams, Calhoun Boston-baked foes

Jesting coaches first vied while at BC, Northeastern

vacancies tempt Dickerson

East Regional notebook

March 24, 2002|By Paul McMullen and Gary Lambrecht | Paul McMullen and Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- The trash talk found its way to Jim Calhoun, and the Connecticut coach fired right back at Gary Williams.

"He said he could beat me in golf," Calhoun said. "That's completely untrue. Actually, I would rather play him in golf than have to face Lonny Baxter and Juan Dixon."

Calhoun can jest with Williams, because the two go back quite a ways. The latter is a Jersey guy and the former a professional Irishman from Massachusetts, where their paths crossed. Both were four years removed from degrees and coming off high school coaching positions when they found their first college jobs in 1972, Williams as a Lafayette assistant and Calhoun as head coach at Northeastern.

Williams followed Tom Davis to Boston College for the 1978-79 season, and returned after a four-year stint at American. Williams was the head coach at BC from 1982-86, and it was a hot time for college basketball in Boston. Mike Jarvis was at Boston University, Williams took the Eagles to a pair of Sweet 16s and Calhoun prospered with Baltimore talent.

The Huskies were on spring break last week, and spent two nights in Baltimore. Calhoun took his team to the Inner Harbor, but his favorite landmark in the city used to be the Cecil-Kirk Recreation Center, which produced several Northeastern players who starred for Calhoun, the most notable being the late Reggie Lewis.

Calhoun and Williams both left Boston in 1986, when the former entered the Big East Conference and the latter left it for Ohio State. This is the sixth time in nine seasons that Connecticut has been a first or second seed, and that's the kind of consistency Williams wanted to built at Maryland when he returned to his alma mater in 1989.

The theme of yesterday's media sessions was the Terps' 12-point win over the Huskies in December, but the Connecticut-Maryland game that sticks with Williams the most was the West Regional semifinals in 1995.

Forget Charleston in 1997 or UCLA in 2000 or the blown 22-point lead against Duke in last year's Final Four. That 1995 game with Connecticut was the most distressing NCAA tournament loss Williams has ever endured. The Huskies were the second seed, but Maryland was the No. 3 and had the consensus National Player of the Year in Joe Smith. It still burns Williams that the Terps didn't play hard that day in Oakland, where they surrendered 99 points.

"The trademark of Jim Calhoun teams is that they've always been great rebounding teams," Williams said. "This team is no different. They really get after it on the glass. We know they are going to play hard. That's his personality, it gets through to his team. Nobody just intimidates Connecticut; they're ready to play every game."

Only 2 Duke games?

Remember all of the anticipation surrounding the possibility of another four-game series this year between Maryland and Duke? The fans will have to settle for a 1-1 split series between the rivals.

First, Maryland dropped a semifinal contest to North Carolina State in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. That prevented the Terps from facing the Blue Devils in the tournament championship game, which Duke won on March 10.

Then, along came Indiana to knock off the defending national champions in the South Regional semifinals on Thursday night. That left Maryland as the lone ACC team still standing in the NCAA tournament. The only way the Terps could have seen Duke again would have been in the national championship game.

"Yeah, it is kind of strange [that Duke is no longer playing]," senior Terps forward Byron Mouton said. "That was the matchup last year. Four games. Great games. Two instant classics. I think the difference this year was that, while Duke was a great shooting team, they only played six guys. Duke is gone. All we're focused on is Connecticut."

UM assistants in demand

Another fine postseason run by Maryland could lead to more rearranging among Williams' staff.

Top assistant Dave Dickerson, who has coached under Williams for six seasons, could emerge as a candidate to take vacant jobs at College of Charleston or Radford. Dickerson spent four years at Radford before joining Williams in 1992, three years after completing his playing career at Maryland.

"I like what I'm doing now, but I'd be very interested [in Radford]. I spent four good years there," Dickerson said of the Virginia school. "I liked living in that area, still have some ties down there."

Assistant Jimmy Patsos, who has worked under Williams since 1991, said he has applied for the vacant job at Boise State.

"I want guys who want to be head coaches. They work hard, and they are hungry," said Williams, who lost 12-year assistant Billy Hahn last year to La Salle.

Mouton's gamble pays off

It didn't take long for Mouton to become a popular figure in the Maryland locker room, starting with the day he arrived after transferring from Tulane, following two seasons as its leading scorer.

Mouton sat out the 1999-2000 season, accepted a lower-profile role behind players like Dixon and Baxter, and is finishing his career by playing his best basketball.

"Byron Mouton is a special kid," Dickerson said. "For him to give up Tulane to accomplish less by coming to Maryland, as far as individual accomplishments and awards, to be part of a winning team and a winning program, speaks volumes about the type of person he is."

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