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Can Gary Williams Resurrect Maryland Basketball?

October 17, 2008|By CHILDS WALKER

When we talk about "turning around" the Maryland men's basketball program, it's important to define what that means. Certainly, things are nowhere near as bad as they were the year before Gary Williams took over, when the Terps went 9-20 and won only one Atlantic Coast Conference game.

Maryland has won at least 19 games each of the past four seasons and has at least broken even in the conference each of the past three. Every season, Williams seems to inspire his team to a shocking upset over a powerhouse (last season, the Terps beat North Carolina in Chapel Hill). The man can squeeze water from a stone when it comes to practice and game coaching.

Here's the thing, though.

Williams created an unbelievably high standard for himself when he made the NCAA tournament every season between 1994 and 2004 and brought the school its first national title in 2002. Given that context, three National Invitation Tournaments in four seasons feels like a jolt to fans, especially when the coach makes almost $2 million a year and has a guaranteed contract that runs well into the next decade.

This season's roster doesn't offer much reassurance. Undisciplined standout Greivis Vasquez and inconsistent classmates Eric Hayes and Landon Milbourne lead a team with little apparent strength in the frontcourt and no projected superstars among its underclassmen.

To be fair, no one expected Lonny Baxter and Juan Dixon to be stars, either, and Williams spun greatness out of them.

Williams is a good enough coach to win 20 a season despite that. But if we define a "turnaround" as contending for the national title, he's fighting an uphill battle with insufficient ammunition.

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