Fiery Williams gets Terps cooking

Once they're through with the punching bags, they should be better than last year

November 19, 2009|By Kevin Cowherd

COLLEGE PARK — Gary Williams was in midseason form: stomping and swearing and sweating through his designer suit.

This was the other night at the Comcast Center, the Maryland Terrapins running away with a 71-42 win over Fairfield and their coach working the sideline like a man with his hair on fire.

Here's my favorite Gary pose: hands forlornly clasped over his head, rumpled white shirt spilling out of his pants, staring in disbelief at ... well, it could be anything.

A questionable call by the refs. A blown layup by one of his players. The dry-cleaning bills for those pricey suits.

Yep, Williams sweats buckets even against the nonconference punching bags on the Terps' early-season schedule.

Charleston Southern or North Carolina, Fairfield or Duke - when the game ends, he looks like a guy who just fell off a pier.

"He's still passionate," said senior guard Greivis Vasquez. "He still does what he does."

What Gary Williams does more than any other coach in the country is pour his heart and soul into his work.

And this season, at age 64, in his 21st year at Maryland, with a career 627 wins to rank him sixth on the all-time list for Division I coaches, he may have one of the more interesting teams he's ever had.

The Terps will be led by their three battle-tested seniors: the excitable Vasquez, who led the team in scoring, rebounding and assists and flirted with the idea of leaving for the NBA after last season, guard Eric Hayes and forward Landon Milbourne.

Sophomore Sean Mosley, the former Baltimore Sun Player of the Year from St. Frances Academy, joins them in the starting lineup. Junior guards Adrian Bowie and Cliff Tucker will be counted on to make big plays off the bench.

Also, the Terps should actually have an inside presence this season with the addition of highly touted freshmen Jordan Williams (6-10, 260 pounds) and James Padgett (6-8, 225).

On the other hand, no one seems willing to talk about Dino Gregory, the 6-7 junior forward from Baltimore (Mount St. Joseph) who's sidelined for violating team rules.

In fact, we still don't know exactly what he did to get thrown off the team. Or where he is.

It's as if he entered the witness protection program.

But even if Gregory is out for the season, Williams seems to like the core group of players he has right now.

"If we can play eight or nine people, we can wear teams down," he said.

That's what the 25th-ranked Terps did to Fairfield in picking up their second win.

They got off to a slow start, with Vasquez out of sync and missing eight of his first nine shots.

Midway through the first half, they trailed by five points.

The Comcast crowd was quiet. Williams' face was fire-engine red. The veins in his neck were quivering.

I thought his head was going to explode.

During an earlier timeout, he had grabbed a folding chair and slammed it down with such force that it might have dented the floor.

But then Milbourne hit a jumper from the baseline, the Terps picked up their intensity on defense, and they went on a 15-0 run.

And that was pretty much it for the poor Stags, who spent the second half getting their shots blocked in the paint and jacking up three-point shots from somewhere out by the scorer's table.

Sure, it's hard to tell how good you are playing teams like Charleston Southern and Fairfield.

But the Terps have more depth than they've had in years. They have a couple of big guys who can bang inside and get rebounds.

And if they play the kind of Rottweiler defense they played against Fairfield, they could make things interesting in the ACC, where they've been picked to finish as high as fifth place.

One thing's for sure: This is a way better team than last year's team. And last year's team finished 21-14 and made it to the semifinals of the ACC Tournament and the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Some people think that might have been Gary Williams' finest coaching job at Maryland. I'm not sure I'd disagree.

Next up for the Terps is New Hampshire - another punching bag - Friday night. Then it's on to Hawaii and the Maui Invitational, where they'll have to step up their game against teams like Arizona and Cincinnati.

At least in Maui, Williams gets to ditch the suit in favor of one of those cool Hawaiian shirts.

He'll still sweat through it by halftime.

It's the only way he knows how to coach.

Listen to Kevin Cowherd Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. with Jerry Coleman on Fox 1370 AM Sports.

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