Maryland athletic director says he has faith in Gary Williams

Some Terps fans have wondered whether Anderson would push for change the way he did with football program

March 08, 2011|By Jeff Barker, The Baltimore Sun

COLLEGE PARK — — Gary Williams' Maryland Terrapins have been having a down season. But Williams, the school's winningest basketball coach, takes his 18-13 team to the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament this week with the full backing of the school's athletic director, according to interviews with both men.

"His job, based on what happened this year, is definitely not [in] jeopardy," said athletic director Kevin Anderson, who took over at Maryland last fall after nearly six years in the same position at Army. He said Williams, who recently passed the late John Wooden for 22nd on the all-time wins list, would be back, barring unforeseen circumstances. "Gary and I have a good relationship. I like what he's doing on the court."

Maryland, 7-9 in the conference, is the ACC tournament's seventh seed and opens Thursday night against 10th-seeded North Carolina State (15-15, 5-11 ACC) in Greensboro, N.C. The winner faces second-seeded Duke on Friday night.

The Terps, who enter on a three-game losing streak, would likely need to win the tournament — that would mean four victories in four days — to gain an NCAA tournament berth for the third straight year.

Entering the season, Maryland had made the tournament 14 out of 17 seasons. If it misses this year, it would be the fourth time in the past seven seasons.

Williams said in an interview this week that his record — 667-379 — speaks for itself. Last season's Terps tied eventual national champion Duke atop the ACC regular-season standings

Williams, who turned 66 last week, said that he and Anderson "have a good working relationship. We've talked quite a bit. He's done a good job of getting a handle on the job."

Still intense and animated on the sidelines, Williams has said he hopes to coach as long as his health permits him to meet the job's demands. His contract — said by the university to be worth more than $2 million a year if he meets academic and athletic incentives — runs until June 30, 2013.

Williams was a member of the search committee that helped bring Anderson to Maryland. His relationship with the previous athletic director — Deborah Yow, now at N.C. State — was marked by distrust.

One of Anderson's first big decisions was to mandate that the final season of football coach Ralph Friedgen's contract be bought out by the athletic department, which replaced Friedgen with Connecticut's Randy Edsall . Anderson said he felt boxed in by a coach-in-waiting agreement signed before he arrived at the school. James Franklin, who was to have been Friedgen's successor, left in December to become head coach at Vanderbilt. Anderson said it would have hurt the program's recruiting and hiring to allow Friedgen to serve a lame-duck year with uncertainty about who was hired next.

Some fans, citing Friedgen's departure, have openly wondered on fan sites whether Williams' job might be threatened. But Maryland insiders say the situation is different. They say there is no coach-in-waiting to complicate matters. Williams has two final fours and the 2002 national championship to his credit.

Williams, in his 22nd season at his alma mater, is an important Maryland fund-raiser with influential friends.

Many of those allies were in attendance before the season when Williams was inducted into the Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards' newly-created Hall of Legends.

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, one of his closest friends, presented Williams with his plaque. Also there were a number of players and coaches from around the nation as well as U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, who was then the House Majority Leader; U.S. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

twitter.com/sunjeffbarker

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