Colleagues call Williams' retirement 'a major loss,' 'total shock'

Loyola coach Patsos thinks Jordan Williams' departure played role

Morgan's Bozeman cites changing landscape of college game

May 05, 2011|By Ken Murray, THE BALTIMORE SUN

Jimmy Patsos, who spent 13 years under Gary Williams and had just spoken to him Tuesday, didn't see it coming.

Neither did former players Johnny Rhodes or Duane Simpkins.

And when Fang Mitchell found out Thursday that Williams was retiring after 22 years as Maryland's basketball coach, the Coppin State coach winced.

"Oh, no, did he really? I'm upset with that. He's a major loss," Mitchell said.

When cell phones, text messages and phone calls delivered Thursday's news, the area's basketball community recoiled in shock and disbelief. The man who resuscitated the Terps' sagging program and took it to a national championship in 2002 was retiring?

"Total shock for me," said Rhodes, a shooting guard on the 1991-92 team, which was Williams' first season free from NCAA sanctions for violations under previous coach Bob Wade. "It seemed like he'd be there forever."

Rhodes, who called his former backcourt mate Simpkins to share the news, said his phone "has been blowing up. Everybody wants to know why. I said, 'I can't tell you why …' "

Patsos, an assistant under Williams before taking the head coaching job at Loyola in 2004, said there were two subjects in his conversation with his old boss. One was golf. The other was Jordan Williams, the Terps center who was considering leaving early for the NBA. The coach was hopeful. But soon after, the center opted for the NBA.

Did Patsos think that played a role in Gary Williams' decision?

"If Jordan came back, do you think Gary would be retiring?" Patsos said. "I think he'd come back for another year myself."

Todd Bozeman, the Morgan State coach who had lunch with a group that included Williams at last month's Final Four in Houston, said one factor might have been the direction the college game has taken.

"I'm shocked," Bozeman said. "But he's been around for a long time, and I'm sure all the different things that are transpiring in college basketball didn't help it."

Regardless of what pushed Williams, 66, into retirement mode this week, he leaves behind a legacy that is unparalleled at Maryland: consecutive trips to the Final Four, a national championship and zero recruiting scandals.

"He operated with a high level of integrity," Bozeman said. "He was well-respected as a tactician and a motivator. He had an incredible amount of success, and the utmost respect from me."

Simpkins arrived from DeMatha in 1992 with Rhodes, carrying the idea of bringing Maryland back from the depths.

"He is a great coach," Simpkins said. "He would push you and prod you to reach your college max, and at the time you didn't realize what it was about. Some people took things more personally. I did at first. But as time goes on, you realize he's only trying to get the best out of you."

Simpkins came to appreciate that then and now.

"His teams overachieved," Simpkins said. "Not that he didn't have talent. But Gary let it be known that he wasn't going to base the success of his team on the success of his recruiting."

Patsos said he enjoyed his time under Williams, was enthralled by Williams' work on the bench during games, and knew the bottom line: "Nobody did more with less in college basketball than Gary."

"The two Final Fours and the national championship speak for themselves," Patsos said. "But I think his greatest coaching job was in 2004 after everybody left. He had all young guys. And to lose to Syracuse on a last-second shot to keep you from going to the Sweet 16 with a team that had won the ACC … amazing."

Williams was often criticized for his efforts at recruiting ("Unfair," Bozeman said); it was a part of the game he did not enjoy.

"The system has gotten weird," Patsos said. "Recruiting is recruiting. If you have to do certain things to get a recruit … well, Gary would never go down that road."

The road Williams walks now may be less stressful, more relaxing. Johnny Rhodes hopes so.

"Over the years, he built a really successful program," Rhodes said. "I think it's time for him to live a little bit. He made a name for himself. He's definitely a Hall of Fame coach. He's ready for the next phase of his life.

"And he's ready to wear some dry suits."

ken.murray@baltsun.com

twitter.com/kenmurraysun

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