Bisciotti says Gary Williams almost retired last year

It seemed like a good time to get out. It was the end of the 2009-10 season, and Maryland had tied eventual national champion Duke atop the regular-season Atlantic Coast Conference standings.

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said Gary Williams thought seriously about retiring then, but couldn't quite step away. At least not yet.

"I think he seriously thought about it last year," Bisciotti said.

Bisciotti is a close friend of Williams. I interviewed him last night to get some perspective on Williams' thought processes. We'll hear from Williams this afternoon at Comcast Center at 1:00 p.m.

Williams' retirement seems abrupt. But Bisciotti said it's something that's been in the works for some time. Williams did a good job of keeping it private.

"He would have been a great general, he would have been a great CIA agent," said Keith Neff, another Williams friend. "He didn’t leak anything. That’s truly old school."

As Williams' friend, Bisciotti said it pained him to watch the coach endure fans' criticism in recent years. The 2008-09 season had been particularly difficult as Williams sparred with the athletic department under Debbie Yow, and with the media. But the Terps also ended up winning a game in the NCAA tournament that season.

"Heck, I told him he should walk away three years ago," Bisciotti said. "It was hard to see a friend take heat after everything he had done."

Williams almost always seemed tired after the season -- perhaps this year more than most. When he decided it was time to step down, he spoke with athletic director Kevin Anderson, and the two had some meetings.

"Obviously you don't decide to retire from a 40-year coaching career in two days," Bisciotti said.

"I think he knew he was putting a ton on Kevin's plate, and I think it bothered Gary a little bit."

But, for Williams, it was time.

You get the sense that after every season, Williams would try to get some down time. But it was taking increasingly long to recharge.

As to questions of Why Retire Now, Williams might respond that this was a decision from the heart, which has no external clock.

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