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His fist raised in the air
Gary Williams and I go back to when his hair was jet black and I had hair. The first time I ever met him was in the late 1970s when I covered a playoff game between his American University team and Hofstra, the team I covered for a Long Island newspaper. American lost on a controversial call and it looked like Williams was going to attack the officials as they came off the court. I followed him right to the locker room door, where he disappeared without saying a word. The AP reporter who stayed at court side wrote that he went after the guys in the striped shirts. I wrote the truth. Gary sent me a thank-you note.
That first meeting turned into a more than a 30-year professional relationship as Williams scaled the coaching ladder for jobs at Boston College, Ohio State and Maryland, where I was the beat writer for the Sun during 12 of his 22 seasons in College Park. I was there when he lost to Coppin State at Cole Field House his first season and sat court side at the Georgia Dome when the Terps beat Indiana for the national championship in 2002. He and I had what I once told his good friend Steve Bisciotti was a love-hate relationship, to which the Ravens owner joked, What, you think you're any different than the rest of us?
When the news came last May that Williams was going to announce his retirement the very next day, I felt happy for him. He was going out on his terms, not as I and many of his friends feared kicking and screaming. Or as his former assistant Ed Tapscott put it, pulling his dead cold hands off the clipboard.
The next day at Comcast Center on a court that will next month carry his name Williams could barely contain his emotions as the fans cheered his entrance, his exit and nearly every word he spoke. Sitting with the rest of the media, I could feel my own emotions getting the best of me. When I saw him later on, as he talked to reporters inside the locker room, Williams told me what every reporter wants to hear. We had our ups and downs, but you were fair, he said.
I still need to send him a thank you note.
-- Don Markus
May 6, 2011