There is that marvelous recruiting base that runs the length of the Baltimore-Washington corridor. There is the stunning arena, the Comcast Center, where kids — young men — get to play in a pro setting.

Now there is the tradition that Gary Williams carved out over 22 seasons, the undeniable vitality of a top tier Division I program resurrected to new heights by the coach who came back home to do it.

What's not to like about Maryland basketball?

"When I take the pulse around college basketball," ESPN analyst Dave Telep said, "I think this is one job that can be dangerous to a lot of people. I think the next guy will have championship aspirations just like Gary Williams did.

"It's a very attractive job. It's the most significant opening of the year."

Will Williams' successor be Sean Miller, the Arizona front-runner? Mike Brey, the Notre Dame coach with Maryland ties? Brad Stevens, the mid-major phenom from Butler?

It almost assuredly will be, basketball aficionados are saying, a top-flight coach ready to pick up the mantle that Williams has finally laid down.

"I think a lot of guys out there think that job is a big-time job," said Evan Daniels, senior recruiting analyst for scout.com. "Anytime you have a recruiting base like that, it is a major plus.

"I'm not sure people realize how big that job is."

It is a big-time job because Williams made it that way. His legacy is a national championship in 2002, two trips to the Final Four, 14 trips to the NCAA tournament and construction of the Comcast Center.

"Gary Williams is Maryland basketball, the complete and total face of Maryland basketball," Telep said. "The next guy will always be operating in his shadow, and Gary's earned that. The biggest challenge the next guy faces is being himself, and laying a foundation for his own success. I think they'll get a very high-profile coach."

Nick Myles, the athletic director and assistant basketball coach at St. Frances High, said Williams built Maryland into a basketball powerhouse and "he did it the right way."

He also said Williams' successor should reap the benefits of a basketball-rich area.

"If he can get the top guys from New York to Virginia, he'll be able to get the roster he needs," Myles said. "You've got an NBA facility; Comcast is second to none. You've got a passionate fan base. And you're playing in the top conference," the Atlantic Coast Conference.

What you don't have, with the departure of Jordan Williams, is a competitive team in the ACC next season.

The biggest challenge?

"Right away, losing a draft pick in Jordan Williams," Daniels said. "That's going to hurt a little. They may take some lumps that first year."

Telep acknowledged that Maryland "probably needs an injection of talent."

"Actually, I think that's a good thing because the new guy is going to be able to restructure the program in his own image," he said. "This is not a job that requires a quick fix, not a program on the rocks. The job is for big-time college basketball in a fertile recruiting ground at a school that embraces college basketball. They'll make a blue-chip hire."

Daniels called it one of the top three jobs in the ACC. "And you know who the other two are," he said.

Anthony Lewis, coach of the Cecil Kirk AAU team in East Baltimore, said he expects Maryland to land one of the best coaches in the country.

"Whoever it is, he should have the same status that coach Williams had when he left," Lewis said. "I think they want a coach of that magnitude. If you consider the Maryland job to be one of the top 10-15 in the country, you would think they want one of the top 10-15 coaches."

When he looks at the big picture, Telep dismisses any criticisms of Williams as irrelevant.

"He did it his way, he earned the right to do it his way," Telep said. "He built a program the way he knew how. At the time [he came in], a culture had to be created. He shouldn't have to apologize to anyone for how he did it. He created a championship culture."

ken.murray@baltsun.com

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