Dan, Bowie: Hello Heather! I agree with all of your responses regarding recruiting. The senior and junior classes have been two of best classes "on paper" in the Gary Williams era. The problem I see is that these players are not developing over the years. Mike Jones still has the same problems he had as a freshman - the inability to put the ball on the floor and take it to the basket when defenders are taking away his jump shot, looseness with the ball when making passes, lack of lateral quickness on defense and the inability to move without the ball on offense. Does the coaching staff provide these players with off-season goals and are they allowed to monitor their progress? Thanks.
Heather A. Dinich:Because it was my first season covering the team, it's hard for me to gauge the improvement these guys have made, but there was a block Mike Jones made this season - I'm almost positive it was against Virginia - and Gary said it was a move Jones wouldn't have been able to make three weeks ago. This was really Mike's first true opportunity in the starting lineup, and the first year he got the green light from Gary to shoot at will. Gary recently said Mike is real close to being a great player. So if we don't see that leap next season, then I think it will be fair to question the development. Gary will meet with each player individually this spring, and yes, they set off-season goals.
Rick, Vero Beach, Fla.: Instead of asking the obvious as to why Gary couldn't get a better recruiting class after the National Championship, I want to state the fact that we were more competitive and won the championship without the storied recruiting class! At that point, Gary was said to be a great coach because he could win without the blue chips, he made them blue chips. That being the case, why can't he motivate these guys? Or can he go back to other underrated athelete like the old days and make him great?
Heather A. Dinich: He can make a player great, but first he has to recruit the diamond in the rough. And at what point can a coach say, "OK, I've done all I can to get you ready to play Manhattan in the NIT. Now you have to go out and do it?" Don't the players have to accept some responsibility for their own motivation? You're right - it was definitely part of the problem. At some point, though, people need to accept the fact that maybe this team just wasn't that good.
James, Prince Frederick: The current Terp basketball team does not have the talent to execute Gary's "Flex Offense" and win. It would appear that the only hope of winning with this lot would be to change offenses; try to work some screens to get Mike Jones the ball for a barrage of threes. Why don't they try something like this when it is obvious that they can't match up with good teams playing as they do?
Heather A. Dinich: Everybody is hung up on this whole flex offense thing not fitting this team, and I think it's bunk. Good players can adapt to any system, especially at the Division I level, and if somebody is teaching it as thoroughly as Gary does. I was talking to Chris Knoche about it and he brought up a good point - The flex is a get-the-ball-inside-first kind of offense. Do you think that was suited for Juan Dixon? I've got a video on it I'm going to watch, and I'm getting another from Gary so I have a better understanding of it. To answer your question, though, they DO set screens for Mike, they're just not very good at it, and Mike isn't always good at picking them up. Even though he's labeled with it, Gary probably runs about 15 plays outside of the flex offense.
Joe, Tacoma, Wash.: Scout.com rates UNC, GT, Duke, WF, FSU, and N.C. State's 2006 recruiting classes in the Top 25. Why should Terp fans hope for things to get better anytime soon? When do you think Coach Williams will get serious about recruiting?
Heather A. Dinich: I saw that, but if you look at Rivals.com, they have Maryland's class ranked No. 18. That just goes to show you how the opinions differ. I'm not saying one is better than the other. Anyway, Maryland's incoming class is expected to be good, and just as important, the Terps got what they NEED in guards. To answer your question, Gary is serious about winning, and after 17 years, you'd think he'd know it goes hand-in-hand with recruiting.
James, Ellicott City: Can you summarize the changes in Gary Williams' coaching staff since the NCAA championship? What has been the impact on the players and recruiting?
Heather A. Dinich: Since then, the Terps have lost Jimmy Patsos, Dave Dickerson and Billy Hahn. Gary has hired Rob Moxley (1998-2005 UNC-Charlotte assistant coach), Keith Booth and Michael Adams (2004, head coach Washington Mystics). Obviously when you lose guys who spent a combined 34 seasons with Williams, it is going to have an effect. That being said, Gary added guys who are locals, which should positively impact recruiting.
Booth lives in Baltimore, and played at Maryland. Moxley graduated from Faquier High School in Warrenton, Va. He earned a reputation as a recruiter, as four of the classes he helped land at UNC-Charlotte were ranked ranked in the top 20 nationally. And Adams played for the Bullets in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He's always had a house in the area. So, everyone needs to give these guys time to see what they bring in.
And thanks to Randy, who reminded me later of two other fomer Terp assistants. Former player Matt Kovarik is an assistant at Loyola with Patsos. Mike Lonergan, who won a Division III NCAA championship at Catholic University, just finished his first season at Vermont. Lonergan was with the Terps for one year.
Richard, Oxon Hill: When is Gary going to get a big guy in the middle with a little size? Lonny's been gone for a couple of years and nobody has stepped to the plate. It's killing me to watch Duke and North Carolina hammer us. Especially Duke when with a little inside presence we could put the smack down on those guys.
Heather A. Dinich: A big guy with a little size? That has to be some sort of an oxymoron. Right now the staff is looking at jucos and scouting the National JUCO Tournament in Hutchinson, Kansas in search of exactly that.
Patrick, Williamstown, Mass.: Do you think its common around the country for "fans" of successful programs (2 final fours, 3 major bowls in the last 5 years) to be so consistently critical of their coaches? Frankly, I think the media perpetuate the atmosphere of discontent by giving airtime to the fair-weather fans. As a lifelong Terp, it bothers me to hear these "fans" voice their lack of support so freely. Last time I checked there were three ACC basketball teams to win a national championship in the last 10 years and we are one of them. Gary and Ralph have proven their coaching ability and have more than earned our respect. All true fans recognize this and support them even when they aren't ranked in the Top 10.
Heather A. Dinich: Actually, in my experience, that has been the norm, and I think it's only because those fans get spoiled. The same thing happened when I was covering Penn State football, but I have yet to see a www.garymustgo.com web site. There's also the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately mentality that is overriding with sports fans. Forget the past four years. It's the past two seasons that are in the forefront of people's brains. Wake Forest guard Justin Gray summed it up at the ACC tournament when he said people remember the last thing you do. Nobody will forget the Terps' national championship - or their loss to Manhattan.
Randy, Great Falls, Va.: Heather, I am a long time Terp fan and season ticket holder. There sure seems to be something gravely wrong with the program. Too many issues surfacing making one wonder if the right people are in charge? We lose a kid to Villanova that didnt get into Maryland over some transcript issue, McCray failing to go to class, not knowing we committed to NIT, losing many local players to other programs! One of these things happen you say, "Ok we missed it, but now there seems to be a trend....what's going on in your opinion?
Heather A. Dinich: Way to sum it up, Randy. You just forgot the legal issues. (Travis Garrison is due in court April 7). There certainly were a fair share of fiascos within the athletic department this season. I think it would be fair to say there was a problem with communication, and that's as far as I'm gonna go with that one. Since I'm the beat reporter, my opinion doesn't count. It is my job, though, to look into it.
Dan, Crofton: One of the things that I have noticed about the basketball team is that their bigs get pushed around quite often in the post. What is particularly frustrating is seeing a freshman like Hansbrough push around a sophomore (Gist), junior (Ibekwe) & senior (Garrison). Has Coach Williams talked about plans to improve his team's strength training? This didn't seem to be a problem when Curtis Schultz was the team's strength coach.
Heather A. Dinich: Yes, following Maryland's loss to Manhattan, strength was the one thing Gary specifically pointed out needs to improve for next season. Maryland hired a new strength coach just before fall classes started, so Pete Yurish didn't have too much time to implement his philosophy/system. Here is his direct quote from the post-game press conference on that topic: "We have to get stronger," Williams said. "If you wanted to look at a constant through the season - some games worse than others - there were a lot of loose balls we didn't get. That comes from two things. That comes from strength, and it comes from wanting the ball more than the other team does. And there's conctact in those plays. But getting stronger gives you the confidence to make that contact."