After this mess, how is Williams to come back?

The Baltimore Sun

First things first: To those who say Maryland basketball has hit rock bottom, does June 19, 1986, mean nothing to you? (It should: It's the day Len Bias died.) Try to keep things in perspective, as bad as the past few days have been.

These, however, should be the final months of the Gary Williams era at Maryland.

By mutual consent, with some dignity and appreciation, if possible. But after the war of words between Williams and the athletic department - and the needlessly personal nature of it - how can Williams come back after this season?

How can he and his now-obvious nemesis, athletic director Debbie Yow, coexist? What kind of future can anyone connected to the school or the team expect if they can turn the discussion of a couple of not-so-consequential recruits into a public spitting match?

Finally, why can't Williams and Yow (and Kathy Worthington, who should never have been caught in this crossfire) talk to one another about what direction the basketball program should be taking ... instead of talking at one another?

It's safe to say had Williams not made so many National Invitation Tournament trips in the years since the national championship - and had the disasters of this very season not taken place - the entire fight would not have gone public. Win, and recruiting losses such as Gus Gilchrist and Tyree Evans (not exactly Kareem and Magic) aren't even worth talking about. Win, and the poor graduation rates get shrugged off. Win, and Williams' initial remarks about recruiting, about whose "fault" things were, get played down.

Whether the losing came before the friction between Williams and Yow or vice versa, the combination of the two is too combustible to continue.

The window is all but closed on any reconciliation. Yow does have other things on her mind - her sister Kay's funeral this week - but there should have been a public cease-fire called by now, a pact to finish the season in peace.

The two Maryland basketball coaches before Williams left under a cloud, yet now the one who reversed it all and won a national championship has to go the same way.

Still, Williams brought a chunk of this on himself by instigating the whole thing with his answers to the recruiting questions, then by his withering, demeaning comments about Worthington.

The lack of respect all parties have shown one another, despite the respect they've earned in their personal and professional lives, is abominable. To let it spill into the open is reprehensible. Williams and Yow could have forestalled this by agreeing at some point to meet to discuss what is best for the program, to keep him there but to fix whatever has gone wrong lately. Putting their egos and pettiness aside long enough for that wouldn't have been impossible.

It is now, though. They now have to be separated and sent to different rooms, like children.

What a loss that will be for Maryland basketball. And one that could have been avoided.

Listen to David Steele on Fridays at 9 a.m. on WNST (1570 AM).

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