Debbie Yow, who has been coping with the loss of her sister Kay, the highly respected North Carolina State women's basketball coach, who died of cancer Jan. 24, said yesterday that she wanted to address "crazy rumors that are floating around related to the job security of Coach Williams."
Williams was in a sharp exchange with the athletic department last week over the loss of two recruits just as Maryland (14-7, 3-4) was in the middle of a slump in which it had lost four of five conference games. The Terps broke a two-game losing streak that included a 41-point loss to Duke when they beat Miami, 73-68, at home Saturday.
"He has my personal full support, as he does from the department and from the university," Yow said, sitting next to Williams before the coach's regular pre-game news conference at Comcast Center. "He and I communicate regularly, and a couple of things that he's communicated to me are pretty important. One of those is that he's very optimistic about the future. He's really focused on recruiting. We all know that's important, and he's after it with as much enthusiasm and passion as I've seen in my 15 years" as AD.
Yow also pointed out Williams has 3 1/2 years remaining on a 10-year contract with a one-year rollover option for an NCAA appearance.
After Yow left the news conference, Williams was stoic when asked about the show of support.
"It's nice that she said those things," Williams said. "I've never felt threatened by anything. I know what I've done just this decade alone. Very few programs have done what we've done this decade. There's probably three or four, maybe. Florida because they've won [the national championship] twice. You could say UCLA, even though they haven't won a national championship this decade. Carolina, Duke, those two, because they've won it this decade. But I'm secure in what I've done."
Williams cataloged the Terps' accomplishments since the 2000-01 season, which include a national championship, another Final Four appearance and three other trips to the NCAA tournament. He noted occasions when the Terps have finished with winning records despite the losses of star players.
"And I'll compare that with anybody in the country, so I haven't felt threatened at all, logically, I think," he said.
Turning to the more immediate issue, tonight's game against North Carolina (19-2, 5-2) and its National Player of the Year candidate, 6-foot-9 forward Tyler Hansbrough, Williams acknowledged the Tar Heels' talent but didn't concede anything. Maryland has beaten Carolina the previous two seasons, including last year in Chapel Hill.
"You admit to yourself this is a very good team and you have to play well. But you depend on the fact that you can execute well enough to beat good teams, and that's how we've gone in there and gone into other places and won big road games," Williams said.
Taking on the challenge of Hansbrough, the ACC's leading scorer at 22.4 points a game, will be Maryland senior forward Dave Neal, 6-7 and 263 pounds. In last season's 82-80 Terps victory over the Tar Heels, Neal said he felt the 12 minutes he played against Hansbrough went well.
"We'll see what I can do," Neal said of tonight's assignment. "I'm just going to go down there and play my game, use my strength and use my intelligence of the game to hopefully shut him down."
However, Carolina has six players averaging double figures in scoring, meaning Maryland cannot afford lapses inside or on the perimeter.
"We've got five guys out there, they got five guys," Neal said. "We each have to take own responsibility of shutting our man down. Obviously, they're going to score some points; they have great players, but we have great players. We just have to go at them. We can't be scared, and we can't play hesitant. It's going to be a fun game. That place is always live."
MARYLAND (14-7, 3-4) @ NO. 3 NORTH CAROLINA (19-2, 5-2)
Tonight, 8 TV: Ch. 54 Radio: 1300 AM, 105.7 FM Line: North Carolina by 19