The lasting image Gary Williams left when he retired in 2011 was of one of combativeness and combustion: yelling at officials, screaming at his players, sweating through suits that got more expensive as Williams’ teams won games and eventually a national title.
That was the Maryland men’s basketball coach’s on-court personality, the one fans got to see during his 22 seasons in College Park. There’s another image that Williams left both at the school and eventually at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame last August.
As I sat and listened to Williams give his enshrinement speech at Symphony Hall in Springfield, Mass., his words being overtaken by his emotion, I thought back to countless news conferences where his words were different and the emotions the same.
I thought back to his very first news conference at Maryland after taking over the program in the spring of 1989, a proud alum returning to resurrect the fallen program. I thought about a much different news conference less than a year later, after the NCAA had put the hammer on the Terps for the mess Bob Wade had left.
I thought about those early years when the sanctions had turned Maryland into a second-tier Atlantic Coast Conference team and Williams, once a hot commodity in the coaching ranks, got more out of less than anyone in the business. I thought about the night in 1994 when Williams could barely control himself when the Terps finally made it back to the NCAA tournament.
And I thought about that morning in Atlanta in 2002, the night after the Terps had completed their remarkable revival by beating Indiana for the national championship at the Georgia Dome. Or that afternoon in Greensboro, N.C., two years later, when the Terps won their only ACC tournament title under Williams.
Or that final news conference in May 2011, when Williams shocked even some of his closest friends by announcing his retirement. Sitting at a raised podium next to athletic director Kevin Anderson, Williams could barely contain his emotions.
Just like Springfield, Mass., last summer.
No longer combative and combustible.
Not even close.