Like most of the players and coaches on the 1993-94 Maryland men's basketball team, Keith Booth has vivid memories of the 84-83 overtime upset of 15th-ranked Georgetown at USAir Arena.
As the No. 3 Terps and unranked Hoyas get ready to play a regularly scheduled game for the first time since that Friday afternoon on Thanksgiving weekend, what brings back the biggest memory — and biggest laugh — for the third-year Loyola Maryland men's assistant coach was the impromptu pregame speech he gave his teammates.
It came after Maryland coach Gary Williams, then starting his fifth season back at his alma mater, had ripped into his players for what he thought was a lackadaisical warmup session two hours before the tip. Booth, a Dunbar graduate who along with fellow freshman Joe Smith was expected to start for the rebuilding Terps, addressed his teammates in the visiting dressing room.
The trail of profanities left by the volatile Williams was picked up by the precocious but confident newcomer.
"I stood up and said, 'To hell with Georgetown, man,'" Booth recalled, cleaning up his language a little more than two decades later. "I think locally, going in there was a feeling of nobody believed that it would be a [close] game.
"I felt it a little bit within the staff, in our locker room. For me personally, I came from a situation where I was used to winning. I knew the Georgetown guys from the summer leagues. I wasn't intimidated or anything like that."
Booth said that he went on to tell his teammates, "I've played against [former Georgetown and Dunbar star] Reggie Williams. I've played against Muggsy Bogues. I've played against Sam Cassell. There's nobody on Georgetown as good as those guys."
By the time he was finished, the 6-foot-6 freshman who everyone in Baltimore called "Turk" had pumped up his new teammates as much as Williams.
Booth now has a better understanding of what it meant to Williams and the Maryland program, after emerging from Len Bias' tragic death seven years earlier and from the three-year probation following the firing of Bob Wade, who replaced Lefty Driesell in College Park in 1986.
"For us to win that game, it was not only big for us, but for the University of Maryland, for the local bragging rights," said Booth, who finished his career four years later among the most beloved and productive players in school history, then returned as an assistant from 2004 through Williams' retirement in 2011. "I thought it was just another game, but looking back, it wasn't another game. The staff and the fans had been through a lot. As a player coming in, you just focused on the game."
Duane Simpkins, then a sophomore point guard for the Terps and now in his first year as an assistant at George Mason, said he can still picture coming out for the Georgetown game and seeing all the Maryland fans in the building.
"There was a ton of red and white all over the place," Simpkins said. "It was a really cool environment. As a team, we felt like we were playing with house money and everything because nobody expected us to win. We had no pressure on us whatsoever."
Simpkins knew how good a player Georgetown sophomore Othella Harrington was and hoped that "we could contain him, and that Joe would have a solid game."
It quickly became apparent that the Hoyas would not be able to handle Smith.
"We would throw the ball into the post to Joe and he would go up over two people and score," Simpkins said. "You make a mental note of it, 'That works pretty good.' If we would get into trouble, it became, 'Let's throw the ball to Joe.'"
After coming back from a 14-point deficit with 12 minutes left to force overtime, the Terps trailed by one with 38 seconds left in the extra session after Booth hit a pair of free throws. Williams sent little-used forward Kurtis Shultz into the game for the second time. The first time was in the opening half, when Schultz rushed to the scorer's table to check in and wound up slipping on a wet spot.
"When I came back to sit the bench [after the fall], Matt Raydo said to me, 'You do realize that was on national television,'" Shultz said with a laugh recently.
In this case, Williams wanted Shultz to foul in order to force a one-and-one, and possibly give the Terps a chance to tie or win the game on their last possession.
"We were doing our 55 press and when we do our trap to go foul because I'm on the ball," said Shultz, a strength and conditioning coach on the Terps' 2002 NCAA title team who is now working at Southern California in a similar capacity. "That got the ball in fast and I had to get back on D. I just picked up the closest man to me … and I just stepped in front and stole the ball. Duane or somebody was saying, 'Call timeout, call timeout.' It was one of those days that just ended up working out."
Shultz came out of the game and Williams set up a play to go inside to Smith. But instead of trying to run the play and possibly run out the clock, Simpkins kept going, beating his man and eventually putting in a floater over Georgetown's other big man, Don Reid.
It turned out to be one of the highlights of Shultz's career, but he said that the night belonged to Williams and Smith.
"Coach really got us ready for that game," Shultz said. "That was really Joe Smith's coming-out party right there. Nobody knew how good he was."