Maryland to name Comcast Center court for Gary Williams

Maryland said Tuesday that it will name the Comcast Center basketball court for Gary Williams, who retired as men's coach in May after 22 seasons and a school-record 461 wins.

Williams will be honored during a Dec. 9 Comcast Center ceremony. He will join such coaching peers as Duke's Mike Krzyzewski; Bobby Cremins, formerly of Georgia Tech; and former Arizona coach Lute Olson in being so honored.

Maryland's decision comes as the school is privately planning to honor — perhaps by hanging a banner — former coach Lefty Driesell, who was 348-159 in 17 Maryland seasons before being forced out following the cocaine-induced death of star player Len Bias 25 years ago.

His supporters have long felt Driesell never got his due. New coach Mark Turgeon has reached out to Driesell since being hired May 9.

The plan to name the court for Williams was proposed long before he retired. Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos — a former Williams assistant — publicly promoted the plan in September 2010 when Williams was inducted into the Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards' Hall of Legends.

The proposal was debated in private last Friday by the University System of Maryland's Board of Regents. The board did not make a decision, forwarding the matter instead to Chancellor William "Brit" Kirwan, who approved it. Several board members declined comment or did not return phone messages about the discussions. The proposal was also unanimously approved by the university's Facilities Naming Committee.

Williams, who declined comment while the matter was under consideration, said in a news release: "It's important to remember that the success we achieved at Maryland was a team effort and all the coaches, student-athletes and staff who were here are a big part of this."

Williams, 66, was 461-252 at Maryland. Williams, who also coached at American, Boston College and Ohio State, passed the late UCLA coach John Wooden last season on the all-time wins list.

Williams led the 2001-2002 team to the national championship. Years later, the program was criticized in the media when it was reported that the starters and top reserves on the championship team did not graduate within six years of entering school. Williams responded that those players went on to lucrative, professional careers.

"Gary is a respected alumnus, coach and leader in the college basketball community nationally," athletic director Kevin Anderson said in a prepared statement. "His student-athletes are tremendously loyal, which speaks of Gary's care and support of those on his teams. One of the fiercest competitors to have coached, Gary has always felt a similar passion for his alma mater."

Anderson and university president Wallace Loh had both publicly supported naming the court for Williams at the time of his retirement.

Williams, who makes $400,000 a year working on athletic department special projects, remains an important Maryland fund-raiser with influential friends.

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, one of his closest friends, presented Williams with a plaque when he was inducted into the Hall of Legends before last season. Also present was U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, who was then the House Majority Leader; U.S. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller.