Another Week, Another Retirement: Gary Williams Leaves the University of Maryland

Posted: May 7, 2011 in Basketball, Coaching, College Sports, Fandom
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Gary-kneel

Last Thursday, my fellow University of Maryland alumni and fans learned that Gary Williams, coach of the men’s basketball program, is retiring. Needless to say, over two decades of memories have been pouring out of everyone’s brains. Scott van Pelt of ESPN, a Maryland graduate himself, was being interviewed on ESPN 980 this afternoon on a segment about remembering Gary’s greatest moments, and that caused my favorite memory to jump to mind.

It was 1993, and I was one year out of Maryland working my first job as a software engineer. It was an exciting time. I had a little disposable income and recently had been a Washington Capitals season ticket holder. It was an exciting time, both personally and professionally, and sports were a part of that.

My extended family on my mother’s side consists primarily of Maryland fans/alumni and Georgetown fans/alumni. Georgetown had refused to play Maryland for 13 years, telling us they were too good for such a low program, but the ACC and Big East entered into a deal, and Georgetown was forced to play us. The Hoyas in the family told us, “Be careful what you wish for,” but we knew we had Joe Smith, we knew we had Kieth Booth, we knew we had “X-Ray O’Hipp,” and we knew we had Gary Williams.

The Friday after Thanksgiving, November 26, 1993, the two teams took to the court at the US Air arena (which I thought of as the Capital Center until the day it was demolished). I was watching from Croton-on-Hudson, NY, where some of the family lived. The game was back and forth, and you could see the frustration in the eyes of the Hoyas. Maryland just wouldn’t go away.

It was the end of the game. Maryland had the lead. Georgetown had one chance to force overtime. The Hoya passed the ball inbounds to his teammate, but the teammate ran out of bounds and inbounded the ball to someone else. Possession should have gone to Maryland. Game over, right? Nope. Big time programs are always coddled by the refs. The ref that was right on top of the play didn’t call it. It was classic “screw the little guy” we expect in college and pro sports. At that point, the Terp fans began to have their doubts. If the refs wouldn’t call the game objectively, how could we win?

I’ll let you watch if you’d like.

Final score, Maryland 84, #15 Georgetown 83.

Joe-Smith

I was so proud of my alma mater that I asked my cousin, John, to design a t-shirt with an anthropomorphic terrapin dunking the head of the Georgetown bulldog. The image was nothing like I was expecting, but as always, the artist outdid even my imagination. A coworker made the shirts for me, and they came out great except the date was wrong. 😦 I had 12 shirts done and gave one to each current and past Maryland and Georgetown alum/student in the family for Christmas.

After we won our first national championship, my friends and I went from Champions in Crystal City (where we watched the game) to College Park, MD and joined the “riot.” When Maryland beat #1 North Carolina at Cole Field House, my cousin Tom and I rushed the court with everyone else. When #3 Maryland beat #1 Duke but Kansas was given the #1 ranking that week, I loved it when we beat Kansas in the Final Four one our way to our first national title. (“Who’s #1 now, bitches?”) All of these were fun and important.

For me, though, Maryland’s first step on that journey — beating #15 Georgetown in 1993 — is my finest Gary Williams moment.

Thanks, Coach.

Williams-Podium

Follow me on Twitter @MMADork
Follow me on Twitter @UMTerps

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Comments
  1. […] When I discussed Gary Williams’ retirement as Maryland men’s basketball coach, I mentioned one of my favorite moments of his legacy. Midway through our championship season, #3 Maryland beat #1 Duke, and the powers-that-be chose to give the #1 ranking to #2 Kansas instead of us, because Kansas in past seasons often threatened for the national title. It didn’t matter that Maryland was actually playing better ball that season in general and that week in particular. Politics is an ugly reality of sports, isn’t it? The rest of the season I was hoping that we’d get to meet Kansas in the tournament so we could prove that we were a better team, and we got that opportunity in the Final Four. Maryland 97, Kansas 88. Suck it! […]

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