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Jay Bilas Defends Gary Williams, Hard


Gary talks to the media last night. See how many blurry faces you can identify. (By John McDonnell - TWP)


Plenty of people have stood up to defend Gary Williams in recent weeks, with Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti's declaration of love in the Baltimore Sun last week only the latest example. (Interesting question about what Bisciotti will do Thursday, when the Terps' game overlaps with Ray Lewis's welcome back press conference.)

Most of the defenders, though, have had a connection to the school or the team, which makes the defense seem inevitable. Gary boosters support Gary? Yeah, no kidding. And senior citizens subscribe to The Washington Post.

But he's also gotten major support from others in Team Basketball, from Seth Greenberg to Coach K, several times. The latest in that regard was Jay Bilas, who was on WJFK's Big O and Dukes Show this afternoon. His defense of Gary has to be the most extended, dispassionate and emphatic that I've heard. This is lengthy as heck, but I think you need to read the whole thing to appreciate it.

The first question on the subject was a fairly tame query as to whether the Terps could beat Memphis in the second round. Here's Bilas.

"Probably not, but so what? That's the great part of this tournament. I mean, Memphis is better than Maryland, I don't think anybody would argue that, but I think what's kind of funny about this whole thing, I watched Maryland for years, and the only program in the ACC in the last 16 years that has not had a losing season is Maryland. Their worst year in the last five has been 19 wins. Their WORST.

"That's what's funny. And Gary Williams has been taking all this heat. I mean, the Washington Post has been going after him, everybody's talking about, 'Well, Georgetown's passed them by,' and all that stuff. And who's in the NCAA tournament this year, Maryland or Georgetown? You know, it's amazing.

"And Gary Williams has done his best coaching job. He's got a good team. Is it a great team? No, but it's a very good team. And they've done an extraordinary job to get where they are. I think they can beat Cal. Cal's better than people think, now, they've got really good guards, this kid named Jerome Randle that if Maryland doesn't stay in front of him, they're gonna be looking at his back the whole game. That kid can really motor and Cal can really shoot it, so they're gonna have to press up."

Ok, fine. Then came the follow-up question about whether, as cool and gratifying as this result might have been, Gary might find even more success, even higher NCAA seeds and more banners, if he put more time/effort into recruiting. Something like that. The standard complaint. Then Bilas really got into it.

"Well, he puts time into recruiting," Bilas said. "That's not the issue. You put time in as a staff, so the idea that Gary's not out there kind of scouting fourth graders in his off time is just not true.

"I think the interesting part about it is, he'll have some really good players in next year, they're gonna have some additional help next year inside, that's where they need it. If they had one or two big guys like they had last year, they'd be a heck of a team this year.

"I think one of the issues that you're gonna see is people have to pick. He's either a good recruiter or he's an unbelievable coach. You can't have it both ways. And if you want every McDonald's All-American....That's what I took issue with in that Washington Post series that they did, was you can't just cherry pick and say, 'Well, he didn't get this guy, he didn't that that guy, he didn't get this guy, he didn't get that guy. I mean, holy cow, you can't get every kid that's in your area.

"And Gary gets good players, and he gets players that fit how he wants to do things. I'm just not a second-guesser in recruiting, because you can sit there and say, 'Well, he didn't get Greg Monroe.' Well, Coach K didn't get Greg Monroe either, and neither did Roy Williams. How'd those guys miss out on that guy?

"And plus, you've got to remember this too, in the ACC there is entrenched power. North Carolina and Duke are the entrenched power in that league, and the power in the ACC comes out of the state of North Carolina. And the only program that's been able to fight that over the last 20 years has been Maryland. The only one.

"And it's not like Maryland was knocking the bottom out of it before Gary got there. Even in the glory days of Maryland basketball, what had they won, a grand total of one ACC title? And they had some pretty good teams in the '70s, Len Elmore played on some great basketball teams, and how many times did they go to the NCAA tournament? You know, it is TOUGH to fight North Carolina and Duke, because you're fighting them for recruits, you're fighting them for respect, and you're fighting them for those banners every year. And the only guy outside of that state that has done anything in that league has been Gary."

By Dan Steinberg  |  March 16, 2009; 1:31 PM ET
Categories:  Media , Terps  
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Comments

I appreciate Bilas' impassioned defense of Gary, but it's got the same flaws as all the other impassioned defenses. Namely, if Maryland does have a problem recruiting top local talent (and there's plenty of evidence to support that contention), then how in the world are they going to fix it if they can't even admit a problem exists?

Puh-leeze. The Post is a bunch of journalists trained to do one thing: ask questions. And when they get feeble answers, they're supposed to go back and ask again. And again. And again.

Bilas puts it clearly: either Gary's a great recruiter or an unbelievable coach. You can't have it both ways.

I don't want to have it both ways. I think he's a terrific coach.

And I think Maryland has a problem recruiting top talent in the DC metro region.

Posted by: Samson151 | March 16, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe Steinberg continues to CHEAP SHOT Gary like this. I expect it from Yanda or Prisbell, but Steinberg didn't *once* in this article say that he agreed with Bilas that Gary Williams is the greatest NCAA coach of all times.

Gotcha Journalism at its finest and MORE evidence of the Anti-Maryland Bias at the Washington Post.

Posted by: VTDuffman | March 16, 2009 2:01 PM | Report abuse

I think Bilas is way off on his recruiting rant. Gary supposedly doesn't deal with the AAU recruiting circle because of his ethics. That would be fine if he in turn showed some sort of high standards for the guys he himself recruits.

The graduation rate on UMD basketball is just pathetic. If you're going to recruit guys who can't handle the academics or don't care, why not go after the best guys anyways? You're telling me he couldn't have bagged ONE SINGLE elite talent from this area since 2002, promising in part that they wouldn't have to try in school?

Posted by: ThisGuy | March 16, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Exactly, Duffman. It doesn't make sense that all these people are speaking up for Gary Williams and we aren't getting that for John Thompson III or Karl Hobbs.

Posted by: sitruc | March 16, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse

The fact is, Maryland continues to get poo-pooed on by the press no matter what. After the final four or national title, you would have expected to see a huge influx of talent into the program with kids making MD their first choice. It didn't happen. There is something other than Gary's " poor recruiting" that is blocking talent. Maybe we'll never find out what it is. I am a huge fan, and yes it is frustrating to not have superstars, but that is GW's style. Do you really want Lance Stephenson to come in, only for him to leave for the NBA asap? Dixon/Blake were not highly sought after coming out of high school. He makes players better and wins no matter what. 25 wins a year would be great, but I'll take 20 and a tourney appearance.

Posted by: ybstrattin | March 16, 2009 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Jay Bilas has developed a strong reputation as an impartial analyst who isn't just popping off. What he says he backs up with evidence.

Posted by: CrabHands | March 16, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

"And the only program that's been able to fight that over the last 20 years has been Maryland. The only one...you're fighting them for those banners every year. And the only guy outside of that state that has done anything in that league has been Gary."

Since 1989...

ACC Reg Season Championships (including ties)

Duke 10
North Carolina 7
Maryland 2
Wake 2

ACC Tournament Championships:

Duke 9
North Carolina 7
Ga Tech 2
Wake 2
Maryland 1

Tons of banners...YEAH YEAH. I KNOW. 2 FINAL FOURS. WHATEVER DUDESSS

(i am only doing this because nothing keeps me more entertained at work than you guys sniping at each other...)


Posted by: gregegeg | March 16, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse

"The fact is, Maryland continues to get poo-pooed on by the press no matter what. After the final four or national title, you would have expected to see a huge influx of talent into the program with kids making MD their first choice. It didn't happen. There is something other than Gary's " poor recruiting" that is blocking talent. Maybe we'll never find out what it is."

You'll never find out what it is:

1)If you automatically reject "poor recruiting" as part of the explanation.

2)If you take any media outlet that actually tries to figure out the reason(s) and start getting all whiney about "poo-pooing," "taking cheap shots," or "having an anti-maryland bias."

Do you really not realize the irony in what you just wrote?

"As long as the media keeps writing anti-maryland articles about reasons why we haven't fared well since the Final 4 and national Champsionship years, we're never going to know the reasons why we haven't fared well since the final 4 and National champsionship years."

Posted by: VTDuffman | March 16, 2009 2:52 PM | Report abuse

Look at your list. With the exception of Ga Techs 2 ACC Tournament Championships all other schools are North Carolina schools. Maryland has won both Reg. Season and Tournament Championships in addition to the National Championship and other NCAA success. Bilas' point holds up.

Posted by: Danicksta0 | March 16, 2009 2:52 PM | Report abuse

Stirring the pot quite nicely. Hands down, GW getting canned would be idiotic and hindsight would see it as a stupid, impulse decision. I bet Kentucky fans would love to have Tubby Smith right about now.

Posted by: ybstrattin | March 16, 2009 2:52 PM | Report abuse

VTDuffman,

Steinberg is blogging. He's not here to give his opinion. He's simply here to report interesting tidbits about local teams and this obviously fit the bill. Now if we could just get Prisbell, Yanda and JLC to limit their opinions and just report....it'd be all good.

Posted by: fushezzi | March 16, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

"Look at your list. With the exception of Ga Techs 2 ACC Tournament Championships all other schools are North Carolina schools. Maryland has won both Reg. Season and Tournament Championships in addition to the National Championship and other NCAA success. Bilas' point holds up."

It doesn't though. Bilas said (sic)"UMD is the ONLY school not in the State of NC to challenge them."

If you have to say "With the Exception of..." Then you're no longer the "only" team, and the point doesn't hold up.

Posted by: VTDuffman | March 16, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

"if we could just get Prisbell, Yanda and JLC to limit their opinions and just report....it'd be all good."

You people are psychotic if you think that Yanda and Prisbell have an "Anti-Maryland Bias."

Posted by: VTDuffman | March 16, 2009 2:59 PM | Report abuse

VTDuffman,

I felt the argument Bilas was making -- in regards to challenging the NC/Duke power structure -- involved the consistent ability to defeat Duke and North Carolina. MD (this year aside) has been able to defeat/play those two programs in ways Georgia Tech hasn't over the years.

Regarding the recruiting comments Bilas mentioned, I'm of the impression that Gary's unwillingness to commit recruiting violations ($$$), coupled with his desire to stay involved in grey issues (AAU programs, "legal" favors to recruits) has -- in the last few years -- prevented him from signing a number of MD-based talent.

While that subject is one Bilas may or may not have full knowledge, or cannot show full knowledge for the sake of his career *sigh*, being aware of Gary's recruiting situation would be well within Bilas' knowledge base.

Posted by: B_A_ | March 16, 2009 3:14 PM | Report abuse

The "with the exception of" only relates to Tech's 2 tournament championships. Bilas' point is that year in and year out NC schools and specifially Duke and UNC are the cream the ACC crop. Maryland during Coach William's tenure is the only team that consistently challenges Duke and UNC head to head, throughout the season for the reg. season championship, and at the ACC tournament. No other school has competed in all 3 areas.

Posted by: Danicksta0 | March 16, 2009 3:29 PM | Report abuse

"Regarding the recruiting comments Bilas mentioned, I'm of the impression that Gary's unwillingness to commit recruiting violations ($$$), coupled with his desire to stay involved in grey issues (AAU programs, "legal" favors to recruits) has -- in the last few years -- prevented him from signing a number of MD-based talent."

This arguement doesn't hold a whole lot of water, to be honest with you. You're basically saying that other schools that recruit well only do so because they either overtly cheat, or are mired in "grey areas."

It's loser-talk, it comes off as holier-than-thou, and it contradicts reality. Was that the case some of the time? Probably. But to "blame" a higher ethical standard for UMD's recruiting lapses makes you look silly. Especailly when Gary himself says that he doesn't really like recruiting at all, and big-name athletes (and smaller name athletes) said they never heard fram gary at all.

A lot of those guys UMD missed on had nothing to do with cheating or "Grey issues" and it looks like sour grapes for you all to claim otherwise.

Posted by: VTDuffman | March 16, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse

"The "with the exception of" only relates to Tech's 2 tournament championships. Bilas' point is that year in and year out NC schools and specifially Duke and UNC are the cream the ACC crop. Maryland during Coach William's tenure is the only team that consistently challenges Duke and UNC head to head, throughout the season for the reg. season championship, and at the ACC tournament. No other school has competed in all 3 areas."

Really? Combined Regular Season & ACC Tournament wins for UMD and GT are 3 and 2, respectively. You're really trying to say that is really that big of a difference?

You're saying that GT has never "challenged"(your words) for the regular season title? Right...

The bottom line is that Bilas was using hyperbole, and the facts don't back up his assertions. The point doesn't hold up.

Posted by: VTDuffman | March 16, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

So Gary barely got in as one of the last teams admitted and now he is a great coach?!?!?! Remember that Gary got us in this situation where people even have the opportunity to be critical of hime by not doing his job. He is living off of his past.

Posted by: sjp879 | March 16, 2009 3:43 PM | Report abuse

If Gary and Maryland is the ONLY School that has taken on Duke and UNC, please tell me why then we have only finished as high as 5th in the league over the last 6 years and that was only once.

Face it, those in the media are always sucking up to coaches. If it was up to them, NOBODY would get fired.

Posted by: TerpAndy | March 16, 2009 3:48 PM | Report abuse

VTDuffman,

I'm actually trying to say (and failing), that a few select coaches have noticed Gary Williams' recruiting quirks, and have made significant investments into turning the state of Maryland into a pipeline, mostly via AAU.

The activity may not always be illegal, or questionable, but very privately, I know of cases where an unwillingness to blur transparent recruiting and non-transparent recruiting has cost UMD prospects.

That perception may play into Gary's advanced recruiting strategy, creating the situation where a number of other prospects hear nothing from the school, but I have no personal evidence that can support that argument.

Also, I'm not a MD fan, if that holds any relevance. I have no sour grapes about MD prospects playing for schools in other states, or MD targets choosing to sign with other schools. I'm also not likely one who's views represent a large portion of Mr. Steinberg's readership.

Posted by: B_A_ | March 16, 2009 3:50 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe I'm sayin this about a Dukie but - Right on Mr. Bilas!

Posted by: ptp_er | March 16, 2009 3:55 PM | Report abuse

TerpAndy
Did you just say if it was up to the media nobody would get fired? The media is all about a story and firings and hirings and the accompanying drama make news. The reason Bilas' defence is suprising and has more credibility is because he is a Dukie. He could care less what Gary thinks of him.

Posted by: Danicksta0 | March 16, 2009 4:04 PM | Report abuse

If you have been supporting this for for over 20 yrs like I have, you'll know that Gary took this program from the dregs to the summit. Yes the last 5 yrs have been frustrating but Jesus people, that's a true testament to what he's done! Back in the not so good old days, 19 wins would've been a great year.

Next year with Williams, Padgett, and hopefully Lnace Stephenson (YES, I do want him to come here, even if for only a year, although I don't think he's good enough to be a one and done guy) and assuming Greivis comes back - watch out for this team. I love when Gary shuts his critics up.

Posted by: Notorious_LMG | March 16, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

some of you really don't understand much. dropping the number of championships has NOTHING to do with "competing" year in and year out. the most important statistic here is the one that bilas pointed out for you, but you chose to ignore: maryland is the ONLY acc program not to have a losing season over the last 16 years. when maryland has "down" years and everyone starts calling for gary's head, it's always because we are in the MIDDLE of the acc pack. guess what, idiots? the acc is good. nobody is going to stay at the top every single year except unc and duke, and maryland is not, and never will be on that level. the fact that gary gets this team in contention every single year is a testament to his coaching and his recruiting both.

furthermore, everyone who is in the inner-circle on these types of things says that's gary's unwillingness to deal with people he sees as shady is a major factor. you just can't deny it. perhaps you can say he's stubborn or too stringent in this, but you can't say it's not true. and i believe the seniors have been graduating at around 80% in recent years, so look up some facts before you ignorantly attack a program

Posted by: seanjames | March 16, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse

p.s. If Bilas doesn't think we can beat Memphis he is a clown. They are undisciplined, shoot the ball terribly, and rely on their athleticism to overpower Conf USA teams. Gtown and Syracuse beat them. We can beat them. Anyone recall when Terps played another Coach Cal-led team at UMass around '94 and beat them to reach the Sweet 16? That was a 10 vs. 2 seed as I seem to recall....

Posted by: Notorious_LMG | March 16, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse

I see not many many ppl understand basketball. The gene pool continues to resemle the kiddie pool.

The Yanda/Prisbell 3 parts expose didn't really discover much that wasn't already known. But it was only half of the story. They admit to not even thinking about intreviewing any current players. Think about that. As a journalist trying to write the complete story....

Jay Bilas is right. But I assume you folks know more about college ball than him? You played and are involved as a lead analyst and also an announcer? of course you all know as much.. what was I thinking.

To think that ppl who write for the Post do not have any agenda whatsoever and that in order to be a journalist they had to take an oath of balance and fairness in their work is naive. Or stupid. But there is a lot of stupidity floating here it seems. See Fox News, or Countdown. To think these guys are above injecting their opinions and agendas?

if you look at the record of Gary Williams while at UMD I'd think it is very impressive. I'd think that 80% of the ppl who read this crap wouldn't give 2 shi*s about UMD Bball if it wasn't for Gary. Even the years he didn't make the tourny he was right there every year, just didn't get picked. I mean the tourny selection is not some concrete method of picking the best teams. I think he'll continue to win 20 games a year and ppl should shut up before they get wha tthey wish for.

Gary has gotten the big names - how many pros have played for Maryland? How many programs have turned out more? Are folks on a Tom Izzo like this? Or Coach K?

Are people really that stupid? the sad answer is yes. Ppl really are that stupid and they keep having babies.

Posted by: unkonchus | March 16, 2009 4:15 PM | Report abuse

I have said it to the Washington Post for years and I will say it one more time. The University of Maryland either can't or won't recruit heavily in Baltimore.

I am sorry that they dragged Mr. Bisciotti into this because he is revered in Baltimore. The recruiting thing goes back years, really decades. A lot of it is along socioeconomic lines and certain misperceptions.

College Park is a D.C. school so it thinks it's cute to diss Baltimore. How many kids in Baltimore could have played at Maryland but didn't? Melo? Rudy Gay? Joey Dorsey? The list goes on.

I don't think this problem is Coach Williams' fault. People hoped that he could fix it. But there are larger forces at work here. One top kid out of Baltimore every year will upgrade your talent. Hopefully Sean Mosely is a start.

Posted by: sdbeckham | March 16, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Forget it guys, there is no way to silence the Gary-haters, and I'm dumbfounded as to why so many of them are MD alums.

Gary doesn't like to get involved in the seedy AAU pipelines. He should be applauded for that. Instead folks throw stones at the graduation rate. The team has never been implicated in a cheating scandal w/any players. Does Gary have to go to classes for these guys?

Gary plays it clean with regards to "creating" an opportunity for folks to come into his program. That's all he can do. He can't be responsible for what these kids do with that opportunity.

As far as top recruits, he had Rudy Gay signed and sealed (but not delivered), until UConn paid his AAU team thousands of dollars to come and play an "exhibition" (Jim Calhoun should be ashamed of himself).

Michael Beasley? His coach got hired to Bobby Huggins' staff at K-State. You connect the dots.

He lost out on Gus Gilchrist this season. Gus Gilchrist's "personal trainer" is currently on staff with South Florida. You connect the dots.

This season, with the last-minute cancelations of Gilchrist and Evans, Gary was left big-time short-handed given what he thought he was gonna have going into the season. So he puts up one of his best coaching performances of his career to get his team into the tourney. Instead of applauding the effort, the haters poo-poo the seeding saying "it's not good enough".

There are alot of folks in college B-ball circling the wagons for Gary - because they know he's a coach worth sticking up for. They didn't circle them for Huggins when he got booted from Cincy. THey didn't circle them for king-of-cheats Sampson. They didn't circle them for Bobby Knight (though some did).

They are circling them b/c, when you look at Gary's career and the body of work he's done at MD, they know it is ludicrous for him to be taking as much heat as he is.

Posted by: p1funk | March 16, 2009 4:31 PM | Report abuse

You critics are lucky barno1 is not here to shut you down like he did last night...hilarious...!

Posted by: Bib1 | March 16, 2009 5:12 PM | Report abuse

ThisGuy said "The graduation rate on UMD basketball is just pathetic." The Terps graduated 8 of the last 10. ThisGuy is a dumb guy if he thinks an 80% grad rate is pathetic. What a fool.

Posted by: JRinMD | March 16, 2009 7:18 PM | Report abuse

I really don't understand what any of this controversy and/or animosity between Williams and WaPo is about. The following things are all true in my opinion:

1) The WaPo 3-part series on Williams and recruiting since the Nat'l championship were some of the best reported and well written stories I have read in WaPo in the past year. Note: I did not restrict that only to Sports Section stories.

2)Williams is an incredible motivator, and a great coach with a national championship. He will never be a top AAU player recruiter for the reasons the post series pointed out (1: he won't flirt with skirting the rules, 2: indulge entourages, 3: deal with players falling fairly low on the coachable spectrum)

3) Williams can be an abrasive personality when people come at him.

So this leaves us with the current state of Maryland. At team that gets some good recruits that Williams likes, and gets some less touted recruits that Williams likes. Williams coaches this group of kids each year to varying degrees of success, but usually its been to at least a NCAA tourney bubble level. If people criticize him, he gets very defensive and aggressively defends himself.

All in all, its not bad. I am the only one who remembers when this program was completely irrelevant (i.e. late 80s)? Gary's recruiting will always give Maryland a bit of an underdog type team, and sometimes it will workout with fantastic results (Final Four appearances, and national championships).

It was a great article series with a great thesis/point and Williams is a great coach whose current weakness is in recruiting. However, correcting that weakness would strongly affect his coaching style. So, we live with what we have and are moderately grateful to be relevant.

Posted by: rossgore | March 18, 2009 8:57 AM | Report abuse

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