People still love Byron Mouton
I saw Byron Mouton the other day at the press conference announcing he'd signed with the local Maryland GreenHawks. After the event, while we were standing by the sandwich line, I asked him if people around here still come up to talk to him.
"Oh man, crazy," he said, then told me about going to see Fairfield play at Comcast Center this fall. Two ladies sitting near the court saw him and approached. They told him their combined ages topped 120. Just so he knew.
"We love you," one of them told Mouton. "I know we're over 120 together, but we still love you."
Then they both kissed him on the cheek.
"I thought it was over, but people still coming up to me like thank you, just thanking me," Mouton told me. "It happens all the time. It's amazing. I tell my mom, my brothers and everybody I'm familiar with, people will still talk about that championship until there's another one. That's what I believe."
Hate to break it to you, Byron, but they're gonna talk about it longer than that. Couple of us in the office have been talking about the greatest D.C. sports moment of the decade; more on that next week, but I think it's got to be that national championship, right?
Heck, even some opponents are anxious to talk about the Mouton from that year.
"He was really the glue of that team," said Scooter Sherrill, who played against Mouton with N.C. State and will now be his GreenHawks teammate. "Everybody talked about Dixon, Blake, Wilcox, Baxter. Those guys got all the attention, but when we game-planned that team, it was always centered around Mouton. He was the glue."
Maybe you remember the story about Mouton my friend Eli Saslow wrote a couple years back. "Mouton Is Trying to Move On After Helping Maryland Win the NCAA National Title In 2002, but Some Fans Won't Let Him," was the subhed.
I'm sure Mouton has those moments, but when I was talking to him sure wasn't one of them.
"I only played for Maryland for two years, but it was the best experience I've ever had," he said. "We were all friends, we had no beefs. After the game we'd all go our separate ways, but when we came back, it was a family. Just a family. We never had a fight or anything. The best team I ever played on, man. It's still like that. We see each other, we acknowledge each other, we support each other, and it's great. It's real great."
Mouton spent some time with Steve Blake this summer. He talks to Juan Dixon. Lonny Baxter called last month. He dreams of being an assistant coach for the Terps one day. Last year was the first time he's spent an entire season around the area since graduating, he said, and he said he didn't like what was being said about Gary Williams.
"It was terrible, man," he told me. "I hated it. Because the man's been the coach there for 20-some years, and they defined his whole career on the last three or four years, and that was so terrible to me. How are they gonna define that man's career in three years? Ok, he didn't make it to the tournament, blah blah blah and all that, but he resurrected that whole university. I wasn't here for none of that, but after thinking about it, talking about it, and people telling me, it was crazy.
"Georgetown--not to go off subject--was predicted top 5 and all this, and they had a worse season than Maryland, and nobody talked about that. Terrible. Maryland ended up going to the tournament with the tallest guy on their team 6-6, making it to the second round, and now they love coach Williams. It's funny, man. It's upsetting, but that's just the way the business is."
Of course, if you'll recall, Mouton also seemed fairly critical of what was going on in College Park last winter. But when we talked--before the Maui trip--Mouton was extremely bullish about this year's team.
"What I love about Coach Williams is that if it's a rough start, when it's ACC time, he's got those guys playing," Mouton said. "The thing that I tell the players all the time when I go there and try to talk to them, the sooner you all buy into his system, the easier it's gonna be, and y'all can win more games as soon as you buy into his system. He has a system, and it's funny, some guys go in there and try to tell Coach Williams, 'Yo man, you need to change your offense.' Man, we won a national championship with that offense."
Oh, and the guy that got Indiana fans so fired up? Mouton approves.
"I just love Greivis," he said. "From day one when I met Greivis, he reminded me of myself. I mean, he's very passionate Some people think it's negative, some people think it's positive. Me personally, I love it, because I'm a passionate player."
And finally, his prediction for this year's team?
"I think they're gonna finish in the top 3 in the ACC, I really think that," Mouton said. "[Williams has] got those guys playing, man."
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