More Excerpts From Gary Williams's Speech
Last night in Ballroom B of the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay hotel in Cambridge, Md., 200 members of the Maryland Economic Development Association munched on steak and crab cakes during the awards banquet that capped off the organization's three-day annual conference. Speakers included Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D) and University of Maryland men's basketball coach Gary Williams.
Brown spoke first and opened by noting that Williams had given him a copy of his book, "Sweet Redemption: How Gary Williams and Maryland Beat Death and Despair to Win the NCAA Basketball Championship." Brown then joked that Williams "told me it was worth well over $25, so I'd have to declare it."
After Brown spoke, the organization handed out awards and then closed the evening with a speech from Williams, who drew standing ovations at both the opening and conclusion of his talk.
Williams also drew laughter throughout his speech, a reward for several moments of self-deprecation and dry humor. But he took on serious tones at times, as well. The following are excerpts from Williams's 20-minute speech:
"As you all probably know, the president of the United States, President Obama, participated in a practice with the University of North Carolina this year, and can you imagine you're in practice and playing defense against the president and you knock him down and Secret Service guys are running out and all that? But it did happen, and Carolina got lucky and won the national championship. President Obama didn't get lucky, but he won the presidency. So, Lieutenant Governor Brown, you've got to come over and practice with us." ...
"Sports has a way of keeping you humble, whether you're a coach or a player. I'll never forget the day after we won [the national championship] in Atlanta. We came back to Cole Field House the next day and had a reception there with about 12,000 people, and when it was over we went back in the locker room and you looked around and it was really the last time we were all going to be together -- Juan Dixon, Lonny Baxter, Byron Mouton, Steve Blake, Chris Wilcox, all the guys. So, after about an hour, we all walk out, and I'm walking out with Juan Dixon, and this gentleman was standing in the tunnel leading out of Cole Field House with a camera and he said, 'Do you mind if I get a picture?' and Juan and I said, 'No, of course.' So the guy handed me the camera and wanted me to take a picture of him and Juan." ...
"I think anytime you're connected, and I know all of you are involved in business or whatever, but anytime you're connected with a team, because I think all businesses are teams just like we are, I always say this to the team before we start every year, the big speech is always, 'If you're not 100 percent with us, then you're against us.' In other words, you can't be 85, 90 percent and consider yourself part of our team because we're going to get criticized during the year at times and people are going to say a lot of nice things about you at times, but we have to be together. The people in this locker room are going to determine our success and no one else. Some teams do; some teams get away from that as the year goes on, but I thought our team was tremendous because we went through some tough things this year and we found out a lot about our team. Some people don't want to be accountable for your success or lack of success; we were fortunate to have people that really cared about each other and were willing to take the responsibility to try to get better. It was just a great feeling to coach these guys this year because a lot of times you're measured on whether you win championships or whatever (cellphone goes off in the audience), but in coaching to keep you going what you do is.
"That's a cell phone and if that was in our team meeting we'd all have to run, everybody in this room, so don't drink too much wine. But if that's a 7-footer, let me know.
"But it's very important that everybody you're connected with feels the same way. The accountability of things is really important because you have to want to be there." ...
"I go back to Juan Dixon a lot of times, and people always ask me who is your favorite player at the University of Maryland, and I'm not allowed to pick a favorite player because I've had a lot of great guys a long the way, Juan Dixon, but anyway, the one thing about Juan, I was telling someone this story earlier tonight, we were playing in Madison Square Garden in Juan's sophomore year and he had just established himself as a great player. We played Kentucky, who had a very good team, and Juan was having an off night and by off night I mean he had made three shots out of 18 attempts. And we had to battle back from about 15 down to get to where the score was tied. We called a timeout and we had the ball right at about where we had a chance to score. So we had a great player from Frederick named Terrence Morris. The play was set up for Terrence because Terrence was hot. He had about 24 points that night; he was playing really well. So the huddle breaks and Juan grabs me by the sleeve as he was walking out, and he says, 'Coach, if I'm open, I'm taking that last shot.' And I said, 'Juan, you're 3 for 18,' and he said, 'Oh, I'll make it, don't worry about that.' And that was Juan Dixon. We all go through tough times, we all go through things, we've talked about the economy tonight, but there's certain people -- I really trusted Juan Dixon that if things weren't happening would happen if Juan Dixon was on the court. His attitude is bigger than just Juan Dixon. His attitude strengthened the team, and that type of thing is what made you great is the ability to lead other people, and Juan certainly had that ability." ...
"I went to the University of Maryland, and I'm really proud of that because it's such a great university now. I did graduate from the school of business. I was a marketing major, which, back then, meant you couldn't handle finance or accounting. That stuff was hard; it was really hard. But today the school of business is ranked, and I've got my degree up on the wall in my office, and every time a player walks in there they can't believe I graduated from the Smith School of Business." ...
"When things are going well, it's one thing, but when things are tough -- we went through some tough things this year. We were criticized probably as much as we've ever been criticized this year at certain points during the year. I knew one thing about the team, we went down to Orlando and played in a tournament down there. We had a great win against Michigan State and then we lost to Gonzaga and Georgetown, in back-to-back games we did not play well. But we came back and won the next game against Michigan. And that told me a little bit about the team.
"And then we went down to Duke, and you know, you've got to watch them because they put a lid over the one basket. We got killed. That was a bad game. But then we came back and won after losing to Duke. And then at the end of the year everybody said we had to beat Virginia in the final game down there and we lose by a couple points and not play particularly well, and people said, 'Well, there's goes your NCAA tournament bid.' So we had a couple days to get ready for the ACC tournament and I got the players together and I said: 'Let's see how tough we are. I'm telling you, if we win two games in the ACC tournament, we're in the NCAA [tournament]. Now, somehow they believed me because I wasn't sure. That's part of the deal. Sometimes if you're in a leadership position you have to say some things that you're not sure of how it's going to work, but if you don't make it, you don't make it; what's the difference? You really have to be positive with your team.
"This year we played North Carolina at our place and it was one of the greatest games I've ever been involved in. Because we won. But it was a game where we were probably like a 12-point underdog or something like that, and one of the things I do as a coach is it starts at about 12 o'clock, you start getting nervous for an 8 o'clock game, and coaches are control freaks for the most part, so you'd like to have another practice, but you can't because it's the day of a game. And I'm sitting in my office, and I'm just trying to find a way to make myself believe that we were going to win the game, because if I don't believe it there's no way I can walk in the locker room and tell the players, 'This is how we're going to win.' So I've always been able to do that, walk into a locker room regardless of the situation and feel that we can win this game. And Carolina was ranked number one or two in the country when we played them and with about 10 minutes left we were down 15 and I'm thinking, 'This is going to be tough.' But we had some great people on the court."
June 2, 2009; 9:32 AM ET
Categories: Men's basketball
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