Millikan fostered enduring legacy as Maryland basketball coach
Former Maryland men’s basketball coach Bud Millikan passed away Thursday morning at the age of 89. Millikan, who coached the Terrapins for 17 seasons from 1950-67, infused life into a once moribund program, according to those who knew him, and helped groom current Maryland coach Gary Williams.
A disciple of legendary Oklahoma State coach Henry Iba, Millikan demanded his players execute strict man-to-man defense at all times, which was somewhat of a departure from the typical style of the times, according to Frank Fellows, who played under and coached with Millikan at Maryland.
“He taught and you learned how to play that game and you learned it well or you didn't play,” said Fellows who played under Millikan in the early 1950s before being hired to the Maryland coaching staff in 1960. “That limited us sometimes in the recruiting because everyone didn't want to play that way. But his way was the way he thought, and that was the way he taught. He was a pattern coach. He ran an offense and strict man-to-man defense. It was almost unheard of to play zone (defense) for Bud's team.
“We beat some teams we didn't have any business beating because of that style.”
Williams, who played point guard at Maryland from 1964-67, absorbed Millikan’s lessons and used them as the foundation of a 32-year head coaching career during which he has won 639 games and a national championship. Millikan and Williams shared many traits: Demanding, deliberate, sticklers for adherence to their approach and adept at accruing success on the court.
Millikan compiled a 243-182 record at Maryland, including an ACC championship in 1958 that led to an NCAA tournament appearance. The Terrapins lost to Temple in the East Region semifinals that season, but finished with a 22-7 record and ranked No. 6 in the nation in the season-ending polls.
“He won the conference tournament, which was unheard of in those days,” Fellows said. “Maryland hadn't done anything. In those days, the ACC was just a spin off from the old Southern Conference, which was a huge conference, 17 teams and you didn't play them all. Then ACC formed and started playing every team the normal home-and-home, and that's when the ACC got its fame. The schools that left the old Southern Conference were almost all Tobacco Road schools and Virginia.”
Fellows said Millikan’s defensive scheme shut down many of the “run-and-gun” offenses the Terrapins came across. “We made them work,” Fellows said of Maryland’s opponents, though he may as well have been referring to the Terrapins’ own players.
In an interview in his Comcast Center office in January 2009, Williams said Millikan demanded deference from his charges. Maryland players called their coach “Sir.” During timeouts in games, players laid down on their chests on the court and looked up at Millikan as he provided instruction. “Back then,” Williams said, “that was a sign of respect for the coach.”
When Williams entered the coaching profession, he followed Millikan’s example.
“Very few coaches are any good that don't coach their personality,” said Williams, known for his often-fiery sideline temperament and rigid intensity. He learned as much from Millikan.
In a press release issued Thursday afternoon by Maryland, Williams noted that Billy Jones (UMBC), Joe Harrington (Hofstra, George Mason, Long Beach State and Colorado), Terry Truax (Towson) and Billy Franklin (Bowie High School) were other former Millikan players who went on to become head coaches.
Fellows said Millikan contributed to the development of the Terrapin Club, as well as other facets of the athletic department.
“He made basketball a big sport at Maryland,” Fellows said. “He was successful in that. A lot of people learned to love basketball after watching Bud's teams play. He was responsible in his own way for getting Cole Fieldhouse to being the place to play in the East, the best viewing place for basketball that most people have ever seen.”
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