Gary Williams’ Retirement – More Relevant to SU Than One Might Think
Late Thursday afternoon, the news of Gary Williams’ retirement sent waves through the college basketball community. Although Maryland has tailed off since its 2002 championship run, whenever a longtime head coach leaves his post, it’s inevitably a tad surprising. In some ways, Thursday’s announcement reminded me that Jim Boeheim’s tenure can’t last forever, and that if they haven’t already, Orange fans will have to come to grips with the mortality of their own player-turned-head coaching mainstay.
While Boeheim has been with Syracuse for a significantly longer period than Williams was with Maryland (35 seasons versus 21), the recent stretches of both coaches’ careers are somewhat similar. As mentioned, Williams led the Terps in a 2002 title run and Boeheim followed the next season. Immediately after, both programs went into the proverbial post-championship hangover. From 2004 to 2008, Syracuse missed the Big Dance twice and only once made it past the first weekend. Maryland, meanwhile, is still trying to navigate out of a rough patch that has seen four NCAA Tournament misses and just one Sweet Sixteen berth.
The tea leaves indicate that Williams retired after Jordan Williams, his stud forward, decided to leave his name in the NBA Draft pool rather than return for his senior season. Some experts around Syracuse believe that whether or not the coaching staff hauls in DaJuan Coleman from Jamesville-DeWitt could determine how much longer Boeheim patrols the sidelines at the Carrier Dome. I’m not sure it’s quite as definite, but it could be a factor, and as followers of a team with a legendary active head coach, it’s natural for us to look for the next checkpoint and ask ourselves if it’s the last one.
Williams’ departure also has relevance to Syracuse in that Maryland’s administration figures to make a hard run at a current Big East coach, Mike Brey. Brey is from Bethesda, came of age at local high school powerhouse DeMatha and went to college at George Washington. Having spent eight seasons at Duke as an assistant under Mike Krzyzewski, he also has a lot of familiarity with the ACC. Should Brey bolt for College Station, it would bring a small measure of relief to Syracuse fans, as the Irish have won four of the last ten games between SU and Notre Dame. But I’m getting a little ahead of myself.
Ultimately, Gary Williams’ retirement should serve as a reminder to SU fans that even the deepest-entrenched coaches have a shelf life, and for all the barbs and tongue lashings that are associated with Jim Boeheim, we’re extremely fortunate to still have him around.