Okay, you thought I was going to blog about this, but, actually, I want to comment on this massive Washington Post article--the first in a three-part series--about what the hell's wrong with Maryland basketball. The WaPo basically answers that question in two words: Gary Williams.
Now, in one sense, that's a perfectly fair answer. As Maryland's head coach, the blame for the team's steep decline since winning the national championship in 2002--"no national champion in the past 18 seasons has regressed so quickly," the WaPo reports--rests at Williams's feet. What's more, there's plenty of evidence that Williams has not only stopped developing players who come to Maryland (Mike Jones, anyone?), but that he's stopped putting much effort in luring talented players to Maryland to begin with. I was at a high school game in New York City for a print piece last week that featured a top 10 national player whom Maryland's making a very late push for, and I was surprised to see three Maryland assistants in attendance, but not Williams. Evidently, the two-and-a-half hour Acela ride was too much for him.
That said, I think the WaPo article is pretty unfair to Williams, mainly because it builds its case against him by highlighting the players he didn't deem talented enough to heavily recruit--including Scottie Reynolds and Joe Alexander. Here's a representative bit:
That championship seemed ever more distant last season, as Maryland dropped six of its last eight games and concluded the season in the NIT for the third time in four seasons. Players from the 2007-08 squad have said the camaraderie was faint and the leadership was nearly nonexistent. On March 20, the Terrapins fell at Syracuse in the second round of the NIT.
Two days later, Joe Alexander, a first-team all-Big East selection for West Virginia, led the Mountaineers to a second-round upset of second-seeded Duke at Verizon Center, the site of the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament.
The next day, Scottie Reynolds, a second-team all-Big East selection at Villanova, scored 25 points against Siena to lead the Wildcats to the round of 16, as well.
The problem with this type of argument is that you can make it about pretty much any college basketball coach. Take Roy Williams, for example. A couple of years ago, he made Tywon Lawson rather than D.J. Augustin his top point guard recruit, so Augustin wound up going to Texas instead of UNC. Even after Lawson's amazing game last night (to just pick a random example)--the latest in what has been a pretty stellar season for him--I think you'd be hard-pressed to argue that Augustin (who's now in the NBA) hasn't turned out to be the better player. Now, people tend to forget that Roy Williams chose Lawson over Augustin, since Carolina--unlike Maryland--isn't struggling, but the argument that he was a bad judge of talent in this case still holds, and it shows how lame that argument is. Basically, given the number of players these schools recruit, you're always going to be able to assemble an all-star roster of the players they misevaluated. The fact that you can do that with Gary Williams doesn't really prove anything.
Maybe the second and third parts of this WaPo series will bring more evidence to bear that Gary Williams is the problem at Maryland. But, after this first article, I'm not convinced.