Yow's spat with Williams years in the making
The day that Debbie Yow announced she was leaving Maryland for North Carolina State, I called Gary Williams to ask him what her legacy would be in College Park.
After a few seconds of uncomfortable silence, Williams offered a short and not-so-sweet statement about his longtime boss and adversary. "I have nothing to say specifically other than I'll let other people judge the 15 or 16 years Debbie Yow was at the University of Maryland," Williams said.
It was essentially a no-comment, but it was a snapshot of a relationship that had never been particularly close and deteriorated badly in recent years, especially after Yow allegedly tried -- unsuccessfully -- to put together a group of boosters to buy Williams out. What happened Tuesday night in Raleigh, N..C., when Yow accused Williams of sabotaging N.C. State's search process for a new basketball coach, didn't surprise anyone who has closely followed this dysfunctional Yow-Williams dynamic. That she did it during the introductory news conference for Mark Gottfried -- after a reporter asked Gottfried if he was aware of Yow's reputation of being difficult to work for -- was also typical of Yow.
That Williams offered a response to The Sun denying he had any interaction with candidates involved in the search was also not unexpected. Each always had to get in the last word. Each always had to make the other one squirm.
It's not that I can't believe Williams wouldn't let his feelings be known to other coaches about Yow. If he did tell Sean Miller or Shaka Smart or even Rick Barnes to be careful about going to work for Yow, what's wrong with that?
It's done every day in the workplace, whether you're a college basketball coach making seven figures or a schoolteacher asking about a principal who had just called about a job teaching middle school math. That Yow had a hard time finding a replacement for Sidney Lowe has more to do with Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams -- and maybe even the late Jim Valvano -- than it has to do with Williams.
When Herb Sendek left Raleigh for Arizona State five years ago, Lowe was about the fifth choice for the job then. Yow was trying to justify why it took so long to find someone to take the job, and why she settled on a coach who was run out of Alabama despite being an alum.
As she is known to do, Yow probably leaked the whole sabotage angle to Gregg Doyel, a columnist for CBS Sportsline, who went on a radio show in Raleigh Tuesday ranting about Williams.
I know first-hand that this is her MO, having been the recipient of a leak years ago that tried to make Williams look bad. This was in 1997, the day before the NCAA tournament, and I met up with Yow in a Cincinnati airport on the way to Memphis. She asked me, "What is he going to do to them?" I had no idea what or who she was talking about, but played along until I figured that a couple of players had broken curfew at the ACC tournament.
With the help of Greg Manning, the former Terp guard who was the radio color analyst at the time, I pieced together a story that LaRon Profit and Terrell Stokes were going to be benched. The Terps wound up losing to College of Charleston.
I remember a few years ago when Williams cursed out a fan sitting behind the bench at an ACC tournament game. The man was there with his young daughter and wrote a letter to Yow asking for Williams to apologize. Yow told me about that too, and how she and some ACC officials went to Williams demanding that he go for anger management. Williams' response was that he went to a psychologist -- noted sports psychologist Bob Rotella, who is best known for the advice he gives to professional golfers.
"He gave me a few putting tips," Williams joked.
As Maryland became a dominant team, Yow and Williams co-existed. But as the Terps began to slide on the court, Yow realized that she was gaining an upper-hand in the relationship. The gloves came off three years ago, when Yow and Williams took their venomous relationship public over a recruit, Tyree Evans, with a checkered past. Yow, who was attending the funeral of her sister Kay, the legendary N.C. State women's coach, had associate athletic director Kathy Worthington intervene. It caused an even bigger firestorm, and from that day on, it was just a matter of time to see who was going to outlast the other in College Park.
The day that Yow left last June, you figured that Williams had won. You also figured that the battle between them was over.
Apparently, it's not.