Finding right guy to coach Terps won't be easy
By Don Markus
Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson has a rare opportunity for someone in his position; - hiring coaches in two major sports in a span of four months.
It's not exactly the most enviable situation for somone who is both untested in the world of big-time college athletics and under scrutiny after making his first big hire.
Thursday's announcement that Gary Williams is retiring after 22 seasons in College Park has certainly put the spotlight, if not the bull's eye, back on Anderson, perhaps even brighter and bigger than it was when he fired Ralph Friedgen back in December.
But this time, the first-year Terrapin athletic director has the benefit of having Williams, who has agreed to stay on as a special assistant, to help recruit his own successor.
It's likely going to be a lot easier than it was in replacing Friedgen.
But it's still not going to be easy.
There's certainly the possibility that Williams has already lined up a big-name successor - given the sudden nature of his announcement - and will introduce him personally at the news conference Friday where he will talk about his reasons for retiring and, perhaps, give one final fist pump in Garyland.
Who knows if Williams, more respected among his peers than by a fan base that has waned with Maryland's inconsistencies the past nine seasons, hasn't already convinced a Jay Wright to leave Villanova or a Sean Miller to exit Arizona or a Jamie Dixon to depart Pittsburgh or a Rick Barnes to bolt Texas?
About the only one whose name has been mentioned that might make sense is Notre Dame's Mike Brey, whose local roots run deep.
But you would think that the former Duke (and DeMatha) assistant has put himself back near the top of the list of coaches who will succeed Mike Krzyzewski. When word reached South Bend that Williams was on the verge of retiring, and Anderson was interested, Notre Dame officials were reported to be drawing up an extension.
Former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese, one of Williams' closest friends, told me late Thursday night that even Williams might not be persuasive enough to help Anderson to lure a big name if he hasn't done so already.
"People are not going to move laterally, unless there are some circumstances involved that you and I are not aware of," said Tranghese, alluding to Brey's ties to the area or underlying issues that have not been made public about other big names. "It's going to be a difficult challenge for what is a really good job."
Tranghese said that Anderson should not be concerned about how the introductory press conference is going to play and think about the long-term.
"After the press conference, nobody cares about that kind of stuff," Tranghese said. "All they care about is who you recruit and how many games you win. You've got to go out and find the best coach and sometimes the best coaches come from places you don't expect them to come from."
But even the hottest names after this year's NCAA tournament seem to be locked up.
Brad Stevens has already turned down a number of overtures to stay at Butler, and Shaka Smart reportedly rejected some big money from North Carolina State -- and former Maryland AD Debbie Yow -- to remain at VCU. Ditto for Chris Mooney, who signed a 10-year deal at Richmond. There's Jim Larranaga, who recently left George Mason for Miami. And Mark Few, who turned down UCLA a couple of times to stay at Gonzaga.
So where does that leave the Terps?
Maybe Anderson -- and undoubtedly Williams -- should think locally rather than nationally.
Jimmy Patsos will certainly have his supporters, but has the popular former Maryland assistant done enough at Loyola to make a jump to College Park? How about Jeff Jones, finishing a decade at American (including a win over Maryland) after a successful run at Virginia ended badly on and off the court.
Or perhaps Todd Bozeman.
According to some of his friends, Williams likes Bozeman, whose Morgan State team also upset the Terps a couple of years back at Comcast Center. But can Anderson and new Maryland president Wallace Loh overlook the baggage Bozeman brought back to Baltimore from California that has seemingly prevented him from getting serious consideration for any other job beside the Bears? Towson wouldn't even interview him when Pat Kennedy was fired.
Personally, I would love to see Anderson convince Brey to come home and take on Coach K a couple of times a year or for Barnes to return to the ACC and once again be "the new sheriff" in town as he was when he was at Clemson and stood up to Dean Smith in the ACC tournament. I also wouldn't mind seeing Anderson giving Jones or Bozeman a second chance at the big-time -- in Bozeman's case making the kind of hire that I thought he should have made by bringing Mike Leach to Byrd Stadium.
Loyalty is a big thing to Williams, and nobody has been more loyal than Patsos, who along with former assistant Billy Hahn (now at West Virginia) deserved a lot of credit for Maryland's most successful period in school history from the mid-1990s through the national championship in 2002.
With no obvious candidates on Williams' current staff, it's likely that Maryland's next coach is going to be come from outside Comcast Center.
We'll start seeing how this process is going to work at the press conference Friday.
There will be cheers and tears and, perhaps, that one last fist pump. Then it'll be time to find a successor.
Unless someone's already in place, it's not going to be easy.