Archive for January, 2009


A healing preview: A Maryland-Miami analysis from motivational TV host Stuart Smalley

jordansnlI’m going to do a terrific blog post today.  And I’m going to help people.  Because I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and — doggone it! — people like me.

Hello.  I’m Stuart Smalley.  And I’m really glad to be here today, because I know a lot of you Terps are hurting right now.  I don’t know much about bouncing balls around, but Shell Games asked me to write this special post, and you know what?   I decided to take a risk.  Because, as we know, a lot of times, you have to take a risk in life.  Right?   So here I am, ready to give you all a little pep speech.  Speech?  A pep speech?   Yes.

The Terps have been losing, yes. And they’re are feeling a little “lost” inside as well.  A little vulnerable.  But that’s…okay.  We all feel vulnerable sometimes. Like me, during my last show, when I forgot my guest’s name and had a panic attack?  I felt very vulnerable then.  And that’s probably why I vomited all those times.  But that’s…okay!   Before others can forgive, we must forgive ourselves.

Now, I want to speak to the Terps who are feeling extra fragile right now.  I’ll just call him Gary W.  And Greivis V.   And Eric H.  And Braxton D.  And Big Dave N.   I know you all really want to win tomorrow against Miami.  I can imagine you lying awake in your beds tonight thinking, “I’m not good enough…everybody hates me…I’m not going to score any goals…I have no business being here.”

But guys, remember that’s just your critical self talking.  Don’t listen to that little grumpy man inside you!  All you need is a checkup…from “the neck up” (brain).  We can talk all day about how Miami can’t do anything but shoot threes, how they can’t guard anyone, how they’re on a losing streak of their own, and everything else.  But all you really need is a Daily Affirmation.

So here we go.  Ready?  I want you to look into your computer screen there.  Just look into it.  Can you see your face?  Good.  Pretend you’re looking into a mirror.  And say “You know, I don’t have to be a great sports player.  I don’t have to dribble the ball fast, or throw the ball into the baskets.  Because all I have to do is be the best person I can be. Because I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!”

If you’re out there tomorrow, and one of the Miami guys tries to tell you you’re not a very good basketball player, or that you’re overweight, or that you’re a failure, just remember our affirmation. You march right up to him and you tell him that his words can’t hurt you!   Tell him, I’m a beautiful, radiant person!   And even if I don’t win here today, I’m still loved, and I’m the best person I can be.  And no one , not anyone, can take that away.  So you’ll always have that, Terps!   You’ll always have that.  Now get out there and kick it out of the park.  Yaaaaay!

Prediction:  Maryland 67, Miami 62


Farewell to The Franchise

It didn’t make a whole lot of news, and it almost got lost in the chaos of Gary Gate 2009, but former Terp and three-time NBA All-Star Steve Francis was waived by the Memphis Grizzlies Tuesday. Could be the end of the line for the 31-year-old point guard from Takoma Park.

Interesting symmetry here…the then-Vancouver Grizzlies took Francis with the second pick in the 1999 draft. Francis, who wanted to go to Chicago with the first pick, famously walked up to the podium with a big scowl on his face (he basically forced a trade not long after). And now, almost ten years later, he has been spit out the bottom of that same crappy franchise. It’s almost like the Grizzlies said “hey, he screwed us ten years ago. Let’s get him now for fifty bucks and a plate of boiled parsnips and then drop him like a bad habit without playing him first. Maybe we could put a kick-me sign on him, too. We could really do that shit.  Oh man, call the Rockets. We’re doing this.”

During his one season as a Terp, the 1998-1999 season (also my senior year at Maryland), I had mixed feelings about Stevie Franchise. On one hand, he had otherworldly hops, and knew how to get the crowd going.  He made “Plays of the Week” every Sunday. It was awesome watching a 6′ 3″ point guard rise up and flush it on some stiff center. I was at the Maryland-Carolina game at Cole that year, which was televised on CBS, and watched Francis drop 22 on the Tar Heels in a Maryland victory (ah, the good old days). I actually got on TV that game. I made an acrostic sign (“Can’t Beat Steve”) and stood right behind the basket. Funny thing is, it happened to be my Dad’s birthday, and I happened to be a broke college student, so I wrote “Happy Birthday Dad” on the sign, too, and he saw it.  I’m a very good son.  Best cheap gift I ever got someone.

On the downside, Francis, who was a juco transfer, took up a bunch of minutes and, in hindsight, hurt the team chemistry. They lost in the second round of the tourney that year to Ron Artest’s St. John’s team, which was disappointing. We had a pretty good team that year. Senior leaders in Laron Profit, Obinna Ekezie, and Terrell Stokes, plus Terrence Morris and a couple of young guys named Dixon and Baxter. That’s six NBA players on one roster.

That underacheiver status dogged Francis in his pro career, too. He only made the playoffs once, with Houston in 2003-2004, and his team lost in five games. He put up good numbers (19.2, 8.4, 7.6), but it wasn’t enough. That Rockets team was a good one, too…Francis, Yao, Cuttino Mobley, Maurice Taylor when he was still alive, and of course, the immortal Moochie Norris.  Francis’ waiver from the NBA, along with the Stephon Marbury drama, probably signals the end of the shoot-first point guard experiment.

Bottom line:  Francis had some good years, but never really maxed out. It’s hard to put a finger on it, but it was like he assumed that because he could throw down a vicious dunk he would automatically just become the next Jordan. It didn’t go that way. Good solid career, but not great. But hey, he’s set for life and he probably had some fun doing it. So best wishes to Stevie Franchise.

Here’s a pretty damn-near perfect Youtube mix of his career highlights:


gary williams fights best with his back against a wall

Nobody believes in you!

Nobody believes in you!

Don’t call it a comeback…

June 13, 1989 – Gary takes over a Maryland basketball program that is still reeling from the death of its star player, Len Bias, in 1986.  A year later the team is banned from postseason play by the NCAA due to sanctions based on actions of the previous head coach, Bob Wade.  With passion, stubbornness, and undying dedication to the program, Gary turns the Maryland basketball program around.  In its first year of post-season eligibility, Maryland begins a run of 11 straight NCAA tournament appearances.

February 9, 2000 – After losing 29 of its previous 34 games to Duke, Maryland upsets Duke in Durham 98-87.  The victory ends Dukes 31-game ACC winning streak, 41-game home winning streak, and a 4-game streak against he Terps.  The win is a David beats Goliath moment, and it marks the beginning of Maryland getting the Duke monkey off its back.  This game sood out in my mind as a statement that Maryland was a team that would not back down to anybody.

February 27, 2001 – The Terps entered the 200-2001 season ranked No. 6 and poised to make a run, but the team seemed a little overconfident early in the year.  After muddling through its pre-ACC schedule, Maryland suffered the “Gone in 54 seconds” loss to Duke on 1/27/2000.  The team was devastated, and seemed to sleepwalk through losses in four of the next five ACC games, culminating in a dismal loss at home to underdog Florida State on 2/14.  After the loss, something changed in Gary.  He relaxed, and the team relaxed with him.  In what was the greatest comeback of his career, and one of the best coaching jobs I’ve ever seen, Gary Williams turned a lost season around.  Maryland proceeded to win its next three games against Wake, NC State, and Oklahoma.  Ranked No. 16 on 2/27, Maryland was trailing No. 2 Duke by 9-points in Cameron Indoor Stadium just before half-time.  In a season defining game, the Terps mounted a second half rally and won the game going away, 91-80.  That win gave the Terps the confidence they needed to break another glass ceiling and go on to their first Final Four in 2001.  Williams commented after the win, “We’ve work a lot on our confidence as a team.  We never quit, which this stretch shows. We could have quit with what happened last time against Duke, but we didn’t.”  Williams would later be named NCAA Coach of the Year.  That attitude and the rest of the season would stamp Maryland as a team that relished the role of underdog and played its best when the chips were down.

March 13, 2004 – Maryland is down 21-pts to NC State.  Gary rallies the team at halftime, and the Terps comeback for an impossible win that leads to an ACC Championship.  The game was defined by the inspired play of John Gilchrist, and it was clear that Gary provided Gilchrist a spark that got him going in the second half.  After the game, Williams offered these comments on his approach to the comeback victory:

A lot of people have asked me already what halftime was like. We talked about tradition of the University of Maryland. If you think about Maryland Basketball over the years there have been great teams and great players. We talked a little about tradition. You can talk all you want as a coach, but unless you get like the one sitting next to me (John Gilchrist) and Jamar Smith it doesn’t matter. We have had a lot of pride on this team this year and that is what is important in that situation. It is not like you think maybe we are going to win the game coming out at halftime. But you know you are going to play. I had a lot of confidence in these guys after halftime. We wanted to play and that was the key thing in that situation.

I think that says it all.  Gary Williams loves to be the underdog.  Now he’s in for the biggest fight of his career.  I am rooting for him.


It’s getting ugly out there


Ye gods. You can tell a situation is getting bad when it shows up on the ESPN ticker. I looked out of the corner of my eye and saw something to the effect of: “Maryland assistant athletic director Kathy Worthington says Gary Williams released recruits himself, contrary to Williams’ previous statements.” Then there was another line: “Maryland head coach Gary Williams states that ‘the next time I see her, Kathy Worthington will feel the back of my hand.'”

Well, maybe not. But he did tell reporters that “Kathy Worthingon has never won a national championship. She has never done anything.”  Jesus. Of course, Gary’s true target here is athletic director Debbie Yow, whose sister, Kay, just lost a very long and public battle with cancer.  This is beyond messy. The full transcript of Gary’s rather defensive comments are here.

This lash-out comes on the heels of the athletic department’s own rebuttal of Gary’s claim that he was not the one who prevented certain recruits from coming to Maryland, with the implication (for some, anyway) seeming to be that the athletic department, and not Williams, icksnayed the players. But then the AD went and drug out a paper trail on him, in a display that, as the D.C. Sports Bog points out, seemed precisely calibrated to inflict maximum damage and embarrassment on Gary.

If Gary was intending to get his team’s poor performance off the front pages, he has succeeded, at least for the time being. He has also sent a message to Yow, who is apparently his mortal blood enemy, that he will not be going quietly.

And make no mistake — given this war of words, Gary is gone after this year barring a dramatic turnaround. Like it or not, the writing is on the wall.  And with half of the team’s final 10 games against Duke, Wake, Clemson, and Carolina TWICE, and with the team needing at least seven more wins in general and a couple more “signature” wins to make the tourney, I’m not expecting said turnaround (hoping yes, expecting no). And Gary knows all of this. This is the basketball coach equivalent of stealing office supplies and peeing in the coffee pot on his way out.  Here’s hoping that he won’t need a letter of reference.


Maryland doesn’t need a new coach, they need an exorcist

Maryland coughed up a 16-point lead against BC tonight for yet another collapse. By my count, that’s three losses this year that came after they held a double-digit lead. Not to mention the Duke debacle.

I really feel for these guys. I’m no Vasquez apologist, but it wasn’t easy seeing him in tears on the sideline toward the end of the game.  It’s not good when you’re genuinely concerned for your team’s mental well-being.  And make no mistake, this season’s team has become a basket case. The real question now is, how does it compare to the great basket cases of recent memory?  Have a look and judge for yourself. Fun times…and get well soon, guys. We kid because we love.








Is it just me, or does he look a little like Gary?

Is it just me, or does he look a little like Gary?


The underside of this bus is getting kind of sticky

Fans, reporters, and athletic directors are circling Gary Williams.

Fans, reporters, and bloggers are circling Gary Williams.

The sharks are beginning to circle around Gary Williams. But he’s not going to be churned up into chum that easily.  At least not until he can bring a few people down with him.  During a meeting with reporters yesterday, Gary took aim directly at athletic director Debbie Yow, implying that Yow had forced him to jettison key recruits, including Gus Gilchrist, Shane Clark and Tyree Evans.

We’ve had, um, people that were here for different lengths of time. The kid, (Shane) Clark, up at Villanova was turned down for admission here at Maryland. The guy starting at South Florida, (Gus) Gilchrist, was here for a year. He’d be playing now. You know, Tyree Evans would be playing now. And they’re all qualified to play at other schools. So, that’s part of it. You know, in basketball one player’s a lot. It’s not like in football where you’ve got 25 (recruits) every year. So we’ve been through that.

Gus Gilchrist (now known as Augustus) is averaging 11pts/5rb per game for USF, and has stepped it up to average 13pts/5rb in seven Big East games including going 6/12 from three.  The guy’s still a head case, but hey, he’s a big. We could use him right about now.

Clark is just starting to be productive at Villanova, averaging 4pts and 3rb per game in his senior year.  Although he is 6’7″, I do not think his size or production would have made a big difference for this team.  Tyree Evans had a checkered past that included multiple arrests, including one for drug dealing and another for assaulting a woman.  That is not the kind of guy Maryland wants on campus.  We don’t want to turn into [insert Florida school name here].

On the balance, judging by the stats I’d say we lost one impact player and two borderline guys.  Ultimately, the team represents the school and part of Yow’s job is to protect the school’s reputation.  The women’s basketball program seems to be doing great, and we recently won national championships in field hockey and soccer, so she’s obviously doing something right.

Losing players to academic issues, off-court issues, and other teams is, unfortunately, par for the course in NCAA basketball.  I’m not saying that Debbie Yow is making Williams’s job any easier, but I am saying he has to deal with it whether Yow is there or not.  In my opinion, Gary is off the mark here.


Tyrese Rice really enjoying 12th season at Boston College

It feels like Tyrese Rice has been at BC since before I was born.  He’s like the Chris Weinke of ACC basketball.   He’s like the anti-Brandon Jennings, as this time next year, he’ll be suing to stay in school.

Tyrese Rice makes a point to keep in touch with every surviving member of his high school team.

Remembering his roots: Tyrese Rice makes a point to keep in touch with every surviving member of his high school team.

Hey, I’m just kidding, old man. It’s okay to be a big fish in a small pond, and at BC they’re not much bigger than Rice. I guess this is all a compliment to him, because I’m ready for him to leave — Maryland is 2-4 against BC during his time there. Ugh. Anyway, Rice is a one-man gang out there for the Eagles, having led them in scoring in 11 of their 21 games this year, and in eight of their 15 wins. He’s currently fifth in the ACC in scoring and was first-team all-ACC last year. He was also on the ACC all-rookie team way back in 1985. Remember 1985? Back to the Future was a hit at the box office, and Huey Lewis and the News were dominating the charts. The Atari 2600 was mesmerizing households everywhere, that is, in between episodes of Family Ties.  Alex P. Keaton…you never knew what he was gonna do next.

Back then, Rice was just getting used to the rigors of college scholar-athletics. It’s taken him a while, but what a great road it’s been. And hey, maybe it’s a little harder to find New Coke these days, but what can he say, he’s hooked.  It’s the taste of his youth.

The 2008-2009 Eagles have been pretty uneven so far. They beat Carolina, but then lost to Harvard. That keyed a four-game skid, but they’re riding a two-game winning streak coming into the CP tonight. It’ll be a battle of one-man teams, basically. Rice vs. Vasquez.  If Maryland doesn’t come out and show their bellies like a bunch of dead aquarium fish, that’ll be a start. Goterps.


The noose is tightening for Gary Williams

This post is a little long, but hang with me, it’ll be worth it (hopefully)…

There seem to be two emerging schools of thought on Saturday’s Duke loss. One side is that it was simply a tough (very tough) loss for the Terps — i.e., it was an awful game, but there really wasn’t any deeper “meaning” to it. The other side is that the Terps were exposed as a fatally flawed group that personifies the deeper failings of a program in decline.  This other side, which is seeing a real surge in membership today, wants change. What this means is that they want Gary Williams’ head on a silver platter, surrounded by field greens and dried cranberries. I’m kind of over field greens, but still, what a lovely presentation that would be.  Except for the head part, which would be a little macabre.

The criticism is hitting a fever pitch. Gary’s name now comes up on TV segments like “Who’s On The Bigger Hot Seat” and so forth. One of WaPo’s Terps beat guys, Steve Yanda, said in his online discussion that the Duke game was “the worst performance I have ever seen from a Division I program.”  That’s a bold statement. National college hoops pundit (and Dookie) Seth Davis said in a recent mailbag that “Maryland looks like it’s going to be irrelevant for the foreseeable future.”  Ouch.

You can tell it’s bad when people are not only speculating that Gary will be fired, but speculating on his replacement as well. The Examiner suggests Oklahoma coach and local boy Jeff Capel. Fans and bloggers are throwing out names as quickly as they come to mind. Memphis’ John Calipari, Miami’s Frank Haith, and Xavier’s Sean Miller seem like popular selections. Others point to Gary’s tense relationship with athletic director Debbie Yow as more evidence that his firing may be inevitable. (Still others want to fire Yow herself, but that’s a topic for another day.)

Discussion board posters and bloggers love to parse and re-parse the Gary situation, grind it up, beat it into dust, reconstitute the dust into a kind of putty using their own urine, and grind it up again.  Every fan knows what the problems are:  He can’t (or won’t) recruit top talent. The talent he does get doesn’t always meet its potential. Today’s players are put off by his intensity.  He has problems getting consistent effort from his guys.  His teams lack poise and appear sloppy.  (Personally, I think he goes too easy on his guards and too hard on his bigs, but that’s just my own pet theory.)

So those are the problems.  No real debate there, despite the constant discussion they elicit.  The real debate is whether they should fire him.  Those who say yes simply point to the aforementioned problems and the recent postseason drought.  Those who say no point to the championship, the two Final Fours, and the fact that Gary came to his alma mater while it was under NCAA sanction and lifted it back into prominence. They also ask, fairly, who would replace Gary. Top D-1 coaches don’t grow on trees.

Here’s my take, if anyone cares.  I love Gary. I remember how jacked up I would get, standing in the student section and getting the fist pump from him as he walked to the bench during warm-ups. I would love nothing more than to see him ride off into the sunset on his own terms. But at this moment, he is embarrassing himself.  Over and over again. Everyone loves to complain about the “what have you done for me lately” attitude in the sports world, but let me ask you this:  If you performed really well in your job for many years, but then sucked it up for four or five straight years, wouldn’t you be hearing whispers, too?  Even if they didn’t fire you, wouldn’t there at least be some kind of mandate that you improve your performance immediately, or else?

I personally believe we’re at the “improve or else” stage.  I don’t want to start settling for this “gee, I hope we make the Dance this year” mentality. I know there are off years, and I know that the playing field is more level now between the BCS schools and the mid-majors, but Maryland should be a lock for the big tournament more or less every year.  So if they don’t improve this season, and next year’s new recruits don’t make a big difference, then I say it’s decision time.  At that point it would become a question of whether the school prefers the devil they know versus the devil they don’t.  And is fear of the unknown really a good reason to hang on to a coach?  Does blind loyalty eventually just become blindness?  How long can a fan base hold onto old memories without needing any new ones?  Is a true fan the one who refuses to criticize, or is it the one who criticizes the loudest?  Is it a matter of believing in your team through thick and thin, or is it a matter of the emperor wearing no clothes?

So that’s my take, but I’m not even sure he’ll get that long.  Given what we know and where we stand right now, I think it’s very possible that, in three months, we’ll all be saying that Saturday’s loss at Duke was the beginning of the end for Gary Williams’ time at Maryland.

(Update: It’s getting worse between Gary and the athletic department. Like it or not, this could be an irreparable rift.)


Lady Terps show the men how you do it

At least one Maryland team is playing well. Yesterday, the no. 12 women’s hoops team upended no. 2 North Carolina, 77-71. Big ups to the lady Terps…after a slightly rocky start, the team finds itself in a pretty good spot…they’re 4-1 in ACC play and could crack the top 10 soon.

The ladies seem to have a lot of pieces that the men very blatantly lack. Strong floor leadership in Marissa Coleman and Kristi Toliver.  They’re calm in the clutch.  And they get awesome post play from Coleman, Demauria Liles, and Lynetta Kizer, who combined for 44 points and 34 rebounds in this game. How much money would you pay to see the men’s frontcourt put up a line like that?

Pinky and the pinks couldn't get over Lynetta Kizer and co.

Pinky and the pinks couldn't get over Lynetta Kizer and co.

The game also included a tribute to N.C. State women’s coach Kay Yow, sister of Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow. This is the second campus icon that N.C. State has lost to cancer. Here’s hoping Kay Yow’s legacy lives on in as strong and beneficial a way as Jimmy V’s has.

All in all, great day for the ladies. It’s nice to have something positive to root for in College Park right now. One thing I’m most decidedly NOT rooting for is a return of those hideous pink Carolina unis. Hey, Carolina. I know it’s meant to be a tribute, but tributes should never be unsightly. Your unis are so distinctive that their color is actually named for them. And it’s not Carolina Pink. Think, McFly. Think.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Gail Burton


duke out-everythings maryland





That is how the men’s basketball team looked against Duke this afternoon.  The soon-to-be #1 Blue Devils embarrassed Maryland today at Cameron Indoor Stadium.  This loss was so bad, so one-sided, that I’m having trouble finding other words to describe it.  According to the Washington Post, “It was Maryland’s worst defeat since a 39-point loss to Wake Forest in 1963.”

There are some things about this game that could have been different and may have made the outcome closer.  Maryland could not keep Duke off the offensive boards, and they were getting killed with second and third chances all day long.  The Terps also seemingly forgot how to split a trap, and possession after possession stalled near mid-court, resulting in 17 turnovers.  When we did get a shot off it was generally off-balanced or hurried, resulting in a 28% shooting night.  Those were the factors under Maryland’s control.  It’s the factors that were not under their control that were much, much more scary to me.

This was the biggest game of the season, and the team was clearly not mentally prepared for some fairly basic defensive looks from Duke.  One cannot attribute the disparity in mental alertness to home court advantage or fatigue.  Duke seemed to be playing a different game of “organized basketball”, as opposed to Maryland who seemed to be reacting and retreating.  Gary Williams could not control getting out-coached by Mike Krzyzewski.  It may not be that he was simply out-coached today, but he has been for a few years.

Another factor that was beyond Maryland’s control was the disparity of talent on the floor.  There is nobody on the Terps that is qualified to carry Gerald Henderson’s jock strap.  7’1″ Brian Zoubek made the Terps look like a bunch of toddlers with a grown man holding a ball over their heads while he was in the paint.  Maryland has no answer for these guys at all, and that situation won’t change for the rematch in College Park.

Everyone on Maryland played scared except Milbourne and Vasquez.  Once again, Vasquez has to eat his words after a 2-10 shooting night.  Gary Williams didn’t even use the blow out to give extended minutes to the bench. Kim played 5min, while Goins and Pearman played 3min each.

There are no positives to take away from this game.  NIT here we come.


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January 2009