Season Postmortem

3/24/2009 7:51:11 PM I've struggled for days to conjure up the words to accurately describe the roller coaster that was 2008-09 season.  What are we to make of this program?  It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.  How did it make you feel to see Dave Neal emerge?  An athletically limited player who not only earned playing time through his hard work, he excelled through grit, smarts, and determination?  Don't we all aspire to exceed the expectations others have for us?  Dave Neal makes us proud to root for Maryland.

Yet Neal's elevated role evokes the same themes of frustration that have been emanating from the fan base for the last five years.  Despite the fact that there may only be one or two coaches in the country besides Gary Williams who could have taken this team to the NCAA Tournament; the talent gap is as wide as it has ever been during Williams' tenure. The Memphis game demonstrated that in a painfully obvious way.

This is a discussion I am tired of having.  If this season demonstrated one thing; it proved that Maryland Basketball is Gary Williams.  The ethos of the program embodies his personality.  Gary thrives on succeeding with the odds stacked against him.   Who needs one hit wonders like Kevin Durant or Michael Beasley?  Gary feels that he is successful because he has a winning formula.  Whether it is in practice or the "X's" and "O's" during the games; Gary is confident in his ability to out-coach the suit on the other sideline. For the most part, history has proven Gary to be correct.  He is better than just about any coach out there.  For the most part; that has always been enough and Comcast Center has the hardware to prove it.

There are many fans who have found fault with this philosophy and bristle when they see rivals like UNC come up to Maryland and pluck Ty Lawson's out of our midst.  Gary has always hushed the the doubters by winning with less.  It is a testament to Gary's abilities that even with a National Championship banner hanging from the rafters; you would be hard pressed to convince anyone that Gary has ever coached the most talented team in the land.

In many ways, I think the last 12 months have represented a sea change in Gary's philosophy.  Gary has found religion when it comes to recruiting.  Whether or not Lance Stephenson dons the Black and Gold next season, Maryland's presence on his list of final choices represents a break from the past.  While it is doubtful that Jordan Williams will come to campus and become the next Joe Smith; he is a big time recruit who left Big East country to come to College Park.  These are significant steps for Gary Williams.

We know Gary has the chops to win without the best talent.  But now, it appears that he is finally willing to level the playing field and stop trying to win with an extra degree of difficulty.  Sure, winning with less was a motivator that often fueled Maryland's success; but I think we can all agree that winning in the ACC and on the national stage is tough enough.  Who needs the added difficulty?

Gary Williams is a "young" 63.  I think that he has been reinvigorated by the criticism and has also learned some tough lessons along the way.  He now knows he is not untouchable.  He now knows that he can't do it by himself.  My hope is that the program is better off for it.

The offseason will be hectic. There are three questions that will trouble the minds of Terps fans over the next 7 months:

1.  Will Greivis stay for his senior season?  If not the NBA, will Europe call?

2.  Will Lance Stephenson come to Maryland? That answer should come relatively quickly (4/1), but uncertainty will still linger. If he does come to College Park, will Gary be able to integrate his skills and supreme talent into the flow of the flex offense and the team concept?

3.  Who will start at the #4 and #5 positions?  Are Jordan Williams and James Padgett ready for the ACC?  Did we just land a Lonny Baxter and a Chris Wilcox or did we just get couple of Braxton Duprees?

There will be much to talk about as the "hot stove" league heats up. We will be here to dissect it all.
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