The Washington Post is running a three part series on Gary Williams' woes in College Park at the moment, and it's a fascinating read. The first part was mostly tossing out all the players who Williams didn't recruit and went on to great success. Some of the criticisms are unfair (I mean, nobody recruited Joe Alexander) but there has been an awful lot of talent bypassing College Park in recent years, and the article is evidence that people are getting annoyed and Williams is under pressure to perform.
One of the things the Post misses, however, is the basketball vacuum that had sprung up around the turn of the century that Williams stepped into. The ACC had gone south, with UNC's well-remembered woes under Guthridge and Doherty, Wake Forest's regression to the mean after Tim Duncan, and the rest of the league outside of Duke mired in mediocrity. The conference required a second team to step up, and Williams was there. He also benefited for the collapse of the legends of the Mid-Atlantic; Georgetown was in between Thompsons, Temple had reached the depths of their decline, the rise of Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh, or Louisville had yet to occur. Into this void stepped Maryland, and while it took a lot of skill on Williams' part to get there, it was a tenuous spot, and therefore not all that surprising that's it's been tough to hold.
The second part of the series is where things get interesting. The Post got an hour long interview with Williams, and uses his complaints to blunder into the seedier side of college basketball recruiting. There's a wealth of choice quotes.
First, Williams on Connecticut player Rudy Gay, an area player and Maryland fan:
"If [Gay] wanted to come here, and we recruited him, and we offered him a scholarship, why didn't he come here?" Williams said during an hour-long interview last week. "It had to be for another reason, right?"
Then there's this on The Old North State:
Tony Squire, who coached Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in AAU, said the state of North Carolina has become "infested with street agents," adding that "there is no question it has changed. What is happening now, the kids are changing and people are running around now offering kids stuff. Nowadays, if somebody comes in with some money, 'You come play with us and you don't have to worry about anything coming from your pocket.' "
Roy Williams makes an appearance:
"It depends on the situation," North Carolina Coach Roy Williams said. "It varies for each player. Some summer coaches we have had a great deal of contact with, and others we don't do as much with. My first concern is the families. Then it depends on who is important to the kid. I try to determine who will have an influence, have a vocal time with a player."
Then there's Curtis Malone, local summer league coach. Gary Williams is not a fan:
Regarding Malone, Williams said: "Don't tell me Curtis Malone has the right to say whether Gary Williams is a good recruiter or not. I don't want to hear about Curtis Malone. I know what he is," a reference to Malone's criminal record.
In 1991, Malone pleaded guilty to one count of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. He was sentenced to five months in jail, with all but three months suspended. In 1994, Malone pleaded guilty to reckless driving and attempting to elude a police officer. He was sentenced to six months of unsupervised probation.
"If these are the things Gary is telling you about me, there is no telling what he is telling his assistants," Malone said. "I can bet you there are 50 other coaches who wouldn't say that about Curtis Malone. I'm going down to Duke; Coach K loves Curtis Malone. I went up to Villanova; me and [Coach] Jay Wright have a great relationship."
The article also goes into Malone's former player and coach Dalonte Hill, who angled for a Maryland assistant coaching gig. Williams didn't hire him, but Bob Huggins did at KSU, and Michael Beasley followed Hill there in what even at the time was considered shady.
There's a reason I ignore college recruiting and it's not out of laziness. There's a seediness involved, and it's getting worse with each passing year. It's almost enough to hope that Williams does get fired, and can actually expose what's going on, because I want to hear more stuff like this:
"To bring Beasley, it cost $450,000, for sure," he said. "We know that. We didn't have $450,000. So we are not going to get Beasley."