Is Ralph Still A Good Coach?

It begs the question.

Anyone looking at this team from afar can see that they have beaten two quality teams in Cal and Clemson, yet lost to two horrible teams in MIddle Tennessee and Virginia. They made those bad teams look great in doing so. It’s hard to explain how a team can ride this rollercoaster from week to week. You look at it and say, “Hey! How hard is it to come out and play hard. How can you think any game is going to be easy? How can you not learn from your mistakes?”

Here is where I’m the most confused. You look at a team and you usually have two choices:

1). Either they just aren’t that good and had one great game against a good opponent. That’s not our Terps. They are a good team with good players. They have explosive players on offense and what seems to be a very physical and large offensive line. They have some good players on defense, though the secondary is banged up. They beat 2 good teams. That was not lucky.

2). They are a very good team that just had one slip up mentally and lost a game. Not our Terps either. There is something wrong when you can’t learn from your mistakes and don’t “show up” twice in 5 weeks. So, this team has some major problems.

Which brings me back to coaching. Do you blame the Fridge for the team not playing well against bad teams? Ralph is very open with the media and has told them time and time again that he has continuously warned the team about trap games and such. Is it his fault when they don’t listen? Does it mean they’ve tuned him out?

I say no. I know it’s easier to get up for bigger games, but his motivation worked against Cal and against Clemson (2nd half). His overall record speaks for itself, whether he did it with his players or somebody else’s. At some point you have to put it on the players. Now we can start the age old argument that we’ve gone around and around with when it comes to the hoop team. You know, the “if he recruited better players, better leaders, blah blah blah.” But you have to look at the players we currently have and realize that it’s 22 guys on the field that aren’t coming together and playing with a sense of urgency and desire on a weekly basis. And most of these guys have gone to 2 bowl games, so it’s not like they stink.

What this team is missing, in my opinion, is a leader ON THE FIELD. They need a guy who won’t let these letdowns happen. We need a senior like Jeremy Navarre to step up and get the defense going. It’s easier for a team of 18-22 year olds to listen to him, than a 60 year old coach. They need someone on offense like Turner or one of the offensive linemen to take charge and get that line blocking and protecting. Get Turner calmed down and into a flow. We know how good he can be when he’s confident, but you can see the entire team fall apart when things start to go wrong (except Clemson).

So, while Ralph deserves some blame by being head coach (and he’ll take that blame), I think it’s up to the players to get themselves going at this point. They have a good team, they have proven that. They are 4-2 with a week off to get themselves going. I’m sure they’ll be up for the Wake Forest game in two weeks and I’m sure they’ll come out and play well. I bet they win that game. It’s a big one. I guess the only good news is that there are no more “cupcakes” on the schedule for us to take lightly.

This could still be a good season if they can just find some leaders on the field to get the job done.

Fading Glory Goes Mainstream

Given the disastrous offseason, it was only a matter of time before ESPN wrote the obligatory “The Terps are falling apart” piece. And, here it is.

There is nothing new here. It’s all things that have been said over and over again on this site. The article even salted the wounds of the Terp faithful by listing out all of the Balto-DC players that have spurned the program (surprisingly, they left out Rudy Gay).

The article mentions how Gary has been skewered by the blogosphere. I guess that is a nice plug, but frankly, the loudest complaints are coming from inside the program.

Here’s what I know: the Terps are not going to be as bad as everyone fears. The young frontcourt will step up and play better. However, making the Tourney would be a huge acheivement. The fact that I wrote that last sentence in all seriousness is the reason why Gary could get fired at the end of the season.

From Tragedy to Triumph to Mediocrity: The story of Maryland Basketball

Garyland on Life Support?

This has been the hardest post I’ve ever had to write. For anyone who has read my thoughts over the past years, I have always been a Gary Williams apologist. I trusted in the coach that brought Maryland basketball back from the brink and gave us our National Championship. I loved the guy who was so good to my friends and I in the mid 90’s during the hoops resurgence. I never would have thought I would EVER say these words, but….

I think it might be time that the Terps move on with a new head basketball coach.

Now I don’t say this because I think Gary is a bad guy. He’s the best coach the school has ever had. And I do not blame Gary totally for the troubles of the past few years. He is still a great basketball coach and can teach kids to play the game and play it tough. The problem I see is that one of the most important parts of being a college coach today has passed him by.

Gary was never a great recruiter. As stated before, he has not really been one to ‘play the game’, get personally involved and kiss up to young kids, but times have changed and a shortcoming of the past has become a major Achilles heal today. Gary’s lack of recruiting has cost this program big time in the last few years. His reluctance to put the time into recruiting is a major reason for our struggles.

You can blame Jennings, Maze, Evans, Mosley, and Gilchrist for their own personal shortcomings, but it’s the fault of the program for being in the position of having to count on kids who have legal issues or grades concerns. This is Maryland. This is one of the best programs in one of the best areas of the country. This is a hotbed of basketball talent and when you can’t keep your own stars in state, you are forced to take chances on questionable kids or try and turn a mid-major caliber kid into a superstar. Gary has done that in the past, but you shouldn’t need to. There is no excuse for the amount of local talent that has gone elsewhere. Nobody wants a program with a ton of one-and-done kids, but you need to keep the talent in state. And Gary needed to ‘play the game’.

The biggest issue is that there is no end in sight to these struggles. Gary is 63. He is not going to change. He will not go out there and recruit a junior high kid, and that’s what it takes these days. You can’t expect to come in the last minute and grab a local kid just because this is Maryland. You need to put in years building a relationship with a player. If Gary refuses to do this, it’s time to find someone who will. That’s just the way it is in today’s game. It would be nice if AAU issues or a kid’s ‘handlers’ or ‘advisors’ didn’t have to be brown-nosed (or offered jobs) in order to get the kid to sign a LOI, but that’s not the way it is. If the rumors about Gilchrist are true, this kid is just listening to his ‘handler’ and not making any decisions on his own.

I never wanted to think Gary was to blame, but after one conversation with a source connected with the athletic program, I was convinced. While I cannot share the details of the stories I was told, I can tell you that it paints a very VERY bad picture of our basketball program and led me to believe that there is no coming back from this in the long run. The end is near and the question will be whether it will hit rock bottom before it’s over.

The good news is that nothing will ever be as bad as the late 80’s with the Len Bias tragedy and the NCAA sanctions. If the Terp basketball program can rise from those ashes to be National Champions, then they can easily rebound from this down swing.

Unfortunately, it will likely take a change at the top to do that.

Bob Lipper – A-Hole Extraordinaire

Soupers–

There is nothing like a tirade from an ignorant Virginian to rouse me out of hibernation. Bob Lipper, who is apparently a professional sports journalist, wrote a grimy piece of yellow journalism for the Richmond Times-Dispatch about the Tyree Evans affair.

In his “article”, he trashes Gary Williams and the program that he built at Maryland. Lipper suggests that Tyree Evans is better off now that he withdrew from Maryland. That may be true, but Lipper’s rationale is nothing but a poor attempt at character assasination.

After you’ve read the article, I encourage you to read my email to Mr Lipper (below):

Bob, how dare you write such drivel about a coach who will be in the Basketball Hall of Fame! Did you interview any of Coach Williams’ former players for this story? Wouldn’t that have been a balanced way to write an article? Couldn’t they provide insights into how Williams is as a mentor?

Williams has been at Maryland for 19 years yet somehow Maryland is a “burbling stew”? I suppose Evans would be better suited to go to UVA where the coaching carousel has not stopped turning since Terry Holland left in 1989. Sure, the Terps have missed the NCAAs a few times in recent years; but Williams runs one of the best programs in the country.

Leaving Williams’ on-court achievements aside; your article disgraces Williams’ honorable track record of taking in players with troubled backgrounds.

He took in Juan Dixon—an orphan who’s heroin-addicted parents died of AIDS. Dixon completed his senior season 6 credit hours short of graduation. He is too busy earning millions in the NBA to worry about completing his degree right now. Williams also recruited a player by the name of Johnny Rhodes. Rhodes grew up on the hard scrabble streets of Southeast DC where he got shot in a drive-by while still in high school. Johnny Rhodes graduated. Williams recruited a player by the name of DJ Strawberry– a kid whose high profile father, Darryl Strawberry, spent much of DJ’s childhood in and out of rehab. DJ left Maryland in good academic standing and is currently making millions playing for the Phoenix Suns.

Those are three examples that I came up with in about 10 minutes of research on the Internet.

Not only does Gary Williams know how to turn young basketball players into NBA-caliber talent; he also knows how to turn them into men. Your claim that Williams did not graduate a player from 1997 – 2000 is completely misleading. Many of those players actually earned degrees after the six-year period that you use as a standard. Most Maryland players turn pro after their days in College Park come to an end, either in the NBA, the NBDL, or overseas. Earning a degree often takes a back seat to earning seven-figure salaries. Did you even check to see how many players earned degrees after this arbitrary “six-year period”? Of course not.

During Gary’s tenure, every single Maryland basketball player except for one (Chris McCray) was able to maintain academic eligibility during their college career. Gary Williams is not responsible for ensuring that his players graduate. His responsibility is to make sure that they reach their senior season on track to earn a degree. No senior Terp can take the floor unless they have completed enough credit hours to be a senior in academic standing. If they fail to graduate that is not Gary Williams’ fault or responsibility.

Just because you dislike the University of Maryland (perhaps because we consistently beat up on Virginia schools); it doesn’t give you the right to pen this libelous garbage. For shame!

Gary is not perfect. We all know this. But, running his name through the gutter because you have an axe to grind is disgraceful. I encourage you all to let Mr. Lipper know how you feel about his opinions.

He can be reached at (804) 649-6555 or blipper@timesdispatch.com.

Why Maryland Should Be Kicking Itself….Or

….how I put the chemistry problems of twelve 18-22 year old boys and their coach into perspective.

Before I get to the question I posed in the title of the post; I am going to attempt to explain Maryland’s season through a complicated metaphor. That’s right. I’m going to compare the University of Maryland’s Men’s Basketball team to, of all things, the US Economy.

Still here? That last sentence didn’t scare you off? Well then, here goes.

The entire banking sector of the economy is behaving like Maryland did in the last 10 minutes of the Clemson game: panicked.

These banks have worked together for years. They have borrowed money from each other and bought securities from each other. All of a sudden, there is no trust. Instead of extending Bear Stearns a lifeline of credit, the banks hovered like vultures waiting for them to collapse. Everyone is out for themselves. Sound familiar?

That’s how I think the last seven Terp games played out. Instead of working with Greivis to run the offense, everyone seemingly forgot their roles. Out of sync and turnover prone, the Terps slowly disintegrated until there was nothing left but Greivis running around haphazardly forcing passes and chucking up bad shots because no one else was doing anything.

So it is with the current financial crisis. Mortgage securities caught the cold, but none of the other credit markets stepped up to bring stability. James Gist disappears, no one fills the void.

An investment banking pillar, Bear Stearns, is now toast after a distinguished 85-year history. Similarly, Maryland is in disarray. A school with an elite pedigree and a team comprised of proven winners who are now, if I can continue the metaphor, a bunch of soon-to-be-laid-off losers.

Now the Fed has attempted to give a couple of “slaps in the face” to the financial markets in hopes that they would come to their senses. Lord knows what measures Gary Williams has taken to prove to these kids that they are good and they should trust themselves and each other.

Which brings me back to the title of this post. Why should the Terps be kicking themselves? Let’s start with a look at some key team statistics I uncovered; or put another way, the Most Frustrating Team Statistics in the History of Maryland Basketball.

In ACC play, Maryland finished tied for first in FG% (47.5%) and also finished first in FG% defense (41.6%).

Read that a couple of times. If you don’t believe me, the proof is here (just sort by the FG% in the first chart). When you shoot the ball well and defend well, you should win. Period. End of story. Have you ever heard of such a thing for a team that finished SIXTH in the conference?

Adding insult to injury, the Terps finished first in the conference in assists and second in blocks. Can an entire fan base simultaneously and spontaneously combust out of frustration?

Of course, we know the counterbalance to these gaudy stats: turnovers and rebounding. Now we are getting somewhere. Limiting TOs and hitting the glass are the pillars of effort and focus on a basketball court. The best rebounders are not necessarily gifted athletes. They are just the hungriest. The teams that protect the basketball best, are not the best dribblers. They are just the most focused.

Why did this team lose its focus and stop trying? We’ll never know, but methinks it comes down to chemistry. This team just didn’t click. It’s impossible to outline all of the ways this team had bad chemistry, but I will point out two of the most obvious.

  • The Greivis – Hayes situation caused more of a problem than I think any of us realized. Two point guards on the floor at the same time proved disastrous.
  • Our quietest player was our senior leader (Gist) and our most outspoken player was a sophomore. How many problems did this cause that we don’t know about?

I’m sure there are more and I will leave that up to the ensuing discussion, but after looking back at the wreckage of this season, it is hard not to think about how good this team could have been.

In what I think will prove to be the most important offseason since 2001, Gary Williams and the boys will need to figure out how to live up to the potential that is brewing inside the numbers. There is a great team in there somewhere. I know it.

This Team is a Disgrace

I’m embarassed for the University. As it turned out, the beginning of the season was not the low point that we thought it was. Tonight is. This team has pouted it’s way through the last 3 weeks of this season, and frankly, I’m disgusted. How do 12 guys fall apart like this?

There is no simple explanation, but their play is so disorganized. They completely lost faith in each other. Vasquez played as if he was in a bubble. He couldn’t complete a pass to a teammate. I think all of the losses just wore him down. He didn’t trust anyone but James Gist. The problem with that is that Gist just disappears in games. If things don’t improve, Vasquez could turn into the second coming of John Gilchrist. A brooding, me-first point guard who doesn’t trust his teammates.

Eric Hayes is gone. He played as if he already processed his transfer papers. Good riddance.

The season is now over. Gary should do the right thing and turn down the NIT bid. Unfortunately, the NCAA will probably hold a grudge against him if he does, so we will play in the postseason. If you want the surest thing in the history of sports gambling, bet the money line against Maryland in first roundof the NIT. This team wants the season to end.

I’ve said it once, and I am going to call for it again. Gary Williams owes fans and alumni an explanation. His program is a mess. Sure there are other programs that have fallen on hard times (see Syracuse), but this team was headed for the Tournament and fell apart. The same could be said for the other two NIT teams. The talent is there and they just cannot play as a team.

Gary’s ridiculous statement that no program has accomplished as much as Maryland this decade is instructive. Sure we have a national championship and an ACC Title, but the last four years are a disaster. Stop the spin, Gary!

I’m sick of it. I’m also sick of seeing talented players play like s—t together. I want to say Gary should be on the hotseat, but I can’t. He isn’t and he won’t be no matter what happens. There is no one around to replace him. No one waiting in the wings.

He doesn’t get a free pass though. Whatever he is doing is not working. It hasn’t worked for a few years now. He needs to adjust and adapt and I just don’t know if he is capable at this stage in his career.

I am so damn depressed. Who improved this year? Vazquez led the team in scoring and the conference in assists; but he also led the conference in turnovers. If there was any marked improvement by any of the non-freshman, please let me know. And don’t tell me that Milbourne improved. He is really no better than he was against North Florida University. Did you see his defense tonight? And those fouls! Sheesh.

I’m keeping the site live through the offseason and into the football season. There is still lots to talk about in terms of recruiting and there is sure to be fallout after the Winter debacle of 2008. Stay with me Soupers.

This Just In: Terps Stink. Season All But Over

…and scene. Maryland’s basketball season more or less ended at 9:30 ET this evening.

Here are some postscripts for the recently departed:

Thanks for coming James Gist. I really appreciated your off again, on again performances of the last four years. I’ve learned from watching you that being a supremely gifted athlete is not enough. Not even close.

I would like to ask Eric Hayes if he could enroll in some summer classes. Perhaps take on a couple extra credits next semester too? The sooner you graduate, the better. You have no ability to play defense and your best assets, ballhandling and shooting, has been nonexistent for 10 games or so.

Greivis Vasquez: you have talent, but you are no where near as good as you think you are. Instead of trying to win the game by yourself, you would be better served to run the offense and try to get your teammates (who have choked epically in the last 5 games by the way) open and easy looks.

Landon Milbourne: has your nutsack decended yet? Your nervousness and fear of losing the past two weeks has been palpable.

Boom Osby: I’d admire your heart and determination, but you are limited offensively. You know it. I know it. Everyone knows it. If I could stick your heart in Gist’s body, then we’d have a player. You are the Rudy on this team. You will be missed.

The freshman: some of you are beginning to show me something. It’s too late for this year, but who among you can be a crunch time guy? Can any of you get a good shot when the chips are down? More importantly, can any of you make that shot with consistency?

Gary Williams: what on Earth happened this year? This team lost an inordinate amount of games than it should not have. The most glaring examples include: American, Ohio, Va Tech, Boston College, Va Tech again, Clemson, and UVA. That is seven losses and I am not even counting losses to also-ran Missouri and NIT bound VCU.

Every team loses games that it shouldn’t but 9 losses like this in one season is alarming. This never used to happen. Is it the players? Has your offense become too predictable? During this offseason, you will need to answer these questions. The alumni and fans are deeply concerned that the long-awaited National Championship has now been followed by 3 NITs in 5 years. We don’t expect a championship each season, but to be left out of relevancy so soon to a title is not tolerable.

No one is calling for your head, Gary. However, we deserve an explanation. How do you explain the last 5 years of mediocrity? We need to hear from you. You owe Terp Nation that.

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