College basketball's coaching carousel had just about come to a halt this spring when a bombshell announcement from Maryland set it in motion once more.
Gary Williams, who led the Terps to their lone national championship in 2002, announced his retirement Thursday after 22 seasons in College Park, saying he felt it was the "right time" to move on to the next chapter of his life. The 66-year-old led his alma mater to 14 NCAA tournament appearances, three ACC titles and two Final Fours since revitalizing a Maryland program that floundered under the weight of NCAA violations before he arrived.
"My entire career has been an unbelievable blessing. I am fiercely proud of the program we have built here," Williams said. "I couldn't have asked any more from my players, my assistant coaches, the great Maryland fans and this great university. Together, we did something very special here."
Even though Maryland missed the NCAA tournament this past season and Williams had drawn criticism for subpar recruiting in recent years, the timing of his announcement is a huge surprise. He appeared to be enjoying his working relationship with new Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson after years battling both publicly and behind the scenes with Anderson's predecessor, Debbie Yow.
Williams waited until two months after Maryland's season ended so that he didn't make a snap decision, but he still felt as though he was ready to give up the day-to-day coaching grind. He took one final parting shot at Yow on his way out the door, telling the Washington Post's John Feinstein that working with her probably took a few years off his career.
"After Yow left, I thought I might enjoy it more this year and I really did like working with Kevin Anderson," Williams told the Post. "He's a straight shooter. But I think I'd been worn down by the previous 15 years [with Yow]. It grinds on you."
It's too soon to know for sure who will replace Williams, but this is an attractive enough job to entice some big names. The combination of the Washington, D.C. area's formidable talent base and Maryland's winning pedigree and strong fan support could be enough to make coaches like Notre Dame's Mike Brey or even Villanova's Jay Wright pay attention if contacted.
Whoever Maryland gets, they'll be stepping into the shoes of the most successful coach in program history, a man whose name will probably be on the Comcast Center court one day soon.
"Gary Williams is a legend," Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson said. "His accomplishments on the court have earned him a place among the elite in college basketball history. But Gary's legacy here at Maryland goes far beyond basketball. From his philanthropic efforts to his tireless work with fans and alumni to his impact with our students, Gary has left an indelible mark of excellence on this university."