Genius Is 99 Percent Perspiration: Is Williams sweating it out on the recruiting trail?

A reader sent in a blurry photo of a crowd at a small gym.

He said the shot was taken at the DeMatha Catholic High School, during a recent hoops game the Stags played against Good Counsel. He claims that the grainy guy in the grainy red jacket is Gary Williams.

Yeah, right.

Gary Williams? At a high school game? The Maryland coach? That Gary Williams? Recruiting? In Hyattsville?

Sure it is.

And, hey! Isn’t that Bigfoot just behind him? And which one’s Elvis?

Sure, Williams goes out. But the public sightings are on the golf course or in a bar. Everybody knows Gary Williams doesn’t go to high school games.

And this guy claims the shot was taken in P.G. County? Oh, please.

Any Terps fan knows that’s where Georgetown and the rest of the country get players!

Not Gary Williams. Not Maryland.

That’s not just man-bites-dog rare. That’s Phelps-hits-bong.

That’s news.

Sadly for Williams, he’s been in the news a lot lately.

Even with Sunday’s squeaker win at Georgia Tech, Maryland is a few weeks away from once again missing the NCAA tournament. That would be the fourth time in five years that the Terps weren’t a part of the only part of the college basketball season that matters anymore.

Williams’ bio is gold. He’s got 620 wins, sixth-most of all active Division I coaches, and—oh, right—a national title in 2002.

But over the last several seasons, the Terps have gone from the best team in the country to an also-ran in their own market. Maryland lost to American last year, and Georgetown and Morgan State this year.

Morgan State?

After 20 years, whatever goodwill Williams built up with Maryland administrators and fans is lost.

To twist that old Bear Bryant phrase, Williams can’t take his’n and beat your’n any more. When the Terps lost to Morgan, it looked like his’n wasn’t any more talented than theirs’n.

And while Georgetown was blowing out the Terps early in the season, ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla told the TV audience that Williams “doesn’t like to recruit.”

That’s the same sentiment that Terps fans have been posting on Internet message boards for years now.

But Fraschilla’s words carried a little more weight: He was an assistant coach under Williams for three years at Ohio State.

To have an insider spill such beans during a loss to hated Georgetown—a game that proved the Terps didn’t have a single player, not even team leader Greivis Vasquez, who could start for the Hoyas—hurt all the more.

The Hoyas for the last several years have been feasting on local talent. Look at the current and recent and future stars Georgetown has gotten from Prince George’s County alone: Jeff Green is from Hyattsville. Roy Hibbert grew up in Adelphi. Austin Freeman is from Mitchellville. Chris Wright is from Bowie. Recruit Markel Starks, a blue-chip junior guard from Georgetown Prep, plays AAU ball for the D.C. Blue Devils, a team based in the county.

The rest of the country has dipped into P.G.’s talent pool, also. The last two NCAA players of the year, Kevin Durant and Michael Beasley, were county products. Ty Lawson from North Carolina and Duke’s Nolan Smith are, too. Sam Young, an all-Big East forward from Pitt, is from Clinton, Md.

The campus of DeMatha, which over the years has the strongest prep basketball program in the country, is 2.8 miles away from the Comcast Center, where Williams’ team plays.

There is only one D-1 basketball program in P.G. County: Maryland’s.

Historically, a lot of Maryland’s biggest stars were local products. Len Bias, the greatest player the Terps ever had, is from Hyattsville. The county also contributed Adrian Branch, Steve Francis, and Lonny Baxter.

But Williams doesn’t get those kids anymore. He hasn’t had an impact player from around here since Baxter.

Why? He’s lost the top recruiters from his staff in recent years: Jimmy Patsos left for the head coaching job at Loyola (Baltimore) in 2004 after 13 years with Williams. In 2005, nine-year Williams assistant Dave Dickerson took over the Tulane program.

And he hasn’t picked up the slack personally. Maybe, like Fraschilla said, he just doesn’t like to recruit.

The boom in talent that has taken place in his own backyard might actually work against Williams.

Basketball recruiters now flock to P.G. County looking to sign kids the way record labels used to give every band from Seattle a contract after Nirvana broke out.

Folks familiar with Williams say he can’t stand dealing with families, AAU coaches, and assorted hangers-on who jump in during the recruiting process.

You can’t blame him. The local feeding frenzy has led to bizarre behavior by NCAA schools.

The bizarrest: Kansas State landed Michael Beasley only after the school hired Beasley’s former AAU coach, Dalonte Hill, as an assistant coach and gave him a five-year contract worth more than $2 million.

The Web site rivals.com studied the salaries of public universities with major basketball programs last year and released figures showing that Hill was the highest-paid assistant in the country, making nearly twice as much as the second. Hill’s salary was more than the combined salaries of entire staffs of assistants at some Top 15 programs.

And that’s the gimmickry we know about.

But fans would rather root for a winning rule-bender than any sort of loser, righteous or otherwise. They know that Williams makes $1.6 million a year from the school for coaching and assorted basketball-related duties, and none of those duties are more important than recruiting.

When DeMatha star Josh Selby chose Tennessee over Maryland in September, a poster on washingtonpost.com’s basketball recruiting forum commented that Williams had “once again” suffered “a crushing defeat on the recruiting trail.”

“Gary Williams has a nice golf game,” the commenter closed with.

That’s the sort of criticism that would cause some guys to leave their offices and drive 2.8 miles to sit in the grandstands of a DeMatha game.

Williams did not respond to a late request for comment. Doug Dull, spokesperson for the basketball program, says the coach was “out recruiting.”

So maybe that is Williams in the photo.

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