Another day in my new life in DC, another big sports event here I won't be attending in person. This time it is tonight's Gary Williams court dedication at Maryland.
Like all my rooting interests, I have a complicated relationship with Maryland. I grew up a huge Maryland basketball fan -- Len Bias was and will always be my favorite player ever. I was 13 when he died. The next few years were spent in the purgatory of Bob Wade, then the NCAA sanctions. Then Gary Williams arrived -- I was 16.
By the time I was mostly through college, Williams had resuscitated the program, mining Baltimore for top prospects willing to bring Maryland back to glory: Booth. Rhodes. Simpkins. The unexpectedly sublime game of Joe Smith. The foundation of what would come a half-dozen years later, when Maryland would push Duke to its limits in 2001, the Terps forging themselves into the team that would, in 2002, win the school's first and only national title. It was Gary Williams' finest achievement -- it was Maryland's finest sports moment.
From there, it was a slow descent over a decade to the sorry state of the program now -- certainly better than when Williams found it in the late-80s. But nowhere near where it was during the peak of his effort -- the mid-90s through that championship season.
Maryland basketball maintains a special place for me -- as does Gary Williams, for delivering that championship I don't think any fans ever thought would come. For a really good retrospective of Williams, check out this from just after he retired, by the Baltimore Sun's supremely talented columnist, Kevin Van Valkenburg.