After back to back embarrassing losses to Miami and UVA, the Maryland Terrapins are destined for their fourth NIT in seven years. And no, John Gilchrist is not suiting up for the ACC tournament, so don’t have any expectations of an improbable run. It’s been nine years since the Terps reached the mountaintop of College Hoops. Since then, they’ve only made it to the Sweet Sixteen once. (2003) It pains me to have to bring up an issue I never wanted to raise: Can Gary get it done anymore? Sure, he’s only one year removed from being ACC Coach of the Year in 2010, but the team failed to make it past the 2nd round of the dance. For a program with as much potential as the University of Maryland, there is no excuse for such mediocrity. Every Maryland fan wants Gary to able to leave on his own terms and believe he has earned a “coach for life” status, but with each passing NIT season, it is getting harder to stick to this.
So, what is the main issue? The obvious answer is recruiting. Gary is one of the most respected in-game coaches and teachers in the country. There are few better in this regard. It’s been widely known for a long time that Gary does not get into the recruiting fray as much as other head coaches, and often leaves such responsibilities to his assistants. In the past, with assistants like Billy Hahn, Dave Dickerson, and Jimmy Patsos, he was able to get sleepers like Juan Dixon, Lonny Baxter, and Drew Nicholas. However, the recruiting game has shifted drastically since the late ’90s and Gary has refused to adapt. These days, the AAU basketball influence on recruiting is enormous. It’s not just about convincing the player and his parents anymore. It’s also about developing relationships with AAU coaches across the country. It’s a dirty game, and to Gary’s credit, he stays away from the shady recruiting practices. Yet, no one is asking Gary to go to the levels of Calipari or Calhoun. It is well known that Gary rarely even goes to watch recruits play and instead sends his assistants. This while other coaches in the ACC like Roy Williams and Seth Greenberg have been know to fly across country in-season to see recruits play.
While it’s great that Gary doesn’t want to go to the dark side of College Recruiting, there is no excuse for not attending games. The assistant coaches can bust their tails all they want, but if the head coach doesn’t give the effort, it’s gonna be hard to bring in the necessary talent. Put yourself in a recruit’s shoes. Say you’re a top senior and during your game you look in the stands. You see John Thompson III, Roy Williams, and Maryland assistant Rob Ehsan. Do you think that recruit is going to go home pumped that assistant coach Ehsan came to watch him play? I’m sick of Gary getting a pass for this lack of effort. A Head Coach should be evaluated in all aspects of his job. And recruiting is a HUGE aspect that he has ignored. All his gameday coaching ability isn’t going to be able to overcome a lack of on talent on the court. The frustrating thing about it is that Gary actually has a decent eye for talent. Neither Jordan Williams nor Terrell Stoglin were highly regarded recruits. Yet recently, for every sleeper he finds, he fills the rest of his classes with projects who don’t pan out. The DC/Baltimore region is one of the top areas in the country in terms of basketball talent. The program deserves someone who isn’t going to let that talent leave the area. And for anyone who still has faith in Gary’s recruiting, here are the graduating classes of 2011 and 2012. Cliff Tucker, Adrian Bowie, Braxton Dupree, Dino Gregory, Steve Goins, Sean Mosley, and Jin Soo Choi. Only one of those (Dino Gregory) would not be considered a huge disappointment.
Enough with Gary, let’s take a look at the future. As bad as this season has been, there is at least a little bit of hope for the future. Jordan Williams and Terrell Stoglin are All-ACC level players. Two players that you can build around. With Nick Faust, Sterling Gibbs, and Martin Breunig coming in, it looks like help could be on the way. And it is looking likely that Justin Anderson (class of 2012) is going to commit soon. Anderson and Breunig would bring top level size and athleticism, something that has been sorely missed. Add in a potential transfer in Wally Judge from Kansas State and you have a huge increase in talent level. Hopefully, these are the players that will allow Gary one last run towards a Final Four.
Now back to the present. With an NIT on the horizon, the patience of the fanbase is being tested. How much more mediocrity can we take? How many more sub-par seasons can Gary survive? It will be a long off-season.