Since Maryland won the NCAA Tournament in 2002, it's been a rough several years for the Terrapins basketball program. There was the whole John Gilchrist saga and his deteriorated relationship with Gary Williams, there was Chris McCray's academic problems that ended up with him failing out of school and there's been a lot of mediocrity and all too frequent trips to the N.I.T.
It's not been a huge secret that Gary Williams and Athletic Director Debbie Yow haven't seen eye to eye on a number of issues, but it really has come to a head this spring.
The Maryland roster isn't stocked with talent at the moment, largely because Gary Williams isn't the type to cater to high school prima donnas. As such, he has had a couple of very thin recruiting classes in a row.
In a somewhat desperate attempt to inject some talent into the roster and help avoid yet another N.I.T season, Williams tried dipping into the JUCO ranks this spring for a guard. The first candidate was former Oklahoma PG Bobby Maze, who was not qualified to enroll at Maryland at the time and was working through summer school.
Williams was in a bind though, he couldn't risk getting to the end of the summer and having Maze fail to qualify, and he only had one scholarship available - meaning he couldn't keep a spot promised to Maze while still trying to find an alternate plan. Williams thus moved on from Maze to Tyree Evans, another JUCO player -- but one with a very questionable past. Evans was at a JUCO in the first place because he had pled guilty to assault and battery in a statutory rape case at the end of his prep school career and he followed that up with a marijuana possession conviction in a case where he was arrested on charges of intent to distribute near school property. At age 23 and wrapping up his second year with his second different JUCO, there's no questions about his talent, but this is a guy that has blown plenty of chances.
When the news about Evans' impending arrival in College Park first became public a few weeks ago, there was some understandable backlash and further digging into his past trangressions. Debbie Yow made a statement that she was aware of some of his problems but unaware of his incarceration, and that his admittance into school would be delayed while there was a review by the Office of Student Conduct. Today it was announced that Evans won't be going to Maryland, and Bobby Maze has already signed with Tennessee after Maryland stopped recruiting him. It now looks like Williams will get no experienced backcourt help for next year, and the Terrapins are staring another N.I.T season (or worse) straight in the face.
There's so many things wrong with this entire situation that it's almost impossible to figure out where to even start. To begin with, Maryland never should be in a situation where they are so desperate for talent that they are forced to dip into the JUCO ranks or face a depleted roster. Gary Williams has done a very poor job recruiting in recent years and doesn't seem to have his heart in it, never capitalizing on the back to back Final Four runs in the early part of this decade. That being said, it's also very evident that Williams' and Yow's working relationship has crumbled to the point of being basically non-existent. There is no way that Williams would have passed on the risk of Bobby Maze not qualifying for the troubled Tyree Evans unless he knew for sure that there would be no problems getting Evans into school. This means he either lied to Yow and didn't disclose all the details of Evans' past, or Yow knew all the details and decided to back out of the deal once there was some heat in the press and left Williams with a huge hole in his roster.
When your two explanations are that your head basketball coach lied to your athletic director and stuck her with damage control in public or that your athletic director threw your coach under the bus to protect her image once there was some negative news coverage, you have a serious problem. Gary Williams is a Maryland alumni and led them to the school's first National Championship, he's an institution in College Park and he can probably coach there as long as he wants to. Debbie Yow is regarded as an excellent athletic director. Sooner than later though, one of them is going to have to move on from Maryland or the basketball program is going to continue to be mired in mediocrity. You simply cannot have your AD and your highest profile coach clearly not only not working together but not even keeping each other informed.