As the Final Four of 2012 is upon us, it brings back memories of 10 years ago when Gary Williams and his Maryland Terrapins ruled the world of men’s college basketball.
I’ve been a Maryland basketball fan since the mid-70’s. For years I watched team after team fall short of Final Four glory.
Lefty Driesell had some powerhouse squads during his tenure as Terps coach. They did manage to make the Elite Eight twice. But Providence in 1973 and Louisville in 1975 stopped them short of their goal.
Lefty’s best team–the 1974 group–didn’t even make the NCAA Tournament.
After the tragic death of star Len Bias and the brief Bob Wade era, Maryland hoops hit rock bottom.
In 1989, however, Williams was brought back home to make things right and restore the program to it’s prior status.
He did that and more.
Oh, Garyland had their share of heartbreak too. The Joe Smith-led teams of ’94 and ’95 reached the Sweet 16. As did the 1998 club. But their run stopped there.
Gary’s most talented team, in my opinion, the 1999 Steve Francis-led crew, also made the round of 16. But that season ended in disappointment as they were embarrassed by St. John’s.
As a fan, I didn’t think they would ever break through and make it to the Final Four.
In 2001, that all changed as the Terps–a #4 seed–won the West Regional and made it to the National Semi-Finals for the first time in school history. But more despair followed as Maryland blew a 22-point lead and were stunned by Duke.
The Terps were on a mission for the 2001-02 season and rolled to a 15-1 record in the ACC and were tabbed as the top seed in the East. They earned a return trip to the Final Four with a thrilling win over UConn in the East Regional Finals.
After beating Kansas, all that stood between Maryland and a National Title was underdog Indiana. After some tense moments, the Terps and Juan Dixon imposed their will and finally captured the elusive championship.
Next to the Orioles winning the 1983 World Series, Maryland winning it all is my most satisfying sports memory.
A lot changed for the Terps since that great season. Williams has retired and was replaced by Mark Turgeon. They play their home games at the Comcast Center and not Cole Field House.
Since 2002, they have only made the NCAA Tournament five times and have not reached the Sweet 16 since 2003.
But they hired the right guy to replace Gary Williams in Turgeon.
A return to glory for Maryland is not unrealistic and , quite frankly, is expected.
That’s in the future.
It’s time to celebrate their past.
When 10 years ago they were the kings of the court.