The claim by NC State athletic director Debbie Yow on Tuesday that Maryland head basketball coach Gary Williams sabotaged her head coaching search appeared completely out of left field to many. For others, it was business as usual between the two.
When Yow arrived in College Park in August of 1994, there was every reason to believe she would be Williams’ biggest ally in the athletic department. She was a former basketball head coach herself and had been praised as the AD of Saint Louis for raising money for the athletic department.
But it didn’t take long to realize Williams and Yow weren’t going to get along. Williams had just led his alma mater to the Sweet Sixteen and turned the program around after NCAA sanctions. His reward? Feeling like he was low-balled by a contract extension from Yow just months after she started the job.
Yow made matters worse when she publicly exclaimed during negotiations, “Financially, we’re worlds apart.”
Williams eventually signed the deal and things were swept under the rug – at last publicly – with the amazing success the basketball program had. The Terps went to three more Sweet Sixteens in the 1990s and broke through to the Final Four in 2001. Then Maryland won the national title in 2002 and both Yow and Williams appeared on top of the world.
Williams received a seven-year extension with $1.3 million guaranteed per season and Yow was being applauded for turning around the athletic department’s bottom line, winning a national title in basketball, going to the 2002 Orange Bowl in football, expanding women’s sports and getting new facilities on campus like the sparkling Comcast Center that opened that fall.
But after reaching the Sweet Sixteen in 2003, the program hasn’t been back since and Williams has missed out on huge local recruits such as Carmelo Anthony, Rudy Gay, Kevin Durant and Michael Beasley – to name a few. While critics bemoaned the talent drain, Williams took pride in refusing to partake in questionable recruiting tactics. Connecticut’s Jim Calhoun scheduled a game against Gay’s AAU for $22,000 team and Bob Huggins hired Beasley’s AAU coach, Dalonte Hill, to his staff at Kansas State.
But during the 2007-08 season in which the Terps landed in the NIT, Williams took a chance on two recruits – Gus Gilchrist and Tyree Evans. Gilchrist transferred to Maryland from Virginia Tech and wanted his personal trainer put on Williams’ staff (that never happened). Evans had a history of academic and legal troubles. Neither played a game for the Terrapins and when asked about both departing, Williams replied at the beginning of 2009: “It wasn’t my fault that they’re not here. That was somebody else’s call.”
The implication was that Yow forced Williams to drop both players because of their baggage. Some viewed it as justified and claimed Williams was selling his soul to win. Others viewed it as a slap in the face to a coach that always prided himself on running a clean program. A war of words broke out between Williams and assistant AD Kathy Worthington about what actually happened with Gilchrist and Evans.
Then came a report that Williams’ assistants were the lowest paid in the ACC among public universities and less than the Maryland women’s staff. When he asked for a raise for his staff, Williams was denied until a public outcry finally led to change. And just adding fuel to the fire, there were reports Yow was attempting to buy out Williams’ contract.
Was it because the program had declined or was it just a personal vendetta?
Everyone in the Maryland athletic department took sides between the two and Washington Post columnist Mike Wise compared Williams and Yow to a separated couple that lived in opposite wings of a house.
It mercifully came to an end when Yow accepted the athletic director position at NC State in June of 2010. But just when it appeared the feud was finally behind them, Yow accused Williams of “sabotaging” the NC State coaching search on Tuesday, essentially passing the blame onto Williams that NC State wasn’t able to land a better candidate since Wolfpack fans were incensed over the hiring of former Alabama coach Mark Gottfried. The implication was that Yow’s primary candidates – namely VCU’s Shaka Smart – turned down the position because Williams bad-mouthed Yow behind her back (something Williams vehemently denies).
Not only are sports fans now taking sides – even journalists are picking Team Gary or Team Debbie. CBS Sports columnist Gregg Doyel took to the air waves to rip Williams and call him a coward while Washington Post columnist John Feinstein replied by saying Yow’s ego couldn’t fit inside the Comcast Center.
If Williams and Yow were like a separated couple at Maryland, they’re now like a couple going through nasty divorce legal battle with no end in sight.