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Archive for Saturday, March 30, 2002

March 30, 2002

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— Look in the dictionary next to the word "intense" and you might find a picture of University of Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams.

If you think Kansas coach Roy Williams is intense, then get a load of the Terrapins' head coach in tonight's NCAA Final Four semifinal.

One writer covering the tournament described Williams' sideline performances as a semi-psycho act.

"You say he has a psycho act?" Maryland senior forward Lonny Baxter said rhetorically. "That's not an act. That's how he coaches."

Well, that's not the only way Williams coaches. The 52-year-old Maryland grad is like many other members of his fraternity  Purdue's Gene Keady comes to mind  whose bark is worse than his bite.

"A lot of you people just see what he does on the sidelines, acting crazy," said Juan Dixon, a 6-foot-3 senior guard who leads the 30-4 Terps in scoring (20.1 ppg). "That's his coaching style. He's an intense guy. He's a motivator."

And, according to Dixon, his coach makes comedian Dennis Miller look like a funeral director.

"Behind closed doors," Dixon said, "he's fun. He's always cracking jokes. He always has a comeback. We crack one on him, he comes back in a second. We're trying to persuade him he needs to get his own stand-up."

However, during Friday's media session at the Georgia Dome, Williams seldom showed his non-serious side. Only once did he show an example of his humor.

Told that KU coach Williams would like to win the national championship "as much as I want to breathe," the Terps' head coach smiled and quipped: "Personally, I'd rather breathe. And keep breathing."

Then Gary Williams slipped back into his serious mode.

"But, no, I know what Roy means," he said. "You know I want to win the national championship badly also. But it's one of those things where if you don't win it  I can handle that."

Still, last year was tough to handle. Very tough. It took 23 years for Williams to reach the Final Four, and his team swallowed the pipe when it met fellow Atlantic Coast Conference member Duke in the semifinals in Minneapolis.

Maryland bolted to a 39-17 lead after 13 minutes  and lost. Duke rallied and won going away, 95-84.

"That game, you know, it just stays with you," Williams said. "You can't get rid of it. You have to live with it. Hopefully, that makes you better for going through that situation."

Maryland's players can't forget their swoon against the eventual national champions, either.

"We lost a 22-point lead. I think we learned a lot from that game," Dixon said. "I think this year we learned to win games like that. We learned how to put teams away and we learned how to win close games. I think we grew a lot since last year."

Added Baxter: "I don't think I'm still over that game. That's why we were determined to get back to this point this year."

At this point  the same point where they faltered against Duke  stands Kansas, a team the Terrapins have seen only on television or on tape. What they saw is hardly revolutionary.

"We need to stop them in transition," reserve guard Drew Nicholas said. "Every team that's given Kansas trouble or has beaten Kansas really took them out of transition, especially Oklahoma."

Williams, however, doesn't want his players concentrating so much on stopping Kansas that they forget the ingredients that produced back-to-back Final Four appearances.

"You don't want to change the way you play," UM's coach said. "For us to be good, we have to put our best game out on the court, and hopefully that's what we'll do on Saturday."

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