Gary Williams knows what it’s like to win a national championship. The Big Ten Network analyst led Maryland to a title in 2002, and he hasn’t forgotten what that felt like.
“There’s no other feeling when you’re a college coach,” Williams said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “I looked at Mike Krzyzewski last night, and the feeling that he showed, it looked like that was the first time he won. And I think that’s the great thing about the tournament. Every year – especially nowadays with the way the players leave early – your team’s different a lot of the time. You’re really into it with that particular team and I think that showed last night for Duke.”
On the flipside, there’s probably no worse feeling than losing in the national championship. That was apparent Monday night, as Bo Ryan came off as, well, less than gracious after the loss.
“He was obviously not happy with the officiating,” Williams said. “The problem is, they make you go so quick after the game’s over. The losing team has to go first because the winning team has things they have to do out on the court. I think if Bo had another 10 or 15 minutes just to get through that game, I don’t know his comments would have been the same – because I know Bo Ryan a little bit, and he’s one of the good guys in the game. There’s no doubt about it.
“When you play Duke, there is a little anxiety in terms of the officials,” Williams continued. “We played them 48 times during the time I was coaching, and (there was) probably a little anxiety on my (part). But it’s one of those things you have to play through. You have to go the way the referees allow you to play, and I thought Duke did a good job of that, of being very physical, especially when they got behind. They were able to make some stops, and I think Wisconsin was shook a little bit by the intensity of Duke’s defense.”
Williams, who coached at Maryland from 1989 to 2011, knows exactly what that’s like.
“When you play in Cameron Indoor Stadium, the referees really have a tough time in there because they can’t get angles on the court because the stands are so close,” Williams said. “They don’t have their usual position where they’re making calls. So you go into that. Plus, the tradition – all those things come into play when you go play Duke. But believe me, if you look at their team last night – if you look at the teams we played over the years – they were really good basketball teams. In other words, you couldn’t say that the referees were the reason you lost when you lost. Most of the time, they were good enough to beat you – and that’s what takes place.”
Ryan was also critical of the one-and-done philosophy – or “rent-a-player,” as he called it – that Krzyzewski and John Calipari have implemented in their respective programs.
“Well, it’s where college basketball is right now,” Williams said. “There’s two ways to do it: The Kentucky way . . . or the Bo Ryan (way). As a coach, you enjoy that second way much better because you take a lot of pride in your ability to teach basketball . . . and get those guys where they can play on the national level.”
Ryan did that the last two seasons, leading the Badgers to back-to-back Final Fours. Unfortunately for them, they lost to a freshman-heavy Kentucky squad in 2014 and a freshman-heavy Duke squad in 2015.
“There’s ways to get it done, but there’s no guarantee,” Williams said. “All those guys leave. It’s the way it is now. Guys see the money, and I don’t blame them. If the money’s available, you have to chase that sometimes – and no one knows each family’s situation. I had guys leave early, I had guys stay for four years. You really looked at what their financial situation is when they came to talk to you about whether they should leave or not.”
Williams was also asked whether John Calipari should be in the Naismith Hall of Fame, especially given his checkered past. Calipari has had two Final Fours vacated.
“Because he gets so many of the McDonald’s All-Americans, there is a tendency to look at that and go, ‘Man, how come all those guys go to that school?’” Williams said. “But at the same time, he wins. Coaching at the level he’s at, you’re supposed to win, and he’s figured out a way to win.”
Yes, but does he deserve to be in the Hall?
“Well, that’s not my call,” said Williams, a Hall of Famer. “I think in terms of what he’s accomplished in terms of wins, sure. That’s where I’ll kind of leave that, just on a personal basis.”