What do you feel is realistic this year?
We are funny this year. With the young players we have in the program this year, if we can keep them together, we are going to be a very good basketball team. But, this one particular year because we've had so many juniors and seniors the last couple of years, here we are, we're young. It's different this year. But, in college basketball, this happens once in a while now. A [Chris] Wilcox should be a senior this year for us. When he was recruited, he wasn't one of those guys that you thought would only stay one year and he's going to go. They were right because he stayed two years but he didn't get to the point as a player that you thought the NBA would go crazy over him. But his potential go to the point, I guess, that they thought he was that good.
How has coaching the veteran crew you had the last couple of years changed the way you coach and how will it be different?
Well, for those guys, you had to give them their head. In other words, they knew how to play. They were a very good half court team. Before the last three or four years, most of my really good teams were full court teams that could really press and get up and down and were very athletic. These guys the last couple years, were great shooting teams. In other words, we always had three or four guys out on the court that could put the ball in the basket. This year, you lose a [Drew] Nicholas and [Juan] Dixon in back to back years, you lose some great shootings. It's hard to say well you shot really well in high school so you are, even as a sophomore, be a great college shooter. It doesn't work that way a lot of times. Hopefully we can find ways to score by being creative, getting to the free throw line, transition, steals and things like that. We might have to press more this year than we have been pressing.
When you won the title, so much was written before and after, it was almost like you went through some major metamorphosis and all.
It wasn't true. I just had a different team. I was with those guys for four years. Baxter, Dixon and Mouton because he sat out a year, he was there. It's a different relationship when guys are 22 or 23 years old than when they are 17 and 18. It was funny. My grandson was born around that time and they were saying ‘well you've really calmed down now because you are a grandfather.' I don't think so. Maybe? I don't know.
Has anything changed?
You go from a young upcoming coach to a veteran coach at some point. Who knows when that point is. We had been close before with some teams, getting to the Sweet 16 and things like that. I knew we were good enough with Dixon and those guys but I didn't know if we'd win it. You never know. A one game playoff is such a tough thing. There have been years when you have a guy that sprains his ankle the day before in practice. Well, you don't say anything about it because nobody wants to hear it but you know you are not 100 percent. Then you lose by two or by four. How's that work? Or a guy's made a certain shot all year and in that one game, he can't make a shot. That's the NCAA Tournament.
So, I don't think I've changed a lot. The thing that probably I am most pleased with personally is I still enjoy what I do. This past week has been great because it's a lot more teaching. Breaking things down more than you had to do the last couple years. The fundamentals are still there in basketball and to be able to teach them is still a lot of fun.
You don't look 57. Are you a work out guy or how do you stay fit?
I go in streaks. I am active in practice. I wish I could, but I can't run with the players but I get out there with the drills and things like that. I bounce around a little bit. I run some but not as much as I should. I do watch what I eat more now. I eat better. You grow up on junk food and you develop a taste for that stuff (laughter) and it's still good. All that stuff that's bad to eat, that stuff tastes good. That's a bad thing. I eat a lot better. I got scared, I guess it was Joe Smith's sophomore year, what was that, '95. I had pneumonia and it was pretty bad. It's the only time I have ever missed a game in coaching. I missed the Duke game at Duke. That's the year Krzyzewski was out all year sick. That shook me up a little bit because you never think about anything really until you get sick I guess. After that, I take better care of myself.
How much golf do you play?
I play from whenever I can start after the season is over until October 1st. Obviously July is a recruiting period so you get knocked down a little bit and September is a recruiting period so I don't play as much as I'd like to. I play as much as I can.
I got down to an 11 this year. When I am done coaching, whenever that is, I just want to be healthy enough that first year when I play all year to see if I can get down to a nine. I thought I could do that this year, but maybe not. But golf is an amazing game because with the equipment, you can hit it as far now as you could when you were 40 years old. That's scary. There is no reason why you can't get a little better.
You don't flip over from game tapes to the golf channel once and a while?
Yea sure, I do that. You watch tape for so long, you almost have to stop it for a while because you catch yourself watching but not seeing anything. Golf channel is right there, I know where it is. 605 on the dish (laughter).
Where do you play golf?
I play at Congressional. I play at Cave's Valley. Two great courses. Also play Burning Tree.
What is more frustrating, golf or coaching basketball?
Well, you know, coaching is my job. Golf is frustrating, but I choose to do it (laughter). Golf is great, because you can still compete. There are arguments how athletic golf is and all that stuff. But, the competition is as good as anything I have ever done. With the handicap system, that is the greatest thing about golf. I can go play a guy that's much better than me and have a good match. Where in basketball, you can't do that. If the other team is a lot better than you, you are going to get drilled.
Are you a different competitor on the golf course than on the court?
Yea, I don't throw clubs. People think yea, you throw clubs. No. I respect basketball and I respect golf. Golf is really good and it's a little bit like basketball in that you can improve by yourself by practicing but yet you have to play the actual matches to get good because you can't compete without actually playing. In other words, just because you learn how to hit a driver well on a practice range, that doesn't mean you can hit it under pressure. Same thing with basketball. A lot of guys can shoot, but if you can't shoot when the game is on the line, you are not a good shooter.
How much did having a full offseason help you after coming in last year and not getting a chance to spend much time before the season started?
I think it helped a lot this year compared to last season. Last season, we trained different. This summer we trained a lot more, getting physical and running to get in shape. I think that has helped the whole team a lot.
Maryland will have a different look this year from year's past. No Steve Blake, no Drew Nicholas. I know you are a senior, but you are still new being from Junior College. Talk about the youth or inexperience that Maryland will have this year and what we can expect from this team and who might step up.
We don't have a lot of experience and all the guys are young. Everybody has been playing well and playing hard so far. The whole team is full of talent and athleticism. I think Chris McCray will be a shocker this year.
Going back to last year, Coach Williams mentioned Drew Nicholas' shot against UNC-Wilmington in the tournament. What about that moment where it looked like you guys were out?
Whew. That was just an amazing shot. We thought we were going home, he came out of nowhere and hit that shot. Everybody ran on the floor and then the refs were telling us to hold up because they didn't know if it was after the buzzer or not. We didn't know but we were praying it was before the buzzer. After we found out that, everybody was cheering in the locker room.
Was the pressure of being the defending National Champion weigh on you guys in that tournament? Why did it come to that against UNC-W for an experienced Maryland team?
I think teams like that, a lot of people just misjudge. A lot of powerhouse teams misjudge the little teams. I think we did that and they came ready to play and fought the whole game.
What do you see personally for yourself this season, your last?
Score, rebound, block shots and help my team win and get as far as we can.