Terps Q&A with Heather A. Dinich

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Dan, Bowie: Hello Heather! I agree with all of your responsesregarding recruiting. The senior and junior classes have been twoof best classes "on paper" in the Gary Williams era. The problem Isee is that these players are not developing over the years. MikeJones still has the same problems he had as a freshman - theinability to put the ball on the floor and take it to the basketwhen defenders are taking away his jump shot, looseness with theball when making passes, lack of lateral quickness on defense andthe inability to move without the ball on offense. Does thecoaching staff provide these players with off-season goals and arethey allowed to monitor their progress? Thanks.

Heather A. Dinich:Because it was my first season coveringthe team, it's hard for me to gauge the improvement these guys havemade, but there was a block Mike Jones made this season - I'malmost positive it was against Virginia - and Gary said it was amove Jones wouldn't have been able to make three weeks ago. Thiswas really Mike's first true opportunity in the starting lineup,and the first year he got the green light from Gary to shoot atwill. Gary recently said Mike is real close to being a greatplayer. So if we don't see that leap next season, then I think itwill be fair to question the development. Gary will meet with eachplayer individually this spring, and yes, they set off-seasongoals.

Rick, Vero Beach, Fla.: Instead of asking the obvious as towhy Gary couldn't get a better recruiting class after the NationalChampionship, I want to state the fact that we were morecompetitive and won the championship without the storied recruitingclass! At that point, Gary was said to be a great coach because hecould win without the blue chips, he made them blue chips. Thatbeing the case, why can't he motivate these guys? Or can he go backto other underrated athelete like the old days and make himgreat?

Heather A. Dinich: He can make a player great, but firsthe has to recruit the diamond in the rough. And at what point can acoach say, "OK, I've done all I can to get you ready to playManhattan in the NIT. Now you have to go out and do it?" Don't theplayers have to accept some responsibility for their ownmotivation? You're right - it was definitely part of the problem.At some point, though, people need to accept the fact that maybethis team just wasn't that good.

James, Prince Frederick: The current Terp basketball teamdoes not have the talent to execute Gary's "Flex Offense" and win.It would appear that the only hope of winning with this lot wouldbe to change offenses; try to work some screens to get Mike Jonesthe ball for a barrage of threes. Why don't they try something likethis when it is obvious that they can't match up with good teamsplaying as they do?

Heather A. Dinich: Everybody is hung up on this wholeflex offense thing not fitting this team, and I think it's bunk.Good players can adapt to any system, especially at the Division Ilevel, and if somebody is teaching it as thoroughly as Gary does. Iwas talking to Chris Knoche about it and he brought up a good point- The flex is a get-the-ball-inside-first kind of offense. Do youthink that was suited for Juan Dixon? I've got a video on it I'mgoing to watch, and I'm getting another from Gary so I have abetter understanding of it. To answer your question, though, theyDO set screens for Mike, they're just not very good at it, and Mikeisn't always good at picking them up. Even though he's labeled withit, Gary probably runs about 15 plays outside of the flexoffense.

Joe, Tacoma, Wash.: Scout.com rates UNC, GT, Duke, WF, FSU,and N.C. State's 2006 recruiting classes in the Top 25. Why shouldTerp fans hope for things to get better anytime soon? When do youthink Coach Williams will get serious about recruiting?

Heather A. Dinich: I saw that, but if you look atRivals.com, they have Maryland's class ranked No. 18. That justgoes to show you how the opinions differ. I'm not saying one isbetter than the other. Anyway, Maryland's incoming class isexpected to be good, and just as important, the Terps got what theyNEED in guards. To answer your question, Gary is serious aboutwinning, and after 17 years, you'd think he'd know it goeshand-in-hand with recruiting.

James, Ellicott City: Can you summarize the changes in GaryWilliams' coaching staff since the NCAA championship? What has beenthe impact on the players and recruiting?

Heather A. Dinich: Since then, the Terps have lost JimmyPatsos, Dave Dickerson and Billy Hahn. Gary has hired Rob Moxley(1998-2005 UNC-Charlotte assistant coach), Keith Booth and MichaelAdams (2004, head coach Washington Mystics). Obviously when youlose guys who spent a combined 34 seasons with Williams, it isgoing to have an effect. That being said, Gary added guys who arelocals, which should positively impact recruiting.

Booth lives in Baltimore, and played at Maryland. Moxleygraduated from Faquier High School in Warrenton, Va. He earned areputation as a recruiter, as four of the classes he helped land atUNC-Charlotte were ranked ranked in the top 20 nationally. AndAdams played for the Bullets in the late 1980s and early 1990s.He's always had a house in the area. So, everyone needs to givethese guys time to see what they bring in.

And thanks to Randy, who reminded me later of two other fomer Terp assistants. Former player Matt Kovarik is an assistant at Loyola with Patsos. Mike Lonergan, who won a Division III NCAA championship at Catholic University, just finished his first season at Vermont. Lonergan was with the Terps for one year.

Richard, Oxon Hill: When is Gary going to get a big guy inthe middle with a little size? Lonny's been gone for a couple ofyears and nobody has stepped to the plate. It's killing me to watchDuke and North Carolina hammer us. Especially Duke when with alittle inside presence we could put the smack down on thoseguys.

Heather A. Dinich: A big guy with a little size? That hasto be some sort of an oxymoron. Right now the staff is looking atjucos and scouting the National JUCO Tournament in Hutchinson,Kansas in search of exactly that.

Patrick, Williamstown, Mass.: Do you think its common aroundthe country for "fans" of successful programs (2 final fours, 3major bowls in the last 5 years) to be so consistently critical oftheir coaches? Frankly, I think the media perpetuate the atmosphereof discontent by giving airtime to the fair-weather fans. As alifelong Terp, it bothers me to hear these "fans" voice their lackof support so freely. Last time I checked there were three ACCbasketball teams to win a national championship in the last 10years and we are one of them. Gary and Ralph have proven theircoaching ability and have more than earned our respect. All truefans recognize this and support them even when they aren't rankedin the Top 10.

Heather A. Dinich: Actually, in my experience, that hasbeen the norm, and I think it's only because those fans getspoiled. The same thing happened when I was covering Penn Statefootball, but I have yet to see a www.garymustgo.com web site.There's also the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately mentality that isoverriding with sports fans. Forget the past four years. It's thepast two seasons that are in the forefront of people's brains. WakeForest guard Justin Gray summed it up at the ACC tournament when hesaid people remember the last thing you do. Nobody will forget theTerps' national championship - or their loss to Manhattan.

Randy, Great Falls, Va.: Heather, I am a long time Terp fanand season ticket holder. There sure seems to be something gravelywrong with the program. Too many issues surfacing making one wonderif the right people are in charge? We lose a kid to Villanova thatdidnt get into Maryland over some transcript issue, McCray failingto go to class, not knowing we committed to NIT, losing many localplayers to other programs! One of these things happen you say, "Okwe missed it, but now there seems to be a trend....what's going onin your opinion?

Heather A. Dinich: Way to sum it up, Randy. You justforgot the legal issues. (Travis Garrison is due in court April 7).There certainly were a fair share of fiascos within the athleticdepartment this season. I think it would be fair to say there was aproblem with communication, and that's as far as I'm gonna go withthat one. Since I'm the beat reporter, my opinion doesn't count. Itis my job, though, to look into it.

Dan, Crofton: One of the things that I have noticed about thebasketball team is that their bigs get pushed around quite often inthe post. What is particularly frustrating is seeing a freshmanlike Hansbrough push around a sophomore (Gist), junior (Ibekwe)& senior (Garrison). Has Coach Williams talked about plans toimprove his team's strength training? This didn't seem to be aproblem when Curtis Schultz was the team's strength coach.

Heather A. Dinich: Yes, following Maryland's loss toManhattan, strength was the one thing Gary specifically pointed outneeds to improve for next season. Maryland hired a new strengthcoach just before fall classes started, so Pete Yurish didn't havetoo much time to implement his philosophy/system. Here is hisdirect quote from the post-game press conference on that topic: "Wehave to get stronger," Williams said. "If you wanted to look at aconstant through the season - some games worse than others - therewere a lot of loose balls we didn't get. That comes from twothings. That comes from strength, and it comes from wanting theball more than the other team does. And there's conctact in thoseplays. But getting stronger gives you the confidence to make thatcontact."

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