Smith Speaker Series Welcomes Coach Gary Williams
The inaugural session of the Smith Speaker Series was launched with much
fanfare on October 14, 2008. The speaker, Gary Williams ’68, is the head coach
of the University of Maryland’s men’s basketball team.
Smith School Dean G. “Anand” Anandalingam opened the session and welcomed
Coach Williams, applauding him for his achievements and contributions to the
University of Maryland.
“What Gary Williams has done for the University of Maryland is unbelievable,”
Dean Anand said. A 1968 marketing graduate, Williams returned to Maryland as
head coach in 1989, inheriting a basketball team that had only won nine games
the year before and finished last place in the ACC. The breakout for Williams
came in 1994 when the Terrapins reclaimed a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
Williams is now the most winning coach in Terps' history and has 12 NCAA
Tournament berths in the last 14 seasons, seven Sweet Sixteen appearances, a
pair of consecutive Final Four showings, and the 2002 national championship.
Williams related his experience in leadership and team building in sports to
the business world and life in general and shared with the audience his
invaluable experiences as a coach and as a student here at the University of
Maryland. He talked about the time when he played basketball for Maryland and
said that when he graduated with a degree in marketing, he knew that his heart
lay elsewhere. He said that he loved basketball and he also wanted to be
successful, but he knew it would be tough to move into sports for a career.
“Give it a chance and it gets good,” he believes, and he took the chance back
then and became one of the most successful coaches in basketball history.
Talking about his experiences as a coach, Williams said that his business
background helped him a lot in competing with the “biggies.” He is always on the
lookout for “people who can come through under pressure, people you can trust
and depend on,” earning him a reputation as a recruiter who almost exclusively
goes after less-heralded players and develops them into major Division I
players. As a leader he emphasizes practicing the core values of trust,
motivation and teamwork, and believes in making “better people and better
basketball players,” taking failure on himself yet staying motivated, tough, and
always coming back and winning.
Williams related this to the corporate world and explained how the same
concepts apply to business activities. He said that to maximize benefits, one
should focus on what one is good at and not lose the ability to be great. As a
person who “walks the talk,” he has always been dedicated towards building trust
with the team and believes in interacting with the members individually at a
personal level, getting to understand their needs, strengths and weaknesses
before expecting them to perform, and finally preparing them to be able to beat
the top leaders of the game and come out as winners.
Williams concluded by touching upon the importance of education, both
academic and otherwise, and emphasized that “one should not forget and should
take pride in being a part of a school,” for it is something we cannot change
and stays with us for life.
Following the motivating and intellectually stimulating session, the audience
put forth specific questions about his experiences to which Williams responded
with the ease and animation for which he is known.
At the end, Dean Anand thanked Williams for taking time to share his
experiences, and also for his contributions to the community. He specially
thanked Williams for contributing funds for scholarships for students of the
Smith School, carrying forward the legacy the Smith School is known for, and
reaffirming the pride Williams has in being a part of the Smith community.
Siddhartha Jain, MBA Candidate 2010, Smith Media Group