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Top Washington D.C. Sports Stories Of 2011, No. 1: Gary Williams Retires, Era At Maryland Ends

Gary Williams' retirement after 22 years as the Maryland basketball coach is D.C.'s top sports story of the 2011 calendar year.

COLLEGE PARK, MD - MAY 6:  University of Maryland basketball coach Gary WIlliams speaks while announcing his retirement on May 6, 2011 at the Comcast Center in College Park, Maryland.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
COLLEGE PARK, MD - MAY 6: University of Maryland basketball coach Gary WIlliams speaks while announcing his retirement on May 6, 2011 at the Comcast Center in College Park, Maryland. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
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Lefty Driesell vowed to turn Maryland basketball into the "UCLA of the East" when he was hired in 1969. The program couldn't have been further from that status when it hired Gary Williams 20 years later. Driesell was gone, a victim of the program's many aftershocks following Len Bias' death, and his successor Bob Wade had steered the program into a ditch. In 1992-93, the first year after the NCAA's two-year postseason ban for Wade-era violations had expired, Williams' Terrapins finished 12-16 and 2-14 in ACC play. It was the last losing season Williams would have as a head coach.

The climb to national prominence wasn't easy for Williams and Maryland. How could it be when his reign coincided with the rise, fall, and re-rise of North Carolina and the prime of Mike Krzyzewski's career at Duke. But the payoff finally came on April 1, 2002, when Maryland beat Indiana 64-52 to win the program's first national title.

You can't top that, however, and Gary couldn't either. His teams never again got past the Sweet 16, and Williams' final season at Maryland were marred by a rocky relationship with onetime athletic director Debbie Yow, and whispers that the game (recruiting, that is, not basketball) had passed him by.

Williams walked away in May, after Maryland failed to make a postseason tournament for the first time since the wretched 1992-93 season. He made the announcement official at a beautiful new facility, built with the help of his program's revenue, above a floor that would soon bear his name. It was a reminder of how far he had brought the program in 22 years. If it wasn't the UCLA of the East, it was certainly back where it belonged.

For the complete D.C. Top 10 of 2011 countdown, visit this StoryStream. For more coverage of Washington D.C. sports, visit our D.C. blogs: