Williams’ surprise retirement almost happened last year

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Didn’t see Gary Williams’ retirement coming? Don’t worry. You were hardly alone.

The news stunned Maryland fans. After 22 years, a national title, two Final Fours and more sweat than an episode of “Biggest Loser” it seemed like Williams wasn’t going anywhere, especially not with a decent recruiting class coming in.

Hey, it even surprised Williams’ close friends.

“I was with him at the Greene Turtle in Columbia (last night),” Keith Neff told the Baltimore Sun. “He was addressing the Terrapin Club. He said a couple great things about the University of Maryland. We shook hands and I went home and he went home. “So I’m sort of shocked right now and have am having a hard time sorting things out myself. … In my mind, it’s so cool that he did everything his own way, including his retirement.”

Then again, it sounds as if this could’ve happened in 2010.

“I don’t want to still be trying to coach when I can’t even stand up and get off the bench. I’m lucky I’m healthy now but stress gets to you and you’re not guaranteed anything from one year to the next. It just felt like it was time. Honestly, it felt like it was time a year ago. Now, I’m certain it’s time,” Williams told The Post’s John Feinstein in a telephone interview.”

Williams, 66, went through a few rough seasons at Maryland after winning the national title in 2002. They’ve missed the Big Dance four times since 2005, had had four sub-.500 seasons in ACC play and haven’t been to the Sweet 16 since 2003.

Call it a slow fade from absurdly good heights in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s. Plus, he dealt with local scrutiny due to poor recruiting and an ongoing tiff with former athletic director Debbie Yow.

Their sniping was significant enough that Yow said Williams was to blame for her “difficult” reputation regarding N.C. State’s recent coaching search. And Williams returned the favor Thursday. From Feinstein’s interview.

“I started thinking about it last year after we tied Duke for the ACC title,”. “I’ve been doing this a long time and I thought it might be time to do something else. After [Debbie] Yow left, I thought I might enjoy it more this year and I really did like working with Kevin Anderson. He’s a straight shooter. But I think I’d been worn down by the previous 15 years [with Yow]. It grinds on you.”

Enough with the grind, then. Williams can now spend more time with his new wife and his new position with Maryland. He’s earned it.

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