Thursday, February 11, 2010

Duke next, reflections on Bud Millikan

Former Maryland basketball coach Bud Millikan passed away last month at the age of 89. He coached the Terrapins from 1950-1967 and was and lead Maryland basketball into the ACC era.   Millikan’s 199 wins while coaching when Maryland was in the ACC still rank 13th all time among ACC coaches and his 105 wins in ACC games rank him 11th on the all time list ahead of famous ACC coaches like Jim Valvano and Everette Case. In 1958 Millikan’s team won the ACC championship and made it to the Elite Eight finishing with a 22-7 record and ranked 6th in the AP poll.

Millikan’s legacy sometimes gets little attention because Lefty Driesell’s outsized personality and bombast tend to obscure any prior history at Maryland. Millikan was also forced out in 1967 because he had four losing seasons in his last six years and his recruiting was considered poor. One recruit he brought to Maryland was a skinny but scrappy point guard who couldn’t shoot to save his life named Gary Williams. Millikan instilled in Williams the principles of his mentor Hank Iba who believed in tough defense and highly disciplined teams. That legacy carries through to today with Gary Williams.


Barry Jacobs of the ACC Sports Journal has a great article on another aspect of Millikan that doesn’t get discussed much either. Millikan was the first coach in the ACC to integrate and put African American players on the varsity team. Billy Jones and Julius Johnson played varsity for Maryland in the 1965-66 season and became the first black players in the ACC in either football or basketball. At a time when such a move was not popular in the state of Maryland let alone the deep south of the ACC it took a great deal of courage for Millikan to break such social taboos. Millikan’s understated public profile probably did a disservice to the man and basketball coach. His legacy was undervalued by fans of Maryland and the ACC and still is to this day because Millikan came from an era where self promotion and showmanship was not part of being a basketball coach.


With Duke winning at Chapel Hill the other night the Terps head to Durham for a showdown between the two best teams in the ACC according to the Basketball Prospectus. It is true that the ACC is a jumbled mess. Early season favorites like UNC, Clemson and Florida State have all stumbled badly and it isn’t clear that teams like Virginia, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest are as good as their records. Both Wake and Virginia Tech have lost to cellar dweller Miami while Virginia’s wins came over teams with a combined league record of 14-35. Virginia Tech barely beat Boston College and UNC at home so with home games against Virginia, Wake Forest and Maryland to go with road games against Duke, BC and Georgia Tech it is unlikely that the Hokies will do much better than 3-4 the rest of the way. As for Maryland a road win at Duke may silence all the doubters out there that still feel like the Terps are not a legitimate threat to win the ACC.

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