After every season, the rumors about Buzz Williams potentially leaving Marquette flew.
And after every season, the rumors were proven wrong.
But as Marquette fans are painfully aware, this was not like any other Buzz Williams season.
For the first time in Williams' tenure, Marquette missed the NCAA tournament. And for the first time in his tenure, one of the rumors proved true. Williams is leaving Marquette for Virginia Tech, reportedly on a seven-year, $18 million deal with the ACC school.
A couple years ago, I wrote a piece about Buzz Williams and the future. Looking back on it, this passage stands out.
Back when I was putting together Milwaukee Magazine's feature on Williams, I spoke with many, many people. They included Buzz's acquaintances, Buzz's current players, Buzz's former players, Buzz's staff members, Buzz's family and, of course, Buzz himself.
Whenever the subject of Buzz's future at Marquette surfaced, one theme rang true.
"Loyalty and trust is a big issue," I was told. "So unless something like that goes wrong..."
And there's your caveat. Something has to go wrong.
That quote came from someone who knows Williams very well. And so we fall back to that caveat. Something changed at Marquette with either loyalty or trust, or both, either from his viewpoint or the school's.
There are two obvious changes: Not only have both the athletic director and president who hired him gone, but right now, Marquette has neither a permanent president nor a permanent athletic director. That leaves significant questions about stability.
And plenty has changed with the Big East. There's no denying that the conference as it stands now has less luster and prestige than it did before. Early reports, like this one from Paint Touches, point to that as a big factor in Williams' decision to leave. Perhaps he no longer trusted that facet of Marquette's basketball foundation.
There are surely other reasons, too. And he will be asked questions, and he will eventually answer them. Some people will point to the money got from Virginia Tech. But it's not too different from what he made at Marquette, and he's never been driven entirely, or even mostly, by money.
Whatever reason finally pushed Williams to leave Marquette and Milwaukee, it won't be good enough for many Marquette fans. It didn't take long for the backlash to begin. Right after the news broke, the Twitter hashtag #characterrevealed became nothing less than a online firing line for jilted Marquette fans to take aim at Williams. Many are wielding a 2010 quote against him, the one that said "I'll be here as long as they'll have me here."
He doesn't get a pass on that one, of course. But if that's as deep as your reflection gets about Williams, then you'll always be staring into shallow waters. Williams' tenure at Marquette involves so much more than one quote that proved obsolete. His impact goes beyond the games and accolades he's won, into the players and staff he's mentored, remains throughout the program he's improved, and spills over to the lives beyond basketball that he's touched.
Marquette is a better place, and Buzz Williams is a better man and coach, because he and Marquette spent seven years together. Many, myself included, may have thought it would be a longer partnership, and divorces are never easy.
But divorces only end a marriage. They don't erase what happened during it.