As Gary Williams told it, standing at the podium while he was inducted to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday night in Springfield, Mass., much of what he accomplished as a national championship-winning coach can be traced back to one fork in the road at the start of his career.
Then a high school coach at Woodrow Wilson High School in Camden, N.J., he received a call from Dr. Tom Davis, with whom he was familiar from their respective times at the University of Maryland.
Davis, the coach at Lafayette (Pa.) College, offered him a job as an assistant coach on his staff.
“Well here’s the problem,” Williams recalled Davis telling him in a phone call. “They’ve never had a full-time assistant basketball coach, but the soccer coach, he just left and that salary is right there. So if you want to be the assistant basketball coach, then you’ve got to be the head soccer coach.”
Williams tried to turn down the offer twice.
But it was only temporary, he was told. One year and the chairs would be rearranged without issue. So he accepted.
Six years later, the basketball and soccer coach at Lafayette followed Davis to Boston College as an assistant -- this time for basketball alone.
“You know, people ask me how I did as a soccer coach,” Williams said while standing at the podium in Springfield on Friday. “Let me just say this. The soccer hall of fame hasn’t called yet.”
Williams’ coaching anecdote drew a round of laughter and applause from the audience and was perhaps the most comedic moment of his 22-minute, 44-second speech. It also featured a list of people to thank, memories to highlight, and tears to hold back.
He recounted his career from its beginnings as a player at Maryland, back and full circle to the national championship he won as a coach in College Park in 2002.
And he admits it likely wouldn’t have happened without the extra time he put in on the pitch.