By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
It’s been 12 years since Richard Williams finished his tenure as Mississippi State’s basketball coach. So, in John Brady’s mind, it’s way past time for his old boss to be honored for what he accomplished on the bench.
On Saturday, prior to MSU’s football game against Georgia, Williams will be recognized as one of three members of the 2010 class of the Mississippi State Sports Hall of Fame. His qualifications: In 12 seasons, he won 191 games, was named SEC Coach of the Year twice (1991, ’95), took MSU to the NCAA tournament three times, and led the program to its only Final Four appearance, in 1996.
“He probably should’ve been in the Mississippi State Sports Hall of Fame earlier,” said Brady, who coached with and under Williams at MSU (1983-90). “What needs to happen now is he needs to be in the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, only for this reason – or for many reasons, but really for this one: Mississippi State University basketball goes to the Final Four in ’96. When’s that going to happen again?”
According to Bulldog Club by-laws, a coach is not eligible for selection “until he/she (has) been separated from the Athletic Department for at least three years.” Inductees are determined by a majority vote of the Sports Hall of Fame Committee, which consists of five people anonymously appointed by the M Club president.
Joining Williams in the 2010 class are football player Harvey Hull and softball player Kellie Wilkerson.
Williams, who left State in 1998, said the long wait for induction doesn’t bother him.
“How do you decide if you’re due to be inducted into a hall of fame?” he said. “It’s not something personally for me – I don’t know other people – it’s not something I’ve spent a lot of time dwelling on it. I’m happy about it, excited about it and looking forward to being in Starkville (this) weekend.”
Williams’ new boss
Brady has also been to the Final Four, with LSU, and now he’s Williams’ boss. The former hired the latter in August as a full-time assistant, allowing Williams to return to his roots as an on-court coach and teacher.
Truth is, the 65-year-old Williams wasn’t looking for a job. The past couple of years he had served as a consultant for the UAB and then Louisiana Tech basketball programs.
“I told (my wife) Diane that I thought I was going to relax, stay home and watch some games, just be a fan this year,” he said.
But the jobs came to him. George Brooks, who recently left Meridian Community College to become Rick Stansbury’s assistant at MSU, asked Williams if he was interested in replacing him.
Then a professional team in Qatar expressed interest. But Williams didn’t want the MCC job, and the Qatar job wasn’t offered until two days after he’d accepted the Arkansas State position.
Jonesboro is just the latest stop on Williams’ post-MSU coaching odyssey. He’s coached four minor league teams, spent a year at Pearl High School, done individual lessons, and had the one-year stints at UAB and Louisiana Tech, where he wasn’t allowed to do on-the-floor coaching.
He also did some TV work over the years.
Now, Williams has to get back in college coaching mode. He’s had to take that “crazy” compliance test for the first time in 12 years, he’s back on the road recruiting, and he’s having to increase his knowledge of technology and social media.
Being able to coach makes all that worth it.
“I’m going to be able to be on the floor coaching and teaching and doing individual workouts, and those are the things I really enjoy doing,” Williams said. “So I’m looking forward to it.”
Williams and Brady agreed to approach this arrangement on a yearly basis. Maybe Williams will come back, maybe he’ll move on.
It might depend on how well they work together. The two have known each other since Williams was coaching at South Natchez High School, which was in the same division as McComb and its shooting guard, Brady. Their role reversal could prove a big challenge, one Williams thinks they can handle.
“There will be days we will have probably serious discussions about what he thinks and what I think,” Williams said. “But at the end of the day, John Brady’s the head coach, and I will do like he did when he was my assistant and disagreed with some of the things I wanted to do – when it’s all over with, he’s the boss, and we’re going to do what he says do. And we’re going to do it the best we can.”
Williams still gets asked a lot about that Final Four run, when the Bulldogs, as a No. 5 seed, made history as the first Mississippi school to go that far in the NCAA tournament. They lost to Syracuse in the national semifinals.
“It still gets brought up all the time,” he said. “People still talk about it and remember it, and rightfully so. It was something that’s one of the greatest things that’s happened not only in Mississippi State sports but in the state of Mississippi sports.”
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571 or firstname.lastname@example.org.