Former NCAA men’s basketball coach Joe Williams has passed away at the age of 88, ESPN reports.
Williams’s passing was confirmed by his son, Joe Williams Jr., on Saturday.
Williams Jr. released a statement indicating that his father died after a long battle with cancer. Williams, at the time of his death, was in hospice care in Enterprise, Mississippi.
Remembering Coach Williams
Williams’s story of how he got into coaching is a bit of an unusual one. Williams was an English teacher at a Jacksonville junior high school when someone found out that he had played basketball in college. Williams then was asked whether he wanted to help coach the school’s basketball team, and he accepted.
According to his son, Williams “realized that was his passion and that’s what he wanted to do.”
Williams went on to become the assistant basketball coach at Furman University before becoming the head coach at Jacksonville University. In a bit of a David and Goliath story, he managed to lead Jacksonville University to the 1970 NCAA Championship game against the Los Angeles Bruins, of the University of California.
After that, Williams returned to Furman, from 1970 to 1978, before moving on to Florida State University. He was the head coach there until his retirement in 1986.
“Always did the right thing”
In terms of Williams’s career, one of the things that stuck out most to his son was his treatment of Black players. Williams was one of the first coaches down south to recruit Black players, Williams Jr. noted.
“When Dad would travel with the team, if there was a restaurant that wouldn’t let the whole team eat together, Dad just packed the whole team up and they went to a restaurant where they could,” Williams Jr. said. “Dad was never one to get on a soapbox and talk about stuff like that, it was more that he just always did the right thing.”
Williams Jr. went on to reveal that this caused a lot of problems for his dad, saying that his dad “got death threats in the mail.”
Williams Jr. added, though, that his dad “just realized all his players were equal and wanted to treat them equally.”
“It was about teaching his players how to be a good human being,” Williams Jr. said.