One of the greatest benefits of my job is the friendships you build and enjoy.I was saddened this last week to learn one of the coaches I have had a strong working relationship is moving on.When I …
One of the greatest benefits of my job is the friendships you build and enjoy.
I was saddened this last week to learn one of the coaches I have had a strong working relationship is moving on.
When I first came back to the Banner, the day after Christmas in 2007, I was informed my “beat” was Walker Valley sports.
I knew a few of the faculty, including Rudy Felton, who had been my seventh- and eighth-grade history teacher, and Mike Turner, whose Charleston baseball teams I had covered during my first Banner stint, from 1986-91.
I knew nothing really about the school nor its coaches, as it had opened a few years before, when I was doing retail management work for Dollar General.
With my Banner return coming in the middle of basketball season, one of the first Mustang coaches I met was Bob Williams.
Unlike one of the school’s former coaches who complained about getting the “new guy” (little did he know I already had more than 10 years sports writing and editing under my belt), the tall, lanky friendly Williams welcomed me with open arms.
He was inviting, helpful and appreciative of the coverage. He made my transition back into newspaper work much easier.
Although that summer I was switched to the “Bradley beat” after Gene Henley left for the Times, I was pleasantly surprised to find Bob was also the golf coach at WV, as I was given that sport as part of our fall coverage.
Throughout the last decade I’ve had the privilege to follow his link's Herds tremendous success, with six of his teams making it to the TSSAA State Tournaments (the WV girls also made the state in 2007 before my return), including both squads in 2011.
In his dozen years directing the WV linksters, when he didn’t have a whole team advance to the state championships, he had at least one, and sometimes more, individuals make it to the highest level.
While the 2011 Lady Mustangs earned his highest finish with a state runner-up run, his last three Mustang squads have all made the trip to Willowbrook, with a third place team finish last fall as the highlight.
“Big Game Bob,” as my sports cohort Patrick MacCoon has dubbed him, also had plenty of success on the hardwood, with a pair of state tournament runs that included a Final Four finish in 2009 which I got to witness.
Including directing the 2003 McMinn County girls to Murfreesboro, he has made a trio of trips to the Elite Eight in state basketball.
In all his success, the modest mentor has always been quick to give the credit to his players and their hard work.
The fact of the matter is, if it wasn’t for his insightful instruction, his teams wouldn’t have won 257 games on the hardwood, and an uncountable victory total on the links.
The big guy grew up in Minnesota and turned down an opportunity to play college ball in North Dakota, choosing rather to come to the South, where he earned a scholarship offer after a tryout at Tennessee Wesleyan during a trip to visit family.
Playing for legendary coach Dewayne Farmer, the 6-foot-5 swingman scored more than 1,000 points in his Bulldog career.
Forming a friendship with local coach David Tucker, Williams followed him not only to Calhoun Elementary School, but also McMinn County High School.
It was Tucker who also recommended Williams for the Walker Valley job, allowing them to coach together.
Bob also has a strong friendship and connection with Bradley Central, having been an assistant for legendary coach Kent Smith for a couple of years before heading to Athens and being neighbors with current Bear head coach Chuck Clark.
With 32 years of teaching and coaching experience, Bob made the very tough decision to do the “state-line shuffle” that many Tennessee educators have done before him.
With more than the necessary full retirement time in locally, he can now go to Georgia, and needs just 10 years to also earn retirement from the Peach State.
While many of his predecessors had to take over struggling teams when they made the move south of the border, Bob beat out 20 other applicants to take the reins of the very strong Northwest Whitfield girls hoops program.
A force to be reckoned with for many years, the Lady Bruins have made the Georgia “Sweet 16” the last two years and are returning the Dalton area’s Player of the Year.
“It was a very hard decision to leave Walker Valley, but this (Northwest Whitfield) is a great opportunity,” Bob told me last weekend.
I encouraged him to try to get the local teams on his schedule so we could see him occasionally. Although he thinks this year’s slate is already set, he said that would be something he’d like to do in the future.
“I’ve really enjoyed my time here and am going to miss it,” he related, saying he will continue to live here locally.
While I fully understand the financial benefit to his decision, I can say that from a personal standpoint, I am going to miss him.
You’re a good guy and a great coach, Bob.
Although you have a strong competitive desire to win, you care about a lot more than what happens on the court or the links when it comes to your players.
It has been a privilege to work with you and cover your teams.
Thanks for helping the “new guy” knock off the rust and make my job easier.
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