- Published on Tuesday, 27 November 2001 19:33
- Written by Craig Wentz - Town Crier Correspondent
Ron Williams faced a number of difficult challenges in an illustrious athletic career that any athlete would admire.
Now, Williams will take on another challenge in leading the Los Altos High girls basketball program.
Williams, 57, will bring his plethora of basketball knowledge and experiences to a young Los Altos team that's making the challenging jump to the upper De Anza Division of the SCVAL this season.
After leading the varsity boys' program to success at Thurgood Marshall High in San Francisco, Williams was hired to direct the Eagles' girls program in October.
"I've always been interested in coaching girls basketball, even though the style of play is different," said Williams, who also teaches elementary school in San Mateo. "These girls are eager to learn and they catch on quick."
So what's so special about Williams that separates him from any other prep coach that played high school or college athletics?
After a brilliant prep athletic career at West Virginia's Weirton High where he earned 11 varsity letters and was twice named the state's top basketball player, more than 155 scholarship offers in basketball and football poured in. Williams decided to play close to home at West Virginia University, becoming the first African-American basketball player at the school and thus paving the way for others in the turbulent 1960s.
As a point guard for the Mountaineers (1965-68), the 6-foot-3 Williams followed in the footsteps of legendary WVU guards Hot Rod Hundley and Jerry West as one of the best in the nation by amassing 1,687 career points (20.1 points per game) and All-America status.
Following an outstanding collegiate career that earned him a spot on the WVU's list of "25 Greatest Athletes," Williams was the first guard taken in the 1968 NBA draft (ninth overall pick) by the then San Francisco Warriors.
Despite not playing college football, Williams was also a 14th-round pick for the Dallas Cowboys and offered a guaranteed three-year contract to play cornerback. Also in 1968, Williams turned down an invitation to tryout for the U.S. Olympic basketball team.
Williams averaged 7.8 points per game in his rookie season (1968-69) with the Warriors, then started in the backcourt with Jeff Mullins for the 1969-70 season and averaged a career-best 14.8 points per game.
After a handful of seasons for the Warriors, Williams became a member of the Milwaukee Bucks in 1973-74. Williams and notable teammates Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson, Lucius Allen and Bobby Dandridge owned the best regular season record (59-23) in the NBA, but lost in the NBA Finals to the eventual world champion Boston Celtics in seven games.
Williams finished his memorable NBA career by being involved in a trade that brought himself and Abdul-Jabbar to the Los Angeles Lakers in 1976.
"It's hard to define my best moment athletically, it was all good," said the modest and personable Williams. "The most disappointing moment was not winning the NBA free throw title."
In 1971, Williams lost the free throw crown to future teammate Robertson by percentage points after missing an uncharacteristic three free throws in the regular-season finale in Seattle.
After years of playing against the best in the world, Williams turned to the bench. He worked as an assistant at Cal-Berkeley for two years in the mid-1980s under coach Dick Kuchen, where his star pupil was All-America point guard Kevin Johnson. After that, Williams spent four seasons as an assistant at Iona.
Upon learning that his wife was diagnosed with cancer, Williams returned home to the Bay Area as an assistant at Menlo College. Following his wife's death in 1993, Williams got out of basketball for a bit.
"After being out of the game for a while, I got the urge again," he said.
Now, Williams will try to direct a Los Altos team with an up-tempo style of play that will emphasize aggressiveness on defense.
"It's so enjoyable at Los Altos and I love being around the kids," Williams said. "Coaching keeps me young and I look forward to the challenge."
The Eagles seem to be off to a positive start already with an experienced coach who has conquered numerous challenges and played against the best in the world.