Jim Williams spent more than a quarter-century as the head coach at Colorado State and was a model of consistency, never winning more than 18 games in a season and never losing more than 17. Before arriving in Fort Collins he led Snow College to the 1954 NJCAA tourney title game, and he made 4 NCAA tourneys during his time with the Rams. He was a fiery leader on the sideline, and was good enough to go on the road and beat the legendary John Wooden on more than 1 occasion. CHD’s Jon Teitel got to chat with Williams’ former player/assistant Boyd “Tiny” Grant about the role that his mentor played in his life.
Williams served in the Army during WWII as a company commander in New Guinea and the Philippines: what impact did the war have on him either on or off the court? Not a huge impact, but he once talked to us about being lost and then arriving at a hill and seeing the American flag. He remembered exactly where he was sitting: he said that if the US had lost the war then none of us might be playing basketball that night.
In the 1954 NJCAA tourney title game as coach at Snow College he had a 5-PT OT loss to Moberly Area CC: how did he feel about coming so close to winning the title? I think it meant a lot to him. We had a shot at the end of regulation right under the basket that was going in, but it went in-and-out and we lost the game. We were 1 of the last seeds to make the tourney but we had a lot of respect for the winning team. We had a great reception when we got back to town, which was 1 of the greatest experiences of my life.
In the 1962 NIT Bill Green scored 37 PTS (14-14 FG) for Colorado State in a 1-PT loss to Holy Cross: was it just 1 of those scenarios where every shot Green put up seemed to go in because he was “in the zone”? Bill was a guy who scored easily. My wife once told me that he did not seem to score a ton of points on a particular night…and I told her that I guess not because he only scored 42! I told him to work on his FTs and his scoring went up a lot the following year, making him 1 of the best scorers in the country. If you got him the ball in the post he would score or get fouled.
What are your memories of the 1963 NCAA tourney (Green had 19 PTS/12 REB but his team blew an 11-PT halftime lead in a 3-PT loss to Oklahoma City)? That was probably Coach Williams’ most disappointing loss. They started double-teaming us in the 2nd half and we did not handle it well, plus they made every shot they took down the stretch. I felt that coach took that loss awfully hard: we all knew that we should have won the game because in those days before a shot-clock you could control the ball for a long stretch of time.
What are your memories of the 1965 NCAA tourney (Sonny Bustion had a tourney-school-record 30 PTS/20 REB but Oklahoma City scored the winning basket with 1 second left in a 2-PT win over the Rams)? Not many, but I guess we could just not beat them!
In the 1969 NCAA tourney Lloyd Kerr scored 17 PTS in a 2-PT win over Dayton: how big a deal was it to get the 1st tourney win in school history? It was awfully big: we played a tremendous defensive game because we knew exactly what they would do on offense.
Clifford Shegogg scored 20 PTS in an 8-PT win over CO: was it extra-special to beat your in-state rival? The sun did not rise in Boulder the next day! The headline in the Rocky Mountain News the next day was “the sun will rise in Boulder today”. 1 of their assistant coaches admitted that he did not think we would beat them, so it was a shock to the citizens/media of Colorado. It was 1 of the greatest moments of Coach’s career because we did not play them at all during the regular season.
He once received a whopping 7 technical fouls in a game against Tulsa: what kind of a temper did he have? He got most of those technicals from Irv Brown, who was 1 of the best college refs I have ever seen. Coach just got out of line: he was described by Lute Olson as the nicest guy off the court who would change personalities on the court. He was a 1st-class competitor as well as 1 of the best coaches ever. A lot of my own success as a coach comes from what I learned from him.
He beat John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins twice in Los Angeles: how was he able to coach his best against the best? He could really prepare his team. Both of those games went right down to the wire. Coach Williams might be the only guy with a .500 record against Coach Wooden.
He remains the winningest coach in school history: do you think that anyone will ever break his record? He is the winningest D-1 coach in the history of the state of Colorado and I think he is the best coach in school history.
He passed away in 2007: when people look back on his career, how do you think he should be remembered the most? As a fierce competitor, a man who knew the game and would play anyone/anywhere/anytime. He would study film for 3 hours every morning and knew exactly when the opponents were going to do something based on their footwork. He had a tremendous mind and was an offensive genius: he knew how to get the most talent out of everyone he coached. A lot of people asked me if it was hard to work for him but I told them that he was the easiest guy to work for because he never questioned anything I did in terms of recruiting.