One more great night in a great career
One more great night in a great career
It was another big night in a career of big nights for Fred Williams. Maybe the biggest and if you know Williams and his career that is saying a whole bunch.
Williams was inducted into the Connecticut High School Coaches Association (CHSCA) Hall of Fame Thursday night at the Aqua Turf in Southington. In order of presentation he was last on the list of inductees. It is assuredly the only time he has ever been in that position. The career has been first class.
How big of a night was it for a guy who has done his thing amazingly well in the sometimes hidden northwestern corner of Connecticut where the spotlight often skips by. Well, Williams has always been the consummate sweater man and on this night he was looking resplendent in Northwestern Regional red shirt with black jacket and tie.
He wore the jacket and tie well as he did the impossible-to-hide pride. The coach who has always been in the big time was in the bigger time with a number of other inductees that included Ansonia’s legendary football coach the late Jack Hunt and Plainville baseball coach Bob Freimuth.
The family was there, wife and participant in it all, Donna; a trio of accomplished daughters, Stacey, Christy and Lindsey. I think I spied a few grandchildren roaming around, too.
Some of the players including his daughters that helped the coach become the icon were there. Tricia Blood who tossed in more than 1,000 points for Williams was there. Julie Blood of the deadly baseline jumper was on hand as was the best of them all, Beth Finn.
I was fortunate enough to sit with the two Bloods and Finn. I spent half of my early writing career in the Northwestern gym watching Williams’ Northwestern teams beat up the rest of Berkshire League. Four Northwestern players graduated never having lost a BL game.
The Highlanders won 10 BL titles and 141 league games in a row. It was like watching UConn at times. It was that type of domination. There was a state title and other long trips into the state tournament. In 35 seasons Williams’ teams have posted a 558-352 record.
The Bloods and Finn were part of that. It all started with them and their vintage. They were terrific basketball players and they are terrific adults. They were here for their guy. Winning is part of the story, you can’t escape it. But know they would have been here for Williams under any circumstances.
As Julie Blood shared on a Facebook post, “I love that man.”
Williams found that delicate balance between great coach and great guy. He has showed you can be both. There are so many ways to fall in the coaching profession Playing time issues, wins and losses, parental issues, parental issues, parental issues. Sorry I got carried away with that one.
Williams had dealt with them. But he has found the balance. He has done his job with class even when the decisions have been tough and unpopular. His respect is authored by far more than his incredible coaching record that totals an unbelievable 905 victories and 17 titles that include a couple of great runs as both the boys and girls soccer coach at the school.
His opposing basketball coaches whether it is former foe, Nonnewaug coach Tom Morgan or Wamogo coach Kevin Crowley or a host of others will fill you up with accolades about Williams. Former Thomaston coach Bill Ryan jokes about Williams getting half of his wins against him and then just offers a respectful shake of the head and smile.
Williams has schooled the old and offered advice to the new. He doesn’t run up scores even during the years when he could have beaten opponents by those UConn margins. Heck, Beth Finn still has fresh legs because she was sitting on the bench most of her senior year watching the JVs play.
Williams wore his Hall of Fame ring proudly, an impressive tribute adorning his finger. But I think he was most proud posing for photos with his former players that were there. The smile wouldn’t quit.
He thanked a lot of people in his speech – family, former coaches and players and those who helped become the kind of coach that would be standing at the podium accepting Hall of Fame honors.
But, he could have stood there for a long, long while and never come close to those who would like to thank him for all he is about. And if there was more good thing about this night it was this. He still continues to coach with no immediate plans to hang up the sweater. Just one last good thought on a night overwhelmed by good thoughts.
Also, thanks to Julie Blood for making sure I was going to be there. Another winning baseline jumper.
A thought about two of the other inductees I have been privileged to have crossed paths with in this wonderful profession.
I covered a number of Jack Hunt’s games over the years although there are certainly many who knew him far better than I. Much is made and should be made of his incredible coaching record – 193-26, seven state titles and nine NVL titles.
However part of his greatness is what he didn’t do. Jack Hunt never ran up a score and when coaching the Ansonia football machine that would have been easy to do. He doesn’t get enough credit for that. Another part of coaching greatness.
Sean Barker has been the sports editor of the New Haven Register since 2006. I have been lucky enough to briefly work with Sean and he is a top notch newspaper guy but also oozes class, commitment and passion. He was a pleasure to work with and I hope we cross paths sometime in the near future.