|Not much buzz, but lots of optimism for new Marquette coach Williams|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 08 April 2008 13:46|
But Williams says the attributes that made him an effective recruiting guru under Billy Gillispie and the man he's replacing, Tom Crean, also will make him a successful head coach at a major program: tireless hard work and an emphasis on personal relationships.
``There are coaches that have done way more than me that I respect, that I admire,'' Williams said Tuesday after he was introduced as the Golden Eagles' new coach. ``And I'm not deceived (about) how unbelievably grateful I should be for this position, and I feel very blessed.''
That said, Williams told his players that outside perception doesn't really matter.
``Whatever the perception is of me, and of them, now it's us,'' Williams said.
M and under Crean at Marquette last season - with one sub-.500 season as the head coach at University of New Orleans sandwiched in between - signed a six-year deal to succeed Crean, who left for Indiana a week ago.
The last time Marquette had to search for a basketball coach, they landed perhaps the hottest candidate available in Crean.
Marquette now has a much higher profile in the world of college basketball, but didn't make the same kind of splash with its new coach. Does it matter that Marquette didn't land a fast-riser such as Washington State's Tony Bennett or Xavier's Sean Miller?
Star guard Dominic James told his teammates the answer was no. People might scratch their heads when Williams' name flashes across the news ticker at the bottom of the screen on cable television, but that won't stop Marquette from winning.
``When his name goes across the ticker, the whole country's going to be like, 'Who's that?,''' James said. ``But I told them we weren't the highest-recruited guys, either. If our names would have gone across that ticker at the beginning of our careers, no one would have known who we were, either. But I'm glad that we have people out there who don't know about him, because we get to make his identity.''
Marquette athletic director Steve Cottingham said he was looking for a winner, not a recognizable name that might earn him a few pats on the back from fans.
``My job is to hire the person I think will take us to greatness,'' Cottingham said. ``Further than we've been in the NCAAs, and win and compete at a national level.''
Cottingham said Marquette's Big East affiliation actually turned off some prospective coaches.
``You want to be in the foxhole with somebody who is up to that challenge,'' Cottingham said. ``Not somebody who is like, 'Whoa!'''
That turned out to be Williams.
Perhaps offering evidence of his commitment to personal relationships, Williams paused several times during Tuesday's news conference to apologize to people he'd spotted in the crowd and forgotten to thank. He choked up when he acknowledged his family.
After formally accepting the job Monday, Williams hastily arranged a late-night meeting with Marquette's players to tell them the news. It was the first step toward repairing a rift Crean created last week, when the players first found out about his departure on television.
``I wanted to tell them first that I was their coach,'' Williams said - a line that sounded like a subtle swipe at Crean, although he insisted it wasn't, and drew applause from the crowd assembled at Marquette's Al McGuire Center practice facility.
``It made me feel a lot better knowing that it meant so much to him,'' James said.
Williams also told the players to get ready to work harder than they've ever worked before. Williams, whose real first name is Brent, earned his nickname because of his energy, not his shaved head.
Growing up in Texas, Williams tried to break into the game by meeting as many coaches as he could and constantly writing them notes - a list that eventually grew to more than 400. More recently, he had been taping and reviewing video of established coaches' news conferences to see if he might be able to learn something.
Williams didn't commit to a specific preferred style of play, but acknowledged that playing in the Big East requires speed.
His first job will be to reach out to current players and incoming recruits to convince them to stay on board. He'll also have to put together a staff and hit the recruiting trail to look for new talent.
James, who is considering an early entry to the NBA draft along with Jerel McNeal, said he's more likely to return with a familiar face in place.
``I want to finish my career here at Marquette next year,'' James said. ``Right now, if I had to say today, I would say yes, I'm coming back. But obviously, we've still got a lot to talk about.''