Williams: Hall of Fame induction ‘an honor’
JACKSON — Richard Williams was walking out of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West Museum in Cody, Wyo., when he got a call from Rick Cleveland.
Cleveland, executive director for the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, was informing Williams he was to be inducted into the hall as a member of the Class of 2014.
Williams, who was the South Natchez High School head basketball coach from 1973-79, is best known for coaching the Mississippi State men’s basketball program from 1986 to 1998. He led the team to a Final Four berth in 1996, as well as an SEC Tournament Championship that same year. He also led the team to the Sweet 16 in 1995 while compiling a 191-163 record in his time coaching the Bulldogs.
“They swear you to secrecy a few weeks before the press conference (announcing the inductees),” Williams said. “They didn’t even tell me who all was going to be in it. Once you find out who the class is, in my case, you ask, ‘Is this real? Do I deserve it?’ It’s an honor.”
The official announcement was made in late October, and Williams will be joined by big names such as former Alcorn State and Titans quarterback Steve McNair and former Ole Miss and Saints running back Deuce McAllister.
“It’s hard to describe the feeling,” Williams said of being recognized with other big names from Mississippi. “I’m not sure about other people, but in my case, you don’t sit around thinking you want to be in the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame when you start your career.”
Williams said in his younger days he was just happy to have a job and never imagined receiving such an honor as being inducted into a hall of fame. His success at Mississippi State comes down to one thing, he said: good players.
“That’s the simple answer,” Williams said. “When a coach is selected to a hall of fame, it’s a little bit different than when a player is selected. When a player is selected, he’s selected on his or her own merits. When a coach is selected, it’s because he or she had good players, administrative support and good assistant coaches along the way.
“You don’t get selected on your own merits. There are a lot of people involved in helping you achieve it.”
Williams said he’ll leave it up to others to evaluate the job he did at Mississippi State, but he said he never believed winning was beyond his reach.
“I never thought about anything other than winning,” Williams said. “I’m satisfied that we worked hard, and we tried to do it the right way with good people.”
Williams is currently an assistant basketball coach at Arkansas State under former LSU men’s basketball coach John Brady. He was in town over the summer for the Reunion of the 70s event at the Vue Hotel, but he said he doesn’t get many chances to visit Natchez.
“We still have a lot of close friends there, and we do like to (visit) when we have the opportunity,” Williams said.