Jon Teitel's "Coaching Greats": Bucknell's Charlie Woollum

May 22nd, 2012
In the latest installment in his "Coaching Greats" series CHN writer Jon Teitel spent some time with former Bucknell and William & Mary head coach Charlie Woollum. Woollum won 318 games at Bucknell and led the Bison to two NCAA tournament appearances, winning seven regular season conference titles. Woollum is now a color commentator for both William & Mary (his alma mater) and CN8.

Jon Teitel: In 1960 as a player at William & Mary you split the regular season series with West Virginia before losing to them in the Southern Conference tournament. What was it like to play against Jerry West, and could you tell at the time that he was going to become a Hall-of-Famer?

Charlie Woollum: I was a sophomore when West was a senior so I did not play a lot, but West had a special aura about him when he was on the floor. Before I knew him I asked someone which player was West, and the person said, "Just watch, you will find out pretty quick!" He was an unbelievable competitor.

JT: The following year your teammate Jeff Cohen had 31 rebounds and a school-record 49 points in a game vs. Richmond. Where does that rank among the best single-game performance you have ever seen?

CW: Jeff could make hook shots on the court from places where other people had to shoot jump shots. Our offense was designed to get him the ball: he is one of the best to ever play here.

JT: One of your players at Bucknell in the early 1980s was Jay Wright, who is now head coach at Villanova. How good a player was Jay back in the day, and what makes him such a great coach?

CW: Jay was a very good player who just knew the game. He was a crucial member of our team who played behind NBA draftee Jay Andrews. He averaged double digits off the bench for us as a senior. I did not know that he was going to become a coach but he gets along with people. Communication is important in the business.

JT: What are your memories of the 1987 NCAA tournament (Reggie Williams had 21 points and ten rebounds in the Georgetown victory)?

CW: The Hoyas were pretty good. We were not a big team at all (our power forward was only about 6-4) so they wore us down at the end. We had a pretty good run in the 1980s but kept falling short in the conference tournament. The town got behind us and the kids will always remember it.

JT: What are your memories of the 1989 NCAA tournament (Billy Owens had 27 points and 13 rebounds in the Syracuse victory)?

CW: They had a couple of first round picks on that team (Owens and Sherman Douglas) so they were pretty good. Our center Mike Butts had 22 points (10-14 FG), but they were just a better basketball team.

JT: You won six regular-season titles in a ten-year span from 1984-1993. How were you able to remain so consistent over such a long time period?

CW: Back then we only had need-based scholarships but were still able to average about 20 wins a year for over a decade. I was always fortunate to have good people playing for me. We had several kids who got drafted by the NBA. We always had good point guardss, which was a big factor because they were an extension of our coaching staff. We were also a good free throw shooting team.

JT: In 1994 you became coach at William & Mary. Why did you make the switch, and what did it mean to you to become coach at your alma mater?

CW: It was a good experience. I signed a five-year deal and stayed an extra year until I turned 60. Coaching is a tough racket but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I took over a team that had won only four games...and four years later we won 20 games. The CAA is a very competitive basketball league and is better than the credit it gets.

JT: In 1998 you won the only CAA regular season title in school history and earned CAA Coach of the Year honors. How big a deal was it to win the title, and what did it mean to you to win such an outstanding individual honor?

CW: I was hired by AD John Randolph (one of my former classmates). It was sad that he passed away before he had a chance to see us win the title. Our freshmen fit in very well with our upperclassmen. We were 13-3 in the league and people were very excited about it.

JT: You are the all-time winningest coach in Bucknell history. What made you such a great coach, and do you think that anyone will ever break your record?

CW: If you stay at a place long enough you will always have a chance to get a lot of wins. Good coaches have good players, but they also have to like each other and have the same purpose in mind. It means a lot to me because they were some of the greatest years of my life. I am still happy whenever Bucknell does well.

JT: You currently work as a radio analyst for the Tribe basketball team. How do you like the job?

CW: I also do some work for CN8 covering CAA games. I have enjoyed it because it allowed me to stay around the game that I love. I coached for 38 years and this is a nice way to step it down. I have gained a great deal of respect for all the play-by-play guys I have worked with. My wife and I have traveled a bit and I enjoy retirement very much.

Woollum is also on Jon's list of best coaches in Patriot League history.

American: Jeff Jones (2000-present) 201-163, 2 NCAA tourneys, 4 conference titles, 1-time conference COY
Army: Bobby Knight (1965-1971) 102-50
Bucknell: Charlie Woollum (1975-1994) 318-221, 2 NCAA tourneys, 7 conference titles, 1-time conference COY
Colgate: Bill Reid (1919-1928) 133-55
Holy Cross: George Blaney (1972-1994) 357-276, 3 NCAA tourneys, 2 conference titles, 1-time conference COY
Lafayette: Tom Davis (1971-1977) 116-44, 4 conference titles
Lehigh: Billy Taylor (2002-2007) 81-69, 1 NCAA tourney, 1 conference title, 2-time conference COY
Navy: Ben Carnevale (1946-1966) 257-160, 5 NCAA tourneys